COVID Self-isolation Diary: Day 13

Friday the thirteenth day, no less... But nothing bad has happened, apart from an epidemic. Today the news went round that the United States has the largest number of cases of coronavirus infection in any country, 85 000. Known cases, that is. At the same time, president Trump's approval rating has gone up. It's good to know the American electorate can recognize forethought and intelligence when they see it.

Australia still has only a modest number of infections, a little over 3000 cases. But there is an acute shortage of test kits (as well as other medical supplies), so that's undoubtedly an under-count. State governments are cautiously thinking of letting some imprisoned people out, to reduce the casualties when the virus gets into the prisons. We can be sure that logic will not be applied to refugees, who are the living (and dying) proof of how tough the national government is on border protection.

Globally, we are now over 500 000 cases of known coronavirus infection, and 24 000 deaths. India has hardly begun counting. Anyone who still thinks this is a media scare, please put your hand up. Thank you, Mr Jones.

With all this unfolding, it's hard to focus on other tasks. I've spent my Day 13 mostly online or on the phone, talking with family and friends, cancelling meetings, and answering queries.

When universities began to send their teaching staff and graduate students off-campus to work at home, there was a wave of cheerful speculation about how much time people would now have to write that thesis, finish that article, compose that grant application. Often in fun, even ironic, but still, it seemed like a possibility.

Apart from the huge increase in childcare when schools closed, and the sudden demand to convert all face-to-face courses to online teaching, this happy idea missed the quality of the time available. When the time is overshadowed by a huge collective threat, and cross-hatched and interrupted with setting up new routines of living, you can't easily churn out high-quality intellectual work.

But some things persuade me we are still, at least partly, in contact with civilization. Yesterday I was listening to a jazz programme on a Sydney radio station when the DJ put on Chet Baker doing "These Foolish Things". Ah.
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