You know how eggs used to be good for you? And then they were bad for you? And now they’re good for you again? Sort of?
Well, that kind of confusion is happening with all sorts of “knowledge” surrounding COVID-19—but in hyper-speed due to the worldwide urgency for answers, and then with a whole lot of social-media misinformation thrown in.
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, as we’ve all seen generally reliable sources issue conflicting reports on ibuprofen, and then hydroxychloroquine, and most recently the possibility that COVID-19 may have arrived in California earlier than first believed. I was thinking of writing a piece about this … and then I ran across this article, by Irving Steinberg, the dean for faculty at USC School of Pharmacy, in The Conversation—an online publication I’ve long enjoyed, and appreciate now more than ever due to its constantly excellent scientific coronavirus coverage. Since Mr. Steinberg did a far better job than I would have, I encourage you to go read the piece—no, really. Go ahead. I’ll be here when you get back.
Because Steinberg didn’t touch on it, I do want to briefly examine the conflicting sources regarding the matter of the coronavirus’ arrival in California.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle published a piece from a Monterey Bay-area TV station citing a Stanford-linked study into the possibility that COVID-19 first arrived here in the fall. We linked to the story in that day’s Daily Digest. I’d re-link to the San Francisco Chronicle piece … but that link no longer works, interestingly enough. So instead, here’s a link to the piece cached on Google.
One possible reason that link may have disappeared: This piece on Slate, released on Friday, with the headline “No, You Did Not Get COVID-19 in the Fall of 2019.” The piece does a pretty good job of debunking the aforementioned piece. So, case closed. Right?
Uh … well, no. Because yesterday, one of the top pieces in the Los Angeles Times was this, with the online headline: “New signs suggest coronavirus was in California far earlier than anyone knew.” The story points out evidence the virus may have arrived in California in January, and perhaps as early as December, and cites ongoing studies into that question.
So we have three different pieces, from three generally reliable sources, published over four days, coming to decidedly different conclusions.
My point: Take whatever you read regarding the science of COVID-19 with a grain of salt … a large grain of salt, like the size of the boulder. And take solace in the fact that we will indeed get to answers eventually—because an unprecedented number of very smart people are working on this problem, and science is an amazing thing.
• The latest in the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series looks at how the Academy of Musical Performance, the renowned program for young local musicians, has adjusted to the reality of the stay-at-home order.
• Burning Man 2020 has been cancelled—but organizers are going to do their best to launch a virtual festival.
• If you’re missing the Palm Springs Art Museum, the folks there are doing the best to bring the museum to you during this weird time. Check out Artworks of the Week and various activities here.
• This one’s depressing: The New York Times did an expansive piece on how the closure of restaurants, schools and hotels has meant a whole lot of fresh food is going to waste.
• While I think this piece, which has gone viral (no pun intended), is slightly overwrought, it makes some great points: Julio Vincent Gambuto makes the case that we need to be aware of efforts to manipulate us once things begin to get back “to normal.”
• I found this piece oddly assuring: NPR talked to the experts, and they say that you don’t need to disinfect your groceries—but you do need to be careful while shopping.
• Here’s more information on the status of home-testing kits for the coronavirus. The takeaway, yet again: They are not yet a thing, so if you see anyone offering them, don’t buy it—literally.
• The virus is leading to some supply chain problems, such as the closure of this large pork-processing plant. Gulp.
• Let’s end on a happy note: Beloved SF bookstore City Lights put out a call for financial help, and people responded in a big way.
That’s it for today. Submit works for our coloring book before Tuesday! Let the world know about your virtual events via our online calendar! If you can possibly do so, please consider offering the Independent financial support, so we can keep doing the quality local journalism you know and love. Wash your hands, and have a great week … well, as great as you can from home.