Good morning everyone, I hope you had a restful Easter holiday. Easter break is about revitalization and renewal; I begin by recognizing someone whose bright light I hope we can all carry ahead with us.
Peter Ely, SJ, passed away Saturday. Fr. Ely was an Associate Professor in Theology and Religious Studies and I am among many who will miss him. He held a variety of roles on campus, including Vice President for Mission and Ministry and most recently oversaw the Arrupe Seminars. This year he took on the challenge of our move to virtual education and was teaching a class this quarter (covered, thanks Donna Teevan). I got to know Peter best while he led the Ignatian Colleagues Program. As you may have seen in emails, he meant a great deal to many of us in the college and around the university. Fr. Peter was a kind, graceful person, genuinely interested in and supportive of others, upbeat to his core. I will miss his cheery greetings when we met on campus and the deep support I felt from him through the various spiritual leadership roles he held. Fr. Steve noted in an email at 7:13 pm Saturday evening that he passed away unexpectedly, during a campus walk around noon that day. An announcement about a (virtual) memorial event is expected in the next few days.
Nominations for Arts & Sciences Shared Governance Positions are open now. Kate Reynolds sent out an email at 8:05 am Thursday noting the positions open for the coming year. Please consider running for one of the many positions that are open; our shared governance roles are as important as ever as we navigate the coming years.
West Coast Governors are talking about how to begin reopening the economy. The governors announced that they are beginning to consider how to do this, as noted here, although they do not plan to move immediately.
However, until an effective vaccination is widely distributed, the virus will wax and wane as a function of social distancing. The Seattle Times printed a Sunday cover story here. Those breakouts can be better managed with improved contact tracing, tracking measures and accurately targeted isolations those measures allow. The data suggest we will have to build flexibility into any reopening of the economy that occurs prior to broad vaccine availability (a projected period of 12-18 months). Two graphs are included in the article, one showing what would happen if social distancing restrictions were simply lifted on May 4 as presently scheduled, the second showing what might happen if social distancing is reimposed periodically as ICU hospital beds reach 50% capacity due to renewed outbreaks. Our plans as a university during this period will need to include flexibility on many fronts.
Mike Myint Update: When Mike says “this article shows” he means the Seattle Times article I posted above. The article in the middle of his posting addresses current thoughts on why some patients who recover seem to be testing positive again later.
The difficult middle of a Pandemic
Can technology help with the pandemic? The answer is certainly yes, especially given the constraints that still exist on testing and on public health interventions. Apps as used by countries including Taiwan and South Korea may help, but it would also take a level of civil coordination and cooperation that a 50 differing state strategy has trouble supporting. This article shows some of the analysis currently being done in WA state thinking about this difficult middle of Covid-19.
Seropositive strategies are still theoretical as serology testing strategies are still being studied. In addition, recent studies seem to show that at least sub-sets of people who suffer from C19 may either continue to shed or even get rei-infected. It is unclear if this is an exception or a rule, but more research needs to be done. The PCR tests currently being used are well described to show RNA but not necessarily live viruses being shed by individuals, and I wonder if this is what is being seen. Only live virus can spread the disease but several studies have shown long shedding of likely non-infectious RNA in recovering individuals.
The end state will be effective medications and/or effective and safe vaccine deployment. Until then, we will need to continue to bulk up the basics - testing and interventions, be them "gumshoe" epidemiology or leverage on technologic enablers to assist with quarantine and physical distancing.