Ciao for now

I said, "THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF ITALY." But who knows, and the math is crazy, and all I can do is report. However, I do have a lot of hand sanitizer. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

The entire country of Italy—THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF ITALY—is on lockdown this morning (Axios), after 9,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus. At least 450 people had died as of Sunday evening.

I wrote that opening paragraph Monday evening, and the sad thing is that we know the raw numbers will likely be bigger by the time you read this.

That's nearly a 5 percent death rate, by the way. Even in the U.S., President Trump tweeted that the U.S. had only 22 deaths and 546 cases: but that’s a 4 percent casualty rate.

Comparison: If you catch melanoma early enough, it has a 1 percent death rate (

Now, even just writing those survival statistics, although they’re technically true, has me nervous about the long-term accuracy. Compare to South Korea, where the death rate is .7 percent. (TalkingPointsMemo)

That’s largely because we don’t know how many undiagnosed cases there are out there, and reports suggest testing is lax, to put it lightly—at least here in the U.S. (New York Times $).

Comparison: South Korea has reportedly tested 50X as many people as the United States, despite having only 1/6 our population. (Also, TalkingPointsMemo)

So, there could be a large number of people walking around with the virus who are only mildly symptomatic at most—or else, who just can’t get the test. Assuming most of them recover, it would significantly affect the death rate.

But who knows? Back to Italy. From the AP:

[Premier Giuseppe Conte] urged all 60 million Italians to stay home. The only travel allowed will be for proven work reasons, for health conditions or other cases of necessity.

“Our habits must be changed, changed now. We all have to give up something for the good of Italy. When I speak of Italy, I speak of our dear ones, of our grandparents and of our parents,” Conte said. “We will succeed only if we all collaborate and we adapt right away to these more stringent norms.”

The nationwide restrictions take effect Tuesday until April 3 and include extending the closures of schools and universities and closing pubs, eateries and cafes at dusk.

Related: Israel is quarantining everyone entering the country for 14 days (BBC). This includes Israelis returning home from abroad.

Most days, I try to write about things that are slightly outside of what everyone else is covering. And I’ve been trying hard to tread lightly on this coronavirus story. I am not a scientist or a doctor.

But today? We're in a world in which everyone has access seemingly to the the entire informational output of all of world history. Yet, we don't really know what to think.

  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control is advising that anyone over 60 should “stockpile supplies,” stay close to home, and avoid crowds (The Hill).

  • Four members of Congress, all Republicans who attended the CPAC conference recently, are self-quarantining after they realized they were in contact with someone who later tested positive.

  • At least one of them was on Air Force One with President Trump an hour before his quarantine announcement.

  • Also quarantining: dozens of reporters who were at CPAC. (The Washingtonian)

But, the president is still shaking hands on the rope line with supporters and says he won't cancel his political rallies.

And while the stock market is tanking, the Securities and Exchange Commission (MarketWatch) is going to join the growing number organizations telling its employees to work from home.

I really want to end on an “up” note here.

Maybe it’s about how I found four barely used bottles of hand sanitizer in my sock drawer. (If this keeps up, my daughter can consider college paid for.)

Or else, it’s about how the band Rage in the Machine created a public service poster showing that if you wash your hands while singing the chorus of its NSFW 1992 hit Killing in the Name Of, you’ll break the requisite 20 seconds. (The Hill)

But I think the winner is about the kids in China who were quarantined at home and attending class via a smartphone app—and who pelted the app with 1-star reviews, so it would get banned. (Business Insider)

7 other things worth your time

(Yet another new format here, let’s give it a try.)

  1. OK, this is behind the NYT paywall, but I found it interesting: a first person account about what life is really like in Italy behind the quarantine:

    “Your tickets for concerts and football games are useless. Your children can’t go to school. Or university. Even mass is canceled. … What is the mood? Initially, indignation. … Then we saw the number of infections shoot up: a hundred a day. Two hundred, three hundred. On Sunday, 769 in Lombardy alone.” (New York Times $)

  2. Over the last 100 years, Time magazine chose a woman as its Person of the Year only 11 times. So, they went back and created a woman of the year feature for ever year. Examples include 1920: “the suffragists;” 1923: “Bessie Smith;” 1940: “Dorothy Lange; and 1959: Grace Hopper. (Time $)

  3. Jack Dorsey worked out a deal to keep his job as CEO of Twitter. An activist investor apparently gets concessions including two new board members — and $2 billion in share repurchases. (Wall Street Journal $)

  4. Prince Andrew reportedly won’t cooperate voluntarily in the Jeffrey Epstein case. (The Guaradian, but via Yahoo News)

  5. A Los Angeles restaurant won’t let diners in without taking their temperature first. (Boing Boing)

  6. Here’s what happened to that company that established a $70,000 minimum wage, five years later. Short version: it’s doing fine. (Inc.)

  7. A Boston restaurant completely opened its books to its employees (and the public). It looks like it motivated its workers to do things like renegotiate utility rates on their own. I kind of love this, and I’ve reached out to the folks behind it, so maybe I’ll be writing about it for Inc. soon. Or here. We’ll see. (Eater)

Photo credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer. Ideas and feedback actively solicited. If you haven’t subscribed, please do so! (You can also just send an email to

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