Confined to Courters
The inveterate Chris Dunn sent me the link to an article in the New York Times about the botched quarantine for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It was a terrific, detailed, fascinating article, which you can find here, but that's not the reason he sent it. It was because it turns out that someone we both know from a long while back is mentioned several times in the piece, and she and her husband even have several photo credits. It's a lovely lady named Gay Courter, who is a successful novelist and non-fiction writer and also has served as an advocate ad litum for kids in children's court. We haven't been in touch very often in the intervening years -- she lives in Florida -- though we did exchange emails a few years back.
I just sent her off a note -- and though I'm sure when you're written up in the New York Times you get inundated by emails, I heard back from her fairly quickly. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that -- it turns out that she and her husband are still isolated, so I guess there isn't a whole lot to do after a while, and answering emails is high on the list of activities. She says that so far they haven't tested positive for the disease, and wake up every day to reveille, making her think that she's Private Benjamin. She added that they spend time thinking of sick jokes, and asked if I had any new quarantine quips for her...
(I didn't have any quips, though a couple of Fun Facts she could pass along. Several years back, I finally made it through the entire Will and Ariel Durant Story of Civilization, reading one volume a year over the holidays. In one of them, they wrote about a major outbreak of some virus (I forget exactly when this was or for what) between France and Italy. As a result, people had to be isolated on an island for 40 days. The French word for “40” is – quarante. Hence, quarantine! (Also, the word in Italian for island is “isola.” Which brings us – isolation.)
By the way, Gay has a well-regarded book (4.5 stars on Amazon out of 5) about her experience as a child advocate, I Speak for This Child. If you're interested, you can find it here.)
All that aside, there was one weird thing in the New York Times article, part of a chart with a Q&A on the virus. At one point it says, “Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.” Now, as far as I can tell, the way it is with human beings, “somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people” can only be 2 or 3 people. I mean, I’ve scratched my brain as hard as I can and am not yet aware of any other figure it could be. As such, saying “…could spread it to 2 or 3 people” is a shorter and far more clear way of expressing that.
2/24/2020 08:34:24 am
Keeping all those people on the ship--and cruise ships are notorious petri dishes of communicable diseases--struck me as a bad idea. But I guess the countries in question (and the cruise line) didn't want to spend the money for quarantined housing on land. And it's not clear that there were housing resources that were available.
2/24/2020 04:36:05 pm
I don't know if you had a chance to read the full NYT article, but yes, they addressed the problem you reference here.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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