New Zealand is COVID-19 Free

After a very well managed shutdown of the country, New Zealand is free of COVID-19 and people are able to live as they did before. The country had a strict, vast, and quick reaction to COVID-19 showing up in the nation and it’s paid off. Starting today New Zealanders are able to go gyms, work, parks, or wherever thanks to the efforts in following the government’s public safety rules. It’s great to see another nation get through the pandemic.

Ardern has drawn global headlines and praise from the World Health Organization for her government’s approach to the virus, with a strict and cautious approach that appears to have paid off. On 25 March she locked down the country for four weeks – requiring that most New Zealanders remained at home most of the time – before gradually easing restrictions.

“Our collective results I think speak for ourselves,” Ardern said. “This was what the sacrifice of our team of five million was for – to keep one another safe and to keep one another well.” She has regularly referred to New Zealanders as a “team of five million” in an effort to unite people and encourage them to follow her government’s rules to curb the virus’ spread

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Understanding the Anti-Reality Narrative in America

Those of us who have been arguing for sustainable growth and a carbon neutral economy for years know that people don’t listen; in fact people argue against the very concept to their own detriment. The response to these climate change deniers and malicious actors was to ty to change their mind by showing the science, it didn’t work. The same thing is now happening with reactions to the necessity to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19. So what do we do when people are actively arguing against what reality has made plain? Over at The New Republic they have some ideas.

Coronavirus denialism and climate denialism aren’t the product of skeptical masses but disingenuous elites. Investigative journalist Lisa Graves pointed out recently in The New York Times that the anti-shutdown protests—like the Tea Party, and like much of the Koch-funded climate denialism—embody a mix of genuine outrage and dark money astroturf funneling that rages toward politically advantageous targets. The protests’ benefactors are dutifully social distancing for fear of getting sick themselves but want everyone else back to work to appease the stock market. Fossil fuel companies lobbied Congress and paid climate deniers in places like the Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to spew junk science on cable news, clouding the conversation enough to delay any meaningful action. It’s a similar tactic to that deployed by the Koch brothers in 2009, fearing that a climate bill would be passed: To head it off, they trained Americans for Prosperity’s guns on so-called RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) who thought about supporting it, clouding town halls, congressional offices, and airwaves with doubts about whether the earth was warming at all. If you were a Republican politician at some point in the last decade, it very literally paid to be a climate denier.

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It’s OK to Just Stay Home

Covid-19 Transmission graphic

Just stay home, that’s all you need to do to help. There’s no need to give yourself anxiety about what else you could be doing to help. Take this at home time to relax, and forget about the all the bizarre social pressure to be always performing. It’s ok to just be yourself. You can do it!

I’ve seen this happen to a lot of people. The best thing that 99% of us can do is to stay home. Yet, that can feel like doing nothing, because we see other people out there actively doing something. Yet, passively doing nothing, in this case, is actively doing something: You are taking the best action for our collective safety and health. My student also pointed out that the best thing to do — stay at home — is oddly uncomfortable. I think many of us can relate to this. The discomfort of feeling stuck or trapped inside can heighten the desire to be active in general, creating an even bigger contrast between staying put and helping outside of the home.

What’s going on here and how do we work with these feelings?

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How We can Track COVID-19 and NOT Invade Your Privacy

To figure out the spread of COIV-19, or other diseases, the technique of contact tracing gets used by researchers to decipher who is likely to have been exposed. When too many people are infected then contact tracing takes too much labour and subsequently becomes less useful, which has led tech companies and government to propose the ability to track you everywhere you go. You might think “what’s the big deal?”, the big deal is that this tracking will continue past the pandemic and it doesn’t need to happen in the first place. There are ways to build technical contact tracing without the government or an undemocratic mega-corporation spying or profiteering off of your personal location.

The wonderful Nicky Case put together a comic explaining how we can have technologically-driven contact tracing without spying on your everyday actions.

nick case covid tracking privacy

Read the comic.

Technical documents:
Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing
Temporary Contact Numbers, a decentralized, privacy-first contact tracing protocol
Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing

Mental Health Tips to Help You Get Through Social Distancing

hands

Weeks of practicing social distancing can get tiring since we don’t feel as physically connected to our social groups as normal. That’s ok, we all feel that way. So what do we do about it? We can practice good mental health hygiene too.

Over at Discover they have seven tips from a clinical psychologist to help you find ways to mirage any anxiety or stress you’re currently feeling due to the pandemic. You don’t have to take all their advice, but some might be worth considering for you and maybe your entire household.

Routine is your friend
It helps to manage anxiety, and will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head space. Find something to do that is not work and is not virus-related that brings you joy. Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help to maintain your clarity of thought.

Be compassionate with yourself and with others
There is much that we cannot control right now, but how we talk to ourselves during these challenging times can either provide a powerful buffer to these difficult circumstances or amplify our distress. Moments of feeling overwhelmed often come with big thoughts, such as “I cannot do this,” or “This is too hard.” This pandemic will cause a lot of stress for many of us, and we cannot be our best selves all the time. But we can ask for help or reach out when help is asked of us.

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