Vaccine Optimism – The New York Occasions
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Good Morning. The vaccine news is good, but near-term developments will likely depend on government policies.
Whenever I visited my local cafe this summer, there weren’t any customers in it. I ordered a mug from a worker who was standing at a table blocking the front door and came back a few minutes later to pick it up.
However, the shop setup has changed over the past few weeks. I’m going in now and ordering. There are often other customers waiting nearby for their coffee.
There are many other versions of this story nationwide. Professional sports leagues, for example, did not leave fans in the stands for most of the summer. Thousands of people attended college and professional football games this weekend.
From a public health perspective, these changes don’t make much sense: pandemic restrictions in the US are now less stringent than they were in the summer, even though the infection rate is much higher.
How did it happen? State and local governments eased their policies when the virus receded in August and September – but then left those loose rules in place. (And the federal government has shown little leadership.)
Perhaps the most important question about the pandemic in the coming weeks is how aggressively state and local governments are reintroducing restrictions.
“Given the spread of the community in Michigan and the fact that many other states are facing it right now, the only way to bring down Covid is through government action – or a terrible loss of life,” said Robert Gordon, director of the health department from Michigan and Human Services, told me yesterday.
Several states have announced new steps in the past few days. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the temporary closure of restaurants, casinos, cinemas, and one-on-one classes at high schools and colleges. Chicago, Philadelphia, and most of California have also introduced restrictions.
Most of the new restrictions come from Democratic officials like Whitmer, but this is not an easy partisan issue.
The Republican governors of Iowa and North Dakota have issued mask mandates in the past few days. And in the Wall Street Journal, Republican health experts Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan wrote a comment titled “It is now up to the governors to slow the spread.” Gottlieb and McClellan wrote, “At least while infections are widespread and increasing, governors and local leaders should mandate the use of masks and impose clear and consistent plans to restrict gatherings.”
Still, most states, whether led by Democratic or Republican governors, have refused to take tough steps, knowing that many Americans are sick of the pandemic. In the meantime, infections have continued to rise, and deaths have risen in the past few days.
The medium term future looks increasingly optimistic as both Moderna and Pfizer have reported encouraging vaccine trials. In the short term, however, it will depend to a large extent on what happens in the state capitals. Currently, many states – such as Ohio, New York, and New Jersey – are announcing new restrictions that fall far short of what public health professionals need to curb the spread of the virus.
THE LATEST NEWS
Lived life: Bruno Barbey believed that photography is “the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world”. In a career spanning decades, he reported on turbulence in Paris, the Middle East, Poland and Northern Ireland, as well as everyday life in Italy. Barbey died at the age of 79.
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ART AND IDEAS
Scarcity as the mother of invention
Jacques Pépin, the cook and cookbook author, grew up in France during World War II, marked by the scarcity of those years. “I actually feel sick when I see food being wasted,” Pépin wrote. Much of his later advice to home cooks revolved around the artful use of available ingredients.
This ability was especially useful during the pandemic when many people had to change their shopping habits. Earlier this year, as the pandemic spread, Pépin posted Facebook videos that “explained how to cook really well with the simplest, coziest things you can have in your home,” as my colleague Dwight Garner writes.
Dwight continues, “I’ve found a lot of his videos to be weird and almost excruciatingly moving on certain late-night insomnia nights. His age, his battered looks, his accent, the slight hiss in his voice, his lightly worn culinary erudition, his finely honed knife skills, and the funk of his wood-paneled kitchen from the 70s: it’s kind of a fascinating package. ”
The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were imminent. Today’s puzzle is up – or you can play online if you have a game subscription.