Coronavirus: Now Cometh The Lawsuits

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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91 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Sadly I had hoped the first lawsuit would be against various gov’ts and their actions, and threat of actions related to civil liberties. Oh well.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
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      says:

      There have been suits against governments but these have been done by astro-surfers. Most people support the shelter in place actions. The lawsuits also against the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that governments have quarantine powers consistently.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I was thinking more of the suits against cops and the like.Report

      • Avatar Zac Black in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “There have been suits against governments but these have been done by astro-surfers.”

        Well, it’s cleaner than calling in Galactus.Report

      • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        but these have been done by astro-surfers

        We all know the water is fake. They just won’t admit it.
        [ETA: Zac beat me to it!]

        Most people support the shelter in place actions..

        There’s something about “most people support” that doesn’t always work well with civil liberties.

        Most people support the shelter in place actions..

        You’re the lawyer, not me. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the courts tweak how such quarantines are enforced. There are probably constitutional ways to do it and unconstitutional ways to do it (where “constitutional” means what the courts say is constitutional and not necessarily what you or I or someone else would say is constitutional).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LeeESq
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        says:

        It must have cost a fortune to pay 17% of Californians to express opposition to the shelter-in-place orders. Maybe they paid someone at CHCF to link the phone list. That way they’d only have to pay off a couple hundred.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg
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          says:

          I give this a C minus in effort and execution and that is with grading on a generous curve. All the polling indicates that most Americans, even the laid off, even Republicans support social distancing and slow and safe reopening of the economy.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw
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            says:

            So, as a majority of Americans thought interning Japanese during WWII was OK, it was the right thing to do?

            I mean, civil rights be damned, if a majority wants something, right?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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            says:

            There’s reason to believe that there are thumbs on scales.

            Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Robby Soave is hardly what I call an unbiased source. Like Brandon and Aaron, his reason for existence is to own the libs. He would rather blow his head off before admitting a majority agreed with the Democrats on an issue.

              I’m not convinced by any of you. You all have years of making nothing but bad faith arguments.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I’m not asking you to be convinced, Saul.

                I’m asking you to look through the telescope and see for yourself whether or not it moves.

                You don’t have to take the attitude that I’m telling the truth. Hey. I have obvious biases.

                But I do have eyes.

                And I do have a telescope.

                And you should look through it.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Reason is a publication that feels compelled to troll and insult liberals even when it is calling Jacob Wohl an asshat. Why as a liberal should I find them compelling?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                Oh, you should never look at their emotional appeals and be moved by them. I mean, so much of their stuff is what some modern critics of comedy called “clapter”. That is: Making a joke that only people who agree with you already will find funny.

                That said, if we can look at a poll and say “this poll was misinterpreted”, then we can agree that the poll was misinterpreted *EVEN IF* the jokes the writer made were in-jokes to people who already agree with a lot of premises.

                But I agree. “Clapter” jokes are lazy as hell. And, on top of that, they make it difficult to look past them at any important underlying points being made.

                That said, there *ARE* important underlying points being made.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                “I’m not convinced by any of you. You all have years of making nothing but bad faith arguments.”

                Just out of curiosity… what WOULD convince you to change your mind?Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              FWIW, I will concede that there are some nut bars out there who think we can do shelter in place until there is a vaccine. I think they are wrong but nutpicked.

              There is a load of difference between “shelter in place until a vaccine is approved by the FDA for mass use” and “let’s reopen everything today or even in a month.”

              But such nuances always seem to escape you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I’m one of the people who looks at the situation and thinks “holy crap, every single trade-off we might wish to make is a crappy trade-off!”

                I can easily see how someone could say “I’m not making any money… we need to open the economy back up”.

                I can also easily see how someone could say “I can still do my job from home thanks to the internet people. I can still eat whatever I want thanks to delivery people. I don’t know why people are opposed to shelter-in-place. This is like a snow day!”

                I’m one of the lucky people, so far (knock wood), in this looming depression that is not yet worse off for it having happened.

                And even as I am filled with non-directed gratitude for being in that state, I can’t help but notice that I am an outlier.

                (Heck, I’m even introverted! Bonus!)Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Except there is no evidence that the protestors are the kinds of people who cannot do their jobs remotely. There is lot of evidence that is about cultural affiliation with team red though. Polling indicates that Governors with high whether Newsom or DeWine. DeSantis and Kemp are highly unpopular.

                Brandon’s argument was not one in good faith it was a snide and sarcastic dismissal against facts that go against how he prefers to see things or how things are seen in his Trumpian circle:

                https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/the-theory-that-explains-the-politicization-of-coronavirus.html

                “Most of the discourse on coronavirus politicization focuses, for understandable reasons, on just how disheartening this is, and what it tells us about the present state of American politics: If Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on as factual a question as whether a pandemic poses a major treat to the nation’s well-being, what can they agree on? But there’s a more practical point here worth understanding, one which may not have filtered down to most people: the specific, deeply deleterious ways in which people’s behavior and beliefs are affected by polarization.

                Here one of the most useful frameworks is a theory — cultural cognition, which “refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether humans are causing global warming; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities.”

                You seem to have sympathy for people who allegedly can’t work from home. What about sympathy for people who want to shelter in place but are told by their bosses no? Come in or get fired and we will fight like hell to make sure you don’t get unemployment? Do you have sympathy for them?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                Except there is no evidence that the protestors are the kinds of people who cannot do their jobs remotely.

                I think that something as simple as “what percentage of people can do their jobs remotely?” and coming up with a number south of, oh, 60% is sufficient to say that we’d probably want arguments that these protestors are merely culturally signaling stuff.

                What percentage of people can do their jobs remotely?

                For what it’s worth, I can do *MY* job remotely. Most of the people I know can do their job remotely.

                But I still do *BETTER* at my job when I go in one day a week. And not all of the people I know are like me.

                And when I think back on the beforetime, I interacted with a *LOT* of people who couldn’t do their job remotely.

                And as I cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I acknowledge that I am able to do so because of a *HUGE* reliance on people who are, today, unable to do their job remotely. Thanks delivery people!

                You seem to have sympathy for people who allegedly can’t work from home. What about sympathy for people who want to shelter in place but are told by their bosses no? Come in or get fired and we will fight like hell to make sure you don’t get unemployment? Do you have sympathy for them?

                I absolutely do. I think that Congress should send out another round of checks and include legislation saying that they will help cover rent/mortgages for businesses that cannot make money during the “pause” and a rent/mortgage forgiveness program for people who cannot make money during the “pause”.

                And without those things happening, I’m stuck noticing a whole bunch of people who are being told that they cannot close, they cannot do their jobs, and they have to pay rent/mortgage anyway.

                And noticing that, of freaking *COURSE*, they want to get back to work if that is the best actual option (as opposed to the best theoretical one).Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                To be even more fair, I think there is a difference between support and willpower. And I think there very well could be a point where people get fed up and say fuck it.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I think that is the most likely way this will end. When people are protesting in Germany it’s fair to assume patience will run out everywhere.

                Of course this is where the total incompetence of our government comes into play. The whole point of this was to flatten the curve so that healthcare infrastructure wasn’t overrun all at once. It wasn’t to prevent people from getting sick, just to draw it out. Trump playing the states off each other for partisan gain, insistence by the GOP* that most aid is filtered through corporate slush funds, the disgraceful and corrupt allocation of PPE, and the haphazard reopenings show just how dumb and callous they are. Worse yet it’s undermined what was a straightforward and achievable goal.

                That said there may never be a vaccine and if there is it could be like the flu, where they make an educated guess about the worst strains for the year but can’t prevent all forms. Obviously we should try to develop one as well as legitimate anti-virials but they may never come. We need to be thinking about how to mitigate.

                *I exclude Larry who has done about as well as I think could be expected of an elected official under the circumstances.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                So, to be clear, Saul, you think the folks who want to shelter forever are nuts and the folks who want to open now are partisan monsters. Hmmm… that seems to leave, well, your position as the only rational seeming one. How… convenient.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              He’s arguing with the headline, not the story. (It was since improved.) Is it news to anyone that headlines are often misleading clickbait? I’ll bet Reason isn’t immune to that either.

              The body of the story includes

              Nearly three-quarters consider it very important for there to be a significant reduction in the number of new cases or deaths before they’d be willing to return to their regular activities,

              This matches all the other polling I’ve seen and agrees with what Saul said.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                I’m not sure that “he’s only disagreeing with the pre-corrected story” is disagreeing with me?

                Anyway, I think it’s very important for there to be a significant reduction in the number of new cases or deaths before I’d be willing to return to my regular activities.

                Indeed, having discovered how to make lime cilantro rice, I’m not sure that I will *EVER* return to my regular activities.

                Wait.

                Have we defined “regular”? Because even if they developed a vaccine tomorrow and everybody got it on Friday, I’m not sure that I’d ever return to my “regular” activities. I’ve re-learned how to cook, for example.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                By November, things will be back to normal.

                “normal” does not mean “the same as January 2020”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                Yeah, there’s some sleight of hand going on there.

                If all normal means is “people no longer get the covid and die because everybody who couldn’t internalize social distancing rules are either dead or are part of the new herd immunity”, then that’s one heck of a new normal.

                That we don’t know what the rules are for yet.

                Probably involves masks, like, everywhere.

                Get a Rockies one for Summer! Get a Broncos one for Autumn! Get an Avalanche one for Winter! Springtime will let you bust out your Nuggets mask!

                It’ll be the new “buy bonds”.Report

              • Avatar J_A in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                So how many people in your company can work remotely on a mostly permanent basis (an approximation is good enough). @Jaybird? And how many, lie you, can work it out with going in only once or twice a week?

                If half the people work remotely, and another 25% go only once a week, the personnel at the site on any day has gone from 100% to 30%.

                That’s a big reduction in the chances of people in your company catching COVID-19 in the office and transferring to your family and the rest of the people you interact with. If every large company did that, even without a vaccine, we would be significantly better than “going back to normal like if it was the flu”

                My company, for instance, is seriously evaluating going remote permanently (we are about ten people in the Houston office), and just renting some space in Regus to have a physical address for deliveries, and access to conference rooms for the rare in-person meetingReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J_A
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                says:

                Depending on what we mean by “mostly permanent”, maybe 90%.

                If we allow for people who never have to go into the office, never once, that’s probably only management.

                If we allow for people who have to go in one day a week (but they’re there *ALL DAY* touching stuff), the number leaps up to 80%, maybe?

                If we allow twice a week, that’s pretty much everybody, I guess, except for the security guards, the cleaning crews, and a handful of stragglers in receiving.

                And while I think that that’s great, I can’t help but notice that I remain dependent upon an army of Essential Workers who allow me to work remotely.

                The Amazon guy, the Instacart guy, and the guys who make the stuff that the Amazon guy and the Instacart guy bring to me are all guys who need to show up to work.Report

              • Avatar J_A in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                And while I think that that’s great, I can’t help but notice that I remain dependent upon an army of Essential Workers who allow me to work remotely.

                The Amazon guy, the Instacart guy, and the guys who make the stuff that the Amazon guy and the Instacart guy bring to me are all guys who need to show up to work.

                If I were one of the security guards, or a straggler in receiving who had to be there every day, I would be very happy that the place is almost empty, and there’s significantly less people around me potentially shedding viruses.

                I never took probability and statistics in college, but I’m sure plenty here know the answer:

                If the virus is distributed uniformly so that [take a guess] 10% of the people are infected at any time, and I see/interact with/cross paths in an elevator with only 20% of the people I used to before, how much my chances of being infected have been reduced?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A
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                says:

                There is also the question of how exposed a person is to someone who is infected.

                Let’s say you run into someone shedding virii, and 100 particles get into you. Chance of you getting sick is pretty slim. Your body will deal with the invaders and you won’t even get a sniffle.

                Now if 100M particles get into you, that’s a problem.

                Because (IIRC), it isn’t the virus that kills you, but your body’s response to it, the inflammations, and fevers, and mucous, and all the other fun things your body does to clear out the invader. COVID-19 is just really good at throwing an immune system into overdrive.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                This blog post gives a pretty good summary of how the virus spreads: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-themReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                Zazzy has it. All the symptoms and confirmed diagnosis. The boys were with his from 4 days before she started showing symptoms to 2 days of her symptomatic period. They were then with me for 16 days. As single parents of young children… well, that’s about as intimate and prolonged contact as it gets: bathing, feeding, tucking into bed, dressing, rough housing, snuggling on the couch, etc.

                Neither the boys nor I got sick. I got an antibody test 6 weeks out and it came back negative. Obviously, it is possible I had it but that greatly lowers the odds. I’m trying to get the boys antibody tests but have run into hiccups (not due to availability… logistical matters).

                Two likely* scenarios exist:
                1.) Zazzy gave it to the boys who were asymptomatic and they never gave it to me.
                2.) Zazzy didn’t pass it to the boys.

                Now, I have a half-baked theory that children, teachers, and other folks who live with the germs may have increased resilience to it because we live with the germs. So maybe that is part of this.

                Regardless, we have intense contact and exposure and limited spread. That means… something?

                FWIW, if I do learn that the boys did not have it, I’m seriously considering seeing if they ought to be further tested. If you can spent 6 days licking a Covid-19 infected person and not get sick… maybe they are mutants with the power to save us or something.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                A) Sorry.

                B) The off chance is that you and the boys are “inherently immune.” For any given pathogen — at least so far — some percentage of the human species just doesn’t catch it. Eg, about 2% just don’t get HIV, no matter how or how often they are exposed. I have seen some of the experts saying that yes, we know there is some inherent immunity to this virus. Haven’t seen any of them guess what the percentage might be.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                Thanks, Michael Cain. And I realized I left a small but important typo: Zazzy HAD it. She is recovered and in the clear, now participating in anti-body studies and donating plasma/serum/whatever it is.

                Regarding “inherent immunity”, would there be a genetic or inherited component to that? Are folks with inherent immunity helpful when it comes to research and the development of treatments? Obviously, lots of if’s involved but if the boys and/or I are somehow immune and that could be helpful to the greater cause, I’d want to pitch into that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                My trick memory — which is certainly not authoritative — thinks that it’s of limited use, and not under conditions like these where the medical folks want a vaccine that fools the active part of everyone’s immune system into dealing with the virus.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J_A
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                I am 100% down with the argument that only “essential” workers need to show up to work and everybody else works from home. Only Go In When You Have To!

                But I’d need it demonstrated to me that I am not an outlier.

                I am aware of how lucky I am to be in a position where I can work from home and only go in one day a week.

                I am not thinking “this is how it ought to be forever” nor “most people are like me”.

                I’m just aware that we’re doing something that isn’t sustainable and I’m very lucky to not be in a place where I have to make hard choices.

                Yet.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Would a series of opinion polls showing that most Americans agree with you, demonstrate that you are not an outlier?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                An outlier on what?

                On being able to work from home?
                On being able to sustain a lifestyle that involves minimal human interaction?
                On being able to pay my bills doing this sort of thing indefinitely?

                Or are we just talking about having an opinion that we should be keeping things more or less tamped down until the curve is crushed, rather than merely moved to the right?

                Because I suspect I’m not an outlier on that last one.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Your suspicions are correct, which was Lee’s original point way back atop this subthread.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                I wasn’t disagreeing with Lee’s original point.

                I was disagreeing with Saul.

                And noticing that there are a hell of a lot of tradeoffs we’re expecting others to make as a matter of course even though we don’t have to make them.

                Which, I’ve gotta admit, is kinda effed up.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                What!!! Holy shit!!! There are tradeoffs?

                OMG I never thought of that. It never would have occurred to me until you pointed it out.

                Thanks for opening my eyes, man!!! Dammit wow!!! That’s amazing insight and not at all condescending!!!

                What!! There’s more!!!

                It affects different people differently, and the elites might not consider how it affects the less fortunate.

                Oh My Fucking God What A Stunning Idea.

                Thanks Jaybird for telling me this. I would have never thought about that if you hadn’t told us.

                Damn, this sure is complicated. Thanks for helping us simpletons see this. Gosh.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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                says:

                Sorry. I’ll use your preferred verbiage:

                “Check your privilege.”Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Wait! Are you suggesting that some people have privilege over others? Like, for example, one person is wealthy, lives in a spacious house, has a job where they can work remotely, compared to another person who lives in a cramped apartment with seven others and who has to work in a high risk environment — you’re saying the first person is privileged?

                Wow! Mind Blown!

                Thanks for pointing that out dude. We never would have figured that out.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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                says:

                “Check your privilege” isn’t “Privilege exists, you know”, Veronica.

                You’d think that white women in tech would more easily understand this sort of thing.

                Ah, well. (Maintaining their position probably depends on them strategically *NOT* understanding it.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to J_A
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                says:

                So how many people in your company can work remotely on a mostly permanent basis (an approximation is good enough). @Jaybird? And how many, lie you, can work it out with going in only once or twice a week?

                I got to thinking this morning about my 25 years in tech and whether I could have done the job from home. In particular, the last part of that gig.

                I’ve decided that to do all of that job and earn the bucks they were paying me, I’d have to be in the office every day. Yeah, there was a lot of the job that could have been done from home, given internet access and reimbursement for the occasional printing binge*. But more days than not, I was consulted as a resident expert on a wide variety of “how things work” questions. Usually, people either wandered by my oversized cubicle or stopped me in the break room. Sometimes the discussion went on for an hour. Sometimes I didn’t know the answer but the question was interesting enough that — in the part of my position where I got to choose what to work on — I’d get sidetracked for parts of the next several days/weeks digging deeper. I don’t know whether Zoom and the like would support that sort of interaction with my colleagues.

                * There are times when I just seem to need printed copies of five or six papers laid out side by side in front of me on my desk. We’re still not to the point with display technology where “desktop” and “desktop” can be the same thing at any reasonable price.Report

  2. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    Wait until the suits against employers start.Report

  3. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    says:

    My university proactively offered room and board refunds. Not tuition refunds, because we muddled through the best we could with teaching. And faculty still got paid for our work. I still wouldn’t be surprised if some students requested a tuition refund.

    This may mean some campuses go back in-person before it’s really safe in that region. And then there will be a second wave of lawsuits, if there’s an outbreak on campus.

    I dunno. a friend of mine asked “why didn’t they just close down the university for the rest of the semester” and I pointed out that that would mean there was no justification for paying faculty or staff, and it would mean breaking contracts, and that would probably be a larger problem (legally speaking) than dealing with this is.

    I don’t know. I still fully expect to be furloughed (at least, either with no pay or with greatly reduced pay) at some point, but it would have really driven me over the edge if it had happened while I was still coping with all the big changes. Not happy about the periodic thoughts I have about maybe having to find a new job, in my early 50s, in competition with literally tens of thousands of other people.Report

  4. Avatar PD Shaw
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    says:

    The college refunds, or lack thereof, came up at Marginal Revolution yesterday after Cowen had a piece in Bloomberg saying most colleges had kept room and board for the spring semester and not issued refunds. Someone pointed to an article in early April in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 4/10/20 that stated that 75% of colleges had decided to issue refunds. We got a refund check for daughter’s pro-rata room and board in mid April.

    Some of these lawsuits though are directed towards the argument that the on-line classes are inferior, and they also want a partial refund of classes for which they will receive credit. Maybe under the circumstances, these classes weren’t as good as advertised, but if the argument is that they are inherently inferior, then that has implications for college going forward (which I kind of doubt).Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to PD Shaw
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      says:

      Maybe under the circumstances, these classes weren’t as good as advertised, but if the argument is that they are inherently inferior, then that has implications for college going forward (which I kind of doubt).

      More interesting, I think, is if the classes were not inferior. Or at least not inferior if time is available at the beginning to set them up. Suddenly universities are rather grossly overstocked on classrooms and office space. Maybe on faculty as well if online classes can be bigger. Or mismatched on faculty if what they need is one lecturer and 30 TAs to handle the whole Calc I or English 101 class load.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        I’ve been thinking about this. When is zoom sufficient or equal to inclass teaching and when is it subpar.

        I don’t think it would be good in many situations for the performing arts or science labs. How do you rehearse a scene or a jazz ensemble or a dance? How do you teach anatomy when it requires a cadaver?

        But beyond that, I don’t know? Is Zoom better for large lectures or small seminars? At what number is a class too unweidly for zoom but okay in a small classroom?Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          I’m asking myself the same question about tele-conferencing.

          In the same way that I’ve learned that people behave differently towards each other depending on whether it is an email correspondence, a phone call, or an in-person meeting, people have a different dynamic when video conferencing.

          I don’t have a definitive answer, other than office management in a remote setting will be very different than an in-person setting.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          Like anything… Zoom and other tele-teaching tools have pros and cons which are experienced differently by different individuals.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          How do you teach anatomy when it requires a cadaver?

          I’m sure such anatomy classes exist, as well as related classes where some sort of dissecting takes place. But in my experience, which is limited to high school and freshman college level “lab” science classes, the following seemed to be true:

          1. All dissection was pretty much pointless. I guess I learned how to use a razor to cut open a frog, and I learned that if I cut it open, I could see its organs. Nothing too surprising, and I don’t feel like a better person for it, regardless of the metric we use for “better.”

          2. Lab assignments–not all of them, but almost all of them–were usually an exercise in trying to find a result the lab manual told us to find and usually not finding the result. Countless times using supposedly distilled water to clean beakers and countless times putting washers in shallow tubs with water and using a motor to make waves over the washers–and I guess we learned to follow instructions poorly and misunderstand experiments.

          (None of this goes against your main point. Zoom can’t meet the needs of all types of classes. But in my experience “lab” classes just aren’t what they’re cracked up to me, at least when it comes to the introductory classes I had. I suspect that as one progresses, labs become much more important.)Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          How do you teach anatomy when it requires a cadaver?

          I would assume the students have access to a kitchen, which is where most folks normally cut up meat anyway, and they certainly will have a freezer and plastic bags. If some the most deranged members of society can figure out what to do at home with a knife and corpse, I’m sure medical students could. As long as their significant other doesn’t walk into the kitchen unexpectedly, it shouldn’t be a problem.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        We would probably need to agree on some metric for inferior/superior.

        One of the lawsuits though is against Indiana University, where tuition for an online-only degree costs two-thirds of a traditional degree in-state, and three-tenths of a traditional degree out-of-state. I don’t know any details, but that suggests that the customer perceives a lot more value for in-person education.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to PD Shaw
          Ignored
          says:

          Good points, though I think this claim

          I don’t know any details, but that suggests that the customer perceives a lot more value for in-person education.

          relies, at least in my opinion, on an ambiguity in the word “education”. The students filing these lawsuits most likely believe they’ve been deprived a value distinct from the academic portion of an education, one which runs alongside but is often subsumed into it. Something like “the experience of campus life” and all that that entails.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            As long as you get the same piece of paper at the end and are allowed to put it on your resume without asterisk I struggle to see an actual damage or deprivation a court can address. There’s no way to award a wistful Spring afternoon in the quad.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD
              Ignored
              says:

              Online degrees are much cheaper than in-person degrees, though, yes?

              More generally though, I don’t think a university can defend that claim given that the tuition-for-education transaction included the expectation of in-person education and campus life.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not sure it does. Is the value of the degree the accommodations or the reputation of the institution? With the obvious exception of room and board it seems to me the latter is the only way to measure it in a way a court could to calculate relief (absent something statutory).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure, but students aren’t paying tuition to attend a brick-and-mortar institution *merely* for the value of a degree.

                Suppose that Duke decided mid-term to shutter the campus and have students finish spring term online-only, and did so without any compelling need. Seems to me in that case Duke would have violated the terms of the contract they signed with each tuition-paying student, no?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess you’d have to look at the contract to see what they specifically put themselves on the hook for. My bet is not much.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            If we just look at this year’s students though, I think they’ll have a host of anecdotes about how the class changed after it went on-line: class curriculum being reduced, grading “opportunities” dropped, or professors not posting any on-line content, just e-mailing the class to tell them to read the textbook and be ready when he figures out how to conduct the final exam.

            They may ignore the good and emphasize the bad, but its hard to believe that a class designed for in-person instruction would ever be as good at on-line instruction as a class originally designed for on-line instruction. Another tell: colleges extending the deadline to take a class pass-fail.

            Beyond life experience (which was a value promoted by midwestern colleges in the 19th century), a lot of students (mine) believe they learn better from in-person instruction.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to PD Shaw
              Ignored
              says:

              Serious question though- how do you calculate the relief other than room and board? And if it’s a state school can you even sue?Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                Just looked up UVA Tuition vs. UVA Online Tuition.

                Was actually surprised at how close they were.
                Tuition & Fees: $17,304
                Online 15 credits: $13,260

                So, pretty strong comparative case for online costs being less than on-campus … though less than I thought, tbh.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                Back of the envelope calculation:

                One can get a degree from Indiana University at a cost of $360 per credit hour in person or $250 per credit hour on-line. (Assuming state resident). So, for a student enrolled in 15 hours of classes, whose degree switched from in-person to on-line at the midpoint of the semester, he could argue for a $825 refund.

                For non-residents, the price difference is $1,217 per credit hour in-person versus $350 per credit hour on-line. So a similar student could ask for about $6,500.

                Scholarships would have to be factored in.

                I didn’t think about sovereign immunity. I think some states differentiate tort from contract on that. I don’t have particular view on how good the lawsuits are, but it seems to me that their own pricing sets them up more than generalized grievances.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to PD Shaw
                Ignored
                says:

                I extrapolated my figures from this article:

                Growing number of students suing colleges that moved classes online amid pandemic

                With respect to the reimbursement from my daughter’s college for room and board, I have not even bothered to try to see whether how they calculated the pro-rata amount. Too much work. I assume its close enough.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to PD Shaw
                Ignored
                says:

                Yea that makes sense. I honestly didn’t realize that many traditional schools have regular online options to measure against. Still seems like a lot of work for a negligible return.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    Uni’s are a solid target because they provide a service that must be paid for upfront, thus if the Uni backs out of the full service (& let’s face it, online learning is not the full, advertised service), students have a valid claim.

    It doesn’t help that a large number of very wealthy (and liberal) schools took all that tuition money, kicked everyone out of class rooms, resident halls, and the like, and then laid off all the service employees without pay. Not sure if Duke is guilty of something like that, but I wouldn’t be surprised.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Your first paragraph is one the reasons I have major problems when university faculty unions try to go on strike. True, I’m probably biased against those unions anyway, but that’s one reason.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that’s right. The basic structure of the complaint seems correct to me and apart from a desire to *keep the money* I don’t see any argument which justifies universities not refunding some portion of the tuition. The agreement between the student and the university was $ for X but the university delivered ~X.Report

  6. Avatar PD Shaw
    Ignored
    says:

    The lawsuits began here after an Attorney General legal memorandum leaked that indicated doubt that the stay-at-home orders would ultimately be enforceable in the courts, at least in criminal proceedings. It has to do with statutory limits that could be modified if the legislature ever came back into session.

    “In most states, emergencies cannot be declared indefinitely. In five states, a state of emergency can last
    for 60 days or more. In 16 states, a state of emergency can last for no more than 30 days. In 10 states, a state of emergency must expire in less than 30 days. In 14 states, these time limits can be extended. In 12 states, the legislature can terminate a state of emergency.”

    National Governors Association for Best Practices (pdf)Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Law suits existed since the start. There are a lot of restaurants engaged in lawsuits against insurance companies because the insurance companies said pandemics do not count under business disruption policies. A lot of the named plaintiffs are the superstars of the restaurant industry.*

    It is clear that a large part of the American university experience is the residency aspect.** This is because it is a relatively safe space to experience early adult life, the worst consequences of adult life and also for networking/credentials more darkly. Scott Galloway predicts that COVID is going to be rough on all but elite universities, maybe even semi-elite universities suffer. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/scott-galloway-future-of-college.html

    It is hard to justify spending 30K-50K a year on learning through Zoom. I can see telling students to grin and bear it for a semester especially at the elite level but I think that a lot of people are going to say fuck it and take a gap year if colleges/universities do not open for students in the fall***. I’m not even sure that $1500 on a class is justified for Zoom though the price is better. I’m still perplexed on how you do performing arts classes or science labs via Zoom.

    *From what I’ve read/heard, which is not much, the reinsurance industry did predict a pandemic but offered coverage only at millions of dollars a year. My understanding of reinsurance is even shakier and that it is basically insurance for insurance companies to protect them from catastrophic claims. Actual insurance companies declined to pay the pandemic premiums.

    **I know it is popular on this blog to imagine Spartan University which is low cost and no frills but it also absolutely clear that the majority, or at least a sizeable plurality, of American students do not want this including first in their family to attend college students. Students realize that the networking aspect is important and you miss out if you do it in a “sensible” manner and take two years of CC or go through college slowly while working. This group does seem to have a fair number of penny pinchers.

    ***On the other hand, there is not much for them to do either. They can’t travel, there are no jobs for them (or the kids who graduate), they can’t even really just hang out with friends. It will be the most boring gap year.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Students realize that the networking aspect is important and you miss out if you do it in a “sensible” manner and take two years of CC or go through college slowly while working. This group does seem to have a fair number of penny pinchers.

      I was going to write a sarcastic response to that statement. But I do realize you might not have wanted what you said to come across as it did. So, I’ll just remind you of what you already know, that there are people who aren’t as affluent as you (or me) and who indeed have to pinch pennies. CC is a great opportunity for people who might not otherwise be able to afford a university education (it’s also an opportunity for students to find out if college is for them, if they’re uncertain). Your comment (again, probably unintentionally?) suggests people are to be criticized for choosing CC’s.

      I’ll concede the main point. Living in residence halls can be valuable and “many” students really do want that experience. I had that experience, too, and while I found (and find) it to have been a little infantilizing, I’m grateful to have had the experience. At the same time, I think there are indeed tradeoffs. It’s not only that CC students and those who “go through college slowly while working”* miss out. They also gain a certain perspective that those who lived in the dorms off trust funds, or loans, or the “small liberals college or university financial aid package”** don’t have. And that perspective, those experiences, and the skills learned can be valuable.

      *Or go through college on time while working.
      **SLAC’s truly are more generous than non-SLACkers realize. But certainly not all of them. And I suspect the number of people who could do well at a SLAC far exceeds the number that SLAC’s are able to accept.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Even though I graduated from college twenty years ago, I get regular updates from my alma mater in the hopes of getting donations. My alma mater decided to refund the room and board money on its own and is allowing 200 students with no where else to go to stay on campus.

    In terms of reopening in the fall, they are looking at a late start and possibly non-traditional terms like during the 4 weeks normally given off between fall and spring Semesters.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    The real interesting thing with education is going to be with K-12 education. College students are old enough to take care of themselves. Most K-12 students are not, especially the ones aged 6 to 12. Parents are not going to be able to work full time and oversee the homeschooling and care of their children. If the schools don’t reopen, parents will protest.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      “Parents are not going to be able to work full time and oversee the homeschooling and care of their children.”

      Ooo… maybe there is a parent here qualified to speak on this. And maybe he is a single parent. Whose ex is an essential worker and therefore still going to the office full time. And maybe HE is working from home. And, by chance, maybe he’s an educator.

      Oh wait… that’s me! Parents are able to do it. Some of us at least. It’s hard as fuck but it’s possible.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      The ages 6-12 are when kids start to really trust themselves, gain greater control of the world around them and are willing to take on greater and greater responsibilty. This is a whole part of growing up. Socialization is needed, but the ability to believe in oneself and grow accordingly is equally needed.

      I know this because I went through it, and I am also a parent.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      If only there were some way we could guarantee that everyone in the United States got a certain amount of money, every month, regardless of whether or not they had a job, so they didn’t feel pressured to get the free child-care known as “school” started again so they could go back to work.

      You know, some sort of basic income, applied universally.

      But I’m sure that whoever proposed that would have supporters who were mean to people online, so, clearly that’s a dumb idea that nobody should ever think about implementing.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Uhhh… this kid knows Duke doesn’t have to accept him back next semester… right?Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    California State University just announced Fall 2020 will be online only. I expect other universities will follow in the summer or announce starting later like October.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Apparently CIDT (the internet tech center) on my campus is strongly hinting we will be. I’m going to start prepping as if we will be online. I’ll be annoyed at the wasted effort if we aren’t, but that’s better than having to scramble at the last minute if we are. It mainly will involve figuring out how to do labs “virtually” and change how I do testing (for security purposes; I don’t want to require Respondus because it seems intrusive and….kind of a lot).

      I fully expect a midsummer spike here (we “reopened” probably prematurely) and I am betting that will drive us to at least start out online in the fall.

      I don’t *love* teaching online, but I would love a lot less there being an outbreak on my campus. We have a lot of commuter students so it’s not impossible. Our classrooms (in the building where I teach) have terrible ventilation that is frequently broken and I don’t want to walk into a dead-air room and have to calculate how much increased risk we would all be at, and then maybe have to explain to admin why I keep cancelling classes.

      Man. This is just all so awful. And it’s going to be awful until/if they find a vaccine, or for the next nine years until I can retire, whichever comes first.Report

  12. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    https://www.vox.com/2020/5/13/21257181/coronavirus-masks-trump-republicans-culture-war

    “When you look at the broader Republican response to masks through the lens of Reno’s thinking, it starts to make a lot more sense. This is a political movement that has been built to wage a culture war; it has no greater objective than owning the libs. And the best way to own them is to defeat them in combat over identity: gender, race, sexuality, and the like.

    The war on masks is a way of taking a public health crisis — a situation that demands political unity and best practices in governance — and reshaping it into a culture war competition. The question is not “are we doing a good job handling this” so much as “whose team do you want to be on, the namby-pamby liberals or the strong fearless conservatives?”Report

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