Sunday musings: Herd immunity, Museum closings, Earth vibrations

herd immunityThis weekend we take time to ponder our state of being. We learn that the more things change the more they stay the same. The old rules of wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing are still as effective. Just as effective today as they were back in March. Herd immunity will eventually win.

Museums, which have taken a financial hit because of the pandemic, may never open again. Finally, the seismic rumbling of the earth has dampened. Now, we can study what is manmade and what is natural.

Americans shouldn’t count on the perilous path to herd immunity

Personal responsibility — calibrated to local conditions — will allow Americans to contain this virus enough to return to life as we used to know it. We will be able to spend time together with friends again. It will be on the lawn or the front porch instead of indoors. With masks, distancing, and handwashing, we can go back to church while protecting each other. We are waiting for the herd immunity.

Irritated by hotel resort fees?Another piece of good news is that treating COVID-19 is not a “vaccine or bust” proposition. Even without a vaccine, our ability to treat this disease has improved significantly. From using existing antiviral drugs to learning how to better position patients to developing COVID-19-specific antibody therapies and more, doctors and nurses can treat the disease more effectively now than in March, and things will continue to improve. Delaying the spread of the virus saves lives, not just because it protects hospitals from being overwhelmed, but also because treatments are getting better.

As we have found, there is no way to avoid significant suffering during this plague. For instance, Sweden has been praised by many of those urging a herd immunity approach, but the architect of the Swedish strategy has admitted to getting it wrong. Comparisons between different nations can be misleading (different nations are, well, different) but it is worth noting Sweden has one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world (higher than the United States, let alone its neighbors) and its economy has still taken a major hit. And Sweden still doesn’t have herd immunity.

Covid-19 could permanently close up to a third of museums

A recent survey shows that many museums, once the pride of municipalities, may never reopen because of financial constraints. The financial impact of the continuing coronavirus pandemic is devastating the funding of our cultural institutions.

“Museum revenue disappeared overnight when the pandemic closed all cultural institutions, and sadly, many will never recover,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, which surveyed 760 museum directors about the financial health of their organizations after months of closures. “Even with a partial reopening in the coming months, costs will outweigh revenue and there is no financial safety net for many museums.”

A third of survey respondents said either there was a “significant risk” that their museums would close permanently by next fall or that they “didn’t know” if they would survive the pandemic.

As closures persist, museums continue to be at risk of running out of money. Nearly 90 percent of museums have 12 months or less of financial reserves remaining, and 56 percent have fewer than six months of funding left to cover operations. Many of those museums have continued to provide programming during the pandemic, such as online educational resources for parents, children and teachers, largely free of charge.

The coronavirus-induced anthropause is now visible in seismic vibrations

herd immunityTraffic is cut by 75 percent and airline service slashed by 80 percent. Fewer subways are rumbling under streets. Meanwhile, the experts are surprised to see a measurable decrease in the earth’s vibrations. The seismic noise has been dampened. The good news — noise has decreased. Now experts have a chance to listen to the specific differences between man-made seismic noise and true earth rumblings.

As the pandemic forced human activity to slow or shut down entirely, the noise lessened, says Dr. Stephen Hicks from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, co-author of the study:

“This quiet period is likely the longest and largest dampening of human-caused seismic noise since we started monitoring the Earth in detail using vast monitoring networks of seismometers.”

“Our study uniquely highlights just how much human activities impact the solid Earth, and could let us see more clearly than ever what differentiates human and natural noise.”

The study’s authors hope that their work will inspire other further research on the seismic lockdown.

Featured photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash
Rainy day in NYC photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

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