Category Archives: commentary

With Grateful Thanks to Bob Wachter, Eric Topol, and the Rest of “My” Covid A-Team

Source for the Graphic is here.

I recall someone joking along the way of our interminable Covid saga that he looked forward to the time when he wasn’t following 300 epidemiologists. I also remember an epidemiologist who had a coffee mug that sported, “Make epidemiology boring again.”

Well, at least these days I’m down to a handful of experts of various types that have helped—and continue help—me wade through the complicated, conflicting information and guidance out there sufficiently to make some semblance of reasonable assessments of risk and act accordingly.

I’m not on social media (though I can, so far, get access to public postings), so I have no way to reach out to thank these folks other than to write them an email, if they have an address I can find. I’ve actually done that on a couple occasions—but they are such generous souls they actually respond, and I don’t want them to use their time like that. After all, these are all folks with a lot on their plates who nonetheless offer their time to help us as laypeople get a grip on where things stand and how to keep ourselves safe.

Just today, Bob Wachter, whose “day job” is Chair of the Department of Medicine at USCF, put out one of his invaluable Twitter threads explaining how he goes about assessing his own Covid risk. Below is the thread, in full:

What I appreciate so much about these threads, which he offers from time to time as the situation changes, is his ability and willingness to lay out the variables that form his thinking in a lay-friendly way, offering not simply unadorned conclusions, but concrete real-time guidance to aid us all in evaluating personal risk.

Other members of my “personal” A-team are (in alphabetical order):

Katelyn Jetelina (an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology) Dr Jetelina writes the indispensable column, “Your Local Epidemiologist.”

Abraar Karan (currently at Stanford as an Infectious Diseases Fellow in Medicine): Among so many other things, Dr. Karan was an early and persistent voice on the need for high quality masks to be readily available to all. I’m very grateful for all I have learned from him about masks. Without him, I would have been at sea on the issue of masks, particularly in the early days of the pandemic.

Linsey Marr (a Professor at Virginia Tech in the area of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering): Dr. Marr has been persistent and clear-eyed in advocating, based on her deeply informed grasp of the science, for the proposition that Covid is transmitted via aerosols. It took a while for governmental agencies to catch up; I cannot thank her enough for persisting until they did.

Michael Mina (currently the Chief Science Officer at emed): Dr. Mina has been my “go-to” guy for understanding rapid tests and how, when, and for what purpose to use them. Here’s a terrific discussion with Andy Slavitt on this issue.

Eric Topol (Professor, Molecular Medicine, Scripps Research–but see the link for the full set of credentials): Last not least, Dr. Topol is my go-to guy for how to think about and assess all manner of things. He has a brilliant substack called Ground Truths, a superb recent edition of which is here. There and elsewhere, he lately has been beating the drum for “Operation Nasal Vaccine.” You can hear him talk with Andy Slavitt about this here. I don’t know when Dr. Topol sleeps. He is out there, everywhere, all the time, and we are so much the better for it.

So, there you have it. With grateful thanks to all!

Way to go, Antonio!!!

Antonio Delgado on the campaign trail, August, 2018

Today, Antonio Delgado, my Congressperson when I lived in the Hudson Valley, was introduced as the next Lieutenant Governor of New York State. There could not be a better person for this position. Antonio is a person of profound decency and compassion, secure in his moral compass, and tireless in his dedication to working on behalf of his constituents. Yes, I know it’s been a very bad news day on other fronts, but, to quote Cory Booker, “No one’s stealing my joy.”

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In Praise of Public Librarians: Carol Spaziani, One of a Kind

I suspect public libraries helped get a lot of us through this past year. I’ve certainly been grateful to my local public libraries, both this year and going back to my first trips to my local public library aeons ago. I was delighted, therefore, to run across this interview with Carol Spaziani, who throughout her life has not only been the best sort of public librarian, but also the best sort of public citizen in every respect.

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If All You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail

Hammer and nails by Hans Godo Frabel

Hammer and nails by Hans Godo Frabel

We asked the city for help, and we got a raid.
—Taylonn Murphy

We somehow understand punishment, but then we put a period after that word. Nothing follows. Nothing about rehabilitation, redemption, second chances.
Leon Botstein, President, Bard College

This is not my typical reading material, but recently, three noteworthy articles relating to the subject of criminal justice came to my attention in quick succession. The first, in The Atlantic, by 2015 MacArthur Genius award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates, is entitled “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”  Using as his springboard Daniel Moynihan’s controversial 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” Coates, with clarity, intelligence, and nuanced marshaling of evidence, traces the plight of the black family in the United States from its origins in slavery to the present. In so doing, he sets current incarceration rates in the United States in bold relief: Continue reading

Why We Need Contemporaneous

Every time we perform a piece we somehow manage to walk the line between performing music that we love and music that we want other people to hear and doing something that scares us a little bit. We take a lot of risks. When a group of people, each completely remarkable on their own, comes together for a specific idea, and if they do it for each other, then you get great music.

—Contemporaneous core member and violinist Finnegan Shanahan

Will Robin recently wrote:

. . . orchestral works that are large-scale – as in more than, let’s say arbitrarily, 30 minutes – are a seeming rarity in the 21st century. It’s due to the commissioning process: very few orchestras are going to take a risk and commission a very large work simply for orchestra. So most purely orchestral commissions, in the U.S. at least, are 5-25 minutes, depending on the type of commission, or you get your bigger chorus-vocal-soloists cantata thing which will ground half or all of your program (and, potentially, get staged as an opera too).

But what might be left out, then, is the opportunity for composers to write the instrumental symphony of our day. Or something like that. Continue reading