Image by Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS
It has been hard to think of anything but COVID-19 of late, not the least because a number of TidBITS contributors live in Seattle, which is particularly hard hit, and because Cornell University here in Ithaca, like some other universities, has just canceled all classes for the next three weeks, with everything taking place online after spring break. Cornell also canceled all events with over 100 people, which affected a major race that I help manage, though that would also have been hit by New York State’s subsequent ban on events with over 500 attendees. Conferences are canceling or postponing left and right, organizations are having employees work from home, and there are bare spots on grocery store shelves. Tomorrow will probably be mostly like today, but will that be true of next week? Next month?
This article stems from a need to say something, even if it’s mostly to acknowledge that we’re confronting the same level of uncertainty as everyone else. It’s a small contribution, but if you have ideas about other ways TidBITS can provide uniquely useful information, please tell us in the comments. For now, though, a few thoughts and links.
The first thing that comes to mind is terminology, since we at TidBITS are particular about how we use words, and usage is all over the map. For writers like me, it’s comforting to know exactly what to call this disease.
According to the World Health Organization, the official name of the disease is coronavirus disease, abbreviated to COVID-19. The virus that causes the disease has been named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, abbreviated to SARS-CoV-2.
Apple and WWDC
A fair amount has been written about how COVID-19 is affecting Apple over the past few months. Until now, we haven’t covered those issues because they aren’t unique to Apple, they don’t affect most users, there’s nothing anyone can do about them, and some are just inside baseball.
For instance, Apple’s financials will be hurt in the short term due to slowdowns in manufacturing and lower sales in China. Apple closed, and then reopened, its stores and offices in China, and the company also closed some stores in Italy and restricted travel.
Other reports have noted that Apple is suffering a shortage of replacement iPhones and some parts. Apple is letting employees work from home, and the company is rejecting apps related to COVID-19 that aren’t from official health organizations or government to combat the spread of misinformation.
Most notably, Apple just announced that its Worldwide Developer Conference will take place entirely online (see “Apple Moves WWDC Entirely Online,” 13 March 2020). That’s better than most conferences, which have canceled entirely—we drafted our usual list of all Apple-related conferences, but we can’t see any utility to publishing it now.
There, you’re caught up (to when this article was written, at least), if you want to be. More COVID-19 news related to Apple will undoubtedly be coming down the pike.
Rely on Quality Informational Resources
As a professional writer and journalist, I think hard about the resources I turn to for information. When it comes to COVID-19, I’ve come up with a geographic hierarchy of sources.
- Start with the World Health Organization. The name says it all.
- Move on to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Again, the name is apt.
- Look for state (such as New York State for me) and local (Tompkins County) government information that’s more relevant to your everyday life. Other countries likely have similar regional and local hierarchies.
- If you have kids, be sure to check your local school district’s resources. (I’ve been impressed with the advice from our Ithaca City School District—the information has been clear, concise, and helpful.)
Although there have been many well-written and useful articles about COVID-19, make sure that anything you’re reading has been updated in the last day or two. Events are moving so fast that articles from a week or two ago may be interesting, but their authors may now have different advice or conclusions. I prefer analysis dashboards and frequently updated pages, most notably the following:
- Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases: This dashboard provides constantly updating numbers of confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries, broken down by geographic area. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security also publishes daily situation reports that provide a useful summary of what’s happening.
- Our World in Data Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics: Our World in Data is a collaboration of the University of Oxford and the Global Change Data Lab, and its page on COVID-19 offers quality information on numerous aspects of the pandemic.
- The Internet Book of Critical Care: COVID-19: This online book is the work of Josh Farkas, an attending intensivist at the University of Vermont with years of ICU experience. It’s aimed at medical professionals but could provide useful details about how doctors think about COVID-19.
I realize this stance falls into the category of spitting into the wind, but I strongly recommend against getting information via connections on Facebook and Twitter, or from random YouTube videos. The links might be fine, but there’s so much misinformation out there that you’ll have to do a lot more vetting of any particular resource than if you go directly to health organization experts. When evaluating anything you read that’s not directly from a health organization, ask yourself three questions:
- Who is the publisher? Major outlets like the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post generally do quality reporting and have fact-checkers. If you haven’t heard of the site before, does it seem to be focused on health or science?
- What are the author’s credentials? There’s a compelling Medium post (where anyone can post) making the rounds that has a ton of graphs and seems to be saying sensible things, but the author is a marketing guy. His analysis might be right, but put your trust in healthcare professionals, scientists in appropriate fields, and other experts.
- Are there references to reputable publications? This is the Web—there is no reason not to link to original sources. If anything seems off (“would the New England Journal of Medicine really have suggested coronavirus infections are caused by 5G wireless?”), you can and should follow references to make sure they’re being used appropriately.
So stay safe out there, whether that means washing your hands regularly or cleansing your information diet of dangerous misinformation.