Got no heat, got no Internet, got minimal cell phone coverage.
But two artifacts from antiquity have helped us stay in touch with reality since the lights went out Monday evening:
The familiar blue wrapper containing The New York Times in the driveway and the stolid landline telephone in our kitchen.
I have been able to read the paper – even without that technological marvel called the Internet that is suddenly not available.
I marvel at the work my friends at the home office in New York and the College Point plant and the drivers and deliverers did to produce this miracle at our house.
They gave up the reassurances of being with family to do their jobs the way “newspaper people” (like my father and my mother and my three children) have been doing for a long time.
Note I said “newspaper people.” It’s still a paper -- the best in the world, as far as I can see – produced by some very smart and dedicated people.
Yes, I love the emerging on-line form – the future, I am sure. I flick through the web package to seek the latest electoral percentages from Nate Silver and am a junkie for breaking news as it hits the web. But for this elder, there is nothing like “the paper.” In my driveway. Thank you, all.
The same goes for the landline phone. We have invested in cordless phones (that wear down much too quickly) but have resisted all those offers to link our phones to our cable package. We kept the landline, sensing that in a time of troubles it might enable us to get calls from the office and family and friends, plus robocalls from local officials who say LIPA may get to us by Thanksgiving or maybe New Year’s.
Our house is intact while some homes took direct hits from trees. My wife has made great meals on our gas stove and we have gas-heated water and the other day our neighbors let us run a cord to their generator, giving us a bit of electricity for a few chores. We are blessed.
Plus, those relics, the paper in the driveway and the landline phone, keep us in touch with the world.
(sent from the local stop-and-shop)
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.