Winter will be extended

Coronavirus

A couple days ago, I wrote:

Since the panic began, I’ve been seeing a bump in business driving for Lyft, which has kept me sufficiently busy that I haven’t even tried driving for Uber. I attribute this to three possible factors, none of which seem to be mutually exclusive. I am not able to determine the extent to which any of these may be, if at all, true:

  1. It is March. We might be coming to the end of winter, which has, as long as I’ve been driving cab (and for Uber and Lyft) been a horrible season.
  2. Some drivers may be staying offline, to avoid coronavirus exposure.
  3. Some passengers may be avoiding public transportation, to avoid coronavirus exposure.[1]

Naturally, it was just about the time I posted that, that I started noticing a softening of business.

Today, while the iPhone I’m relying on to get mobile data to my Pixel 3 XL, which I’m using while I await the Pixel 4 XL (now expected tomorrow, with a planned communication disruption to follow), has started to act up, particularly with the hotspot function, I’m getting a picture of the answer:

  1. It appears winter will be extended. Usually, Sunday is one of my better days. Although, the iPhone screw-up might be a contributing factor, I got relatively few passengers today. Usually, I see some trips to retrieve vehicles left near bars. I saw none of these today even after the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday. And judging from the grocery store loads, the shelves are now well and truly empty; there weren’t even very many of these trips today. The trips I did see today were generally short.
  2. Drivers are staying offline. When I’m traveling long distances for rides, I infer that no one closer was available. I did a fair amount of that today.
  3. Folks now appear to be heeding advice to “stay home.”[2]

How the psychology of all this plays out remains to be determined, and it will, of course, be psychology that determines individual decisions to go out, to stay home, to work, to not work. But right now, I’m feeling pessimistic.

Among the articles below, there is one by Jennifer Gonnerman, given the headline, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus.” That headline should have the words “and how they probably won’t” appended.[3]

Why are prisons and jails especially dangerous places to be during a pandemic?

Jails and prisons are full of people who are at higher risk than the general public. We have filled them up with people who have high rates of serious health problems. We also, especially in the state prison systems around the country, have an increasingly older population of people. So we have lots of people who are at high risk for serious complications.

All of the new terms of art that everybody has learned in the last two weeks, like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” and “flattening the curve” of the epidemic—all of these things are impossible in jails and prisons, or are made worse by the way jails and prisons are operated. Everything about incarceration is going to make that curve go more steeply up.

If you think about how a county jail works, the first thing upfront is that people—when they’re arrested in the precinct and then when they go to court and then when they get to jail—they’re in these court pens with lots of other people. You could have a dozen or even two dozen people in a small pen, where there’s not room to really sit down, where you’re sitting on the floor or you’re sitting on benches.

Every time we do much smaller investigations of outbreaks—if there’s a bacterial meningitis or if there’s a pulmonary TB case—those are the places we worry about and where we see transmission happening, very quickly, of communicable disease. The jails are built to operate this way: big pens, big groups of people coming in. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty at a time going in blocks through cells. They start out in one cell, then they go to a second cell. They might go through six or eight cells. They don’t really have hand-washing access built in. That is basically a system designed to spread communicable disease.

Once people get through that intake process, if you go to housing areas in jails and prisons today, whether it’s a cell or a dorm-housing area, if you go to the bathrooms, you would find that many of the sinks don’t work. Many of them don’t have soap, and many of them don’t have paper towels to dry your hands.[4]

In addition, Uber is now providing details to their driver “sick leave” plan for coronavirus. It’s based on the last six months of earnings,[5] which might work out if Lyft matches it, as many drivers drive for both.

Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus

Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks

Eric Heyl, “Four Coronavirus Cases Now Confirmed In Allegheny County,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1t4f/third-coronavirus-case-confirmed-in-allegheny-county

Heather Long, “Federal Reserve slashes interest rates to zero as part of wide-ranging emergency intervention,” Washington Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/15/federal-reserve-slashes-interest-rates-zero-part-wide-ranging-emergency-intervention/

Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229

Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Wes Venteicher and Theresa Clift, “California plans to use private hotels, motels to shelter homeless people as coronavirus spreads,” Sacramento Bee, March 15, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article241216061.html

Washington Post, “Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide,” March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/22/mapping-spread-new-coronavirus/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The panic,” Irregular Bullshit, March 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/13/the-panic/
  2. [2]Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks; Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229
  3. [3]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  4. [4]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  5. [5]Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

A foundationally wrong system has consequences

Coronavirus

FireShot Capture 101 - Officials_ 2 coronavirus cases reported in Pittsburgh - TribLIVE.com_ - triblive.com
Fig. 1. COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Screenshot of map from TribLive, March 14, 2020.[1]
FireShot Capture 102 - Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S._ Full Map - The New York _ - www.nytimes.com
Fig. 2. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. Screenshot of map from the New York Times, March 15, 2020.[2]

Coronavirus has unmistakably arrived in Pennsylvania, including two cases in Allegheny County and one in Washington County, immediately to the southwest (not very far at all from where I live).[3] So far as I can see, it’s been Pittsburgh (Democratic) Mayor Bill Peduto and Pennsylvania (Democratic) Governor Tom Wolfe[4] who’ve been taking a lot of heat. This is when you don’t want to be in their shoes but I kind of wish their critics would take a turn: We need to remember the top-level fuck-up here,[5] even when the critics themselves are liberal or even progressive.

I’m seeing a lot of comment on Twitter about folks who can’t “socially isolate” themselves, like the homeless (in shelters) and prisoners. These are, of course, legitimate concerns that really go back to how we organize ourselves as a society, dating back, as I have repeatedly pointed out, to the Neolithic.[6] It’s really about how capitalism inherently benefits the rich, inherently at the cost of the poor;[7] and an utterly wrong-headed[8] criminal injustice system.[9] I don’t want to make excuses but I also don’t know how you feasibly address them, now, in this moment.

That said, and as I have also repeatedly said, we need to think about how we treat each other and what that means when a pandemic strikes. A foundationally wrong system has consequences. We’re seeing them.

Natasha Lindstrom, “Officials: 2 coronavirus cases reported in Pittsburgh,” TribLive, March 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-to-announce-1st-coronavirus-cases/

Paul P. Murphy and Hollie Silverman, “US citizens returning from overseas say they are waiting hours for coronavirus screening at airports,” CNN, March 15, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/travel/amp/coronavirus-airport-screening-sunday/index.html


  1. [1]Natasha Lindstrom, “Officials: 2 coronavirus cases reported in Pittsburgh,” TribLive, March 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-to-announce-1st-coronavirus-cases/
  2. [2]Mitch Smith et al., “Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: Full Map,” New York Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html
  3. [3]Eric Heyl, “First Western PA Coronavirus Case Confirmed,” Patch, March 13, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1rnv/first-western-pa-coronavirus-case-confirmed; Natasha Lindstrom, “Officials: 2 coronavirus cases reported in Pittsburgh,” TribLive, March 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-to-announce-1st-coronavirus-cases/
  4. [4]Megan Guza And Joanne Klimovich Harrop, “Gov. Tom Wolf orders all Pa. schools shut down for 10 days,” TribLive, March 13, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/western-pa-schools-begin-closing-for-2-weeks-over-coronavirus-fears/
  5. [5]Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  6. [6]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD, Altamira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University, 2008); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  7. [7]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 94-101.
  8. [8]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  9. [9]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America (New York: New, 2011); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004); Dan Simon, In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2012).

That sucking sound you hear is the giant hole in Nancy Pelosi’s sick leave bill

Coronavirus

Nancy Pelosi has responded to the New York Times editorial criticizing[1] her sick leave bill:

So imagine passing a bill requiring not large or small companies to offer sick leave, but just some companies in between to maybe 20 percent of full time employees.[2] And then saying it’s because you don’t want to subsidize corporations?

But House Democrats also failed to act in the public interest. Paying sick workers to stay at home is both good policy and good politics. Why not pass a bill that required all employers to provide paid sick leave and then force Republicans to explain their objections to the public?[3]

The legislation includes 14 paid sick days for employees, as well as three months of paid emergency leave throughout the coronavirus crisis. Employers will be reimbursed for some of these costs through tax credits. At GOP insistence, the emergency leave provision will expire in a year. And Republicans were able to insert language exempting smaller businesses from the requirements.[4]

We aren’t talking about part-time workers, many of whom would work full time if they could get it, many of whom are working multiple jobs to make up for the lack of full time work at a living wage. We aren’t even talking about so-called “independent contractors”—gig workers—here.

The reality here is that this bill is nothing. Meanwhile, let’s talk about “social distancing.”

Or, um, maybe not.


  1. [1]New York Times, “There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill,” March 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-pelosi-sick-leave.html
  2. [2]New York Times, “There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill,” March 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-pelosi-sick-leave.html
  3. [3]New York Times, “There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill,” March 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-pelosi-sick-leave.html
  4. [4]Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140