Life in Covidtime

I haven’t written much here about Pandemic Life for a while. Things have been busy since the start of August, when I started a new management role in my institute, alongside getting ready for the start of an unusual semester of teaching. As usual, until September we had no idea how many students would turn up, but with none of the predictability of normal times that would let us get close in our forecasting. At the back of everyone’s minds was the thought that all of our preparation for hybrid teaching, with online-only fall-back options for formerly face-to-face courses, might be for the benefit of half as many MSc students as usual. But as it turns out, our school has matched the record numbers of last year. Our Digital Education programme’s intake is up by half, and student numbers on my option course are up 60% on the previous peak. It seems everyone wants to improve their knowledge of digital education, and of its wider global context.

It’s manageable for now, because since mid-August the kids have been physically back at school, although each of them has already been off sick multiple times (with colds, not Covid, but you can’t send sneezing and snuffling kids to school in the current climate). Our flat is quieter during the day than in April or May, making meetings on Teams more feasible, except when the home broadband flakes out, which is too often.

Life has become a routine of home, school, shopping, TV, and not much else. Travel is pretty much off the table, apart from a couple of afternoon trips to Glentress with my son. Pubs and restaurants are open, but we haven’t been keen to go and sit in either for hours at a time. Ditto cinemas, and now the big complex down the road is about to shut indefinitely, possibly never to return. Covid cases in Scotland and the UK have been heading back up for weeks, and local lockdowns have been increasing, to the point where a return to full lockdown over winter seems inevitable. We’re trying to appreciate this window of almost-normality while it lasts.

My building was among the last to reopen in our university, but in late September it finally did, and for the first time in over six months I ventured back to my office. The building was empty that day, as far as I could tell. I video’d the walk up the four flights of stairs (the lifts are now reserved for disabled access) and along our darkened corridor, then set it to the opening music of Chernobyl and shared it with my colleagues on WhatsApp for a laugh.

It was so quiet that spending the day there felt like coming in on the weekend; not the most enjoyable or productive place to be, but it was good to be able to pick up a few items I’d been missing over the previous six months. I haven’t hurried back, although I’ll probably go in tomorrow to use the work internet connection for a launch event for our new collaborative book about teaching online.

Meanwhile, I’ve been collecting links about These Extraordinary Times, although it’s hard to disentangle some of them from the political ones I’ve posted elsewhere.

The overwhelming racism of Covid coverage.

Covid signals the end of the American era.

Covid is here to stay.

There’s no return to “normal”.

Covid can wreck your heart, even if you haven’t had any symptoms.

Unravelling what causes severe Covid.

Supercomputer analysis yields a new way to understand the virus.

Microsoft Excel analysis yields a new way to misunderstand the virus.

Masks offer potential for variolation as we await a vaccine.

How Mongolia has kept Covid at bay.

Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs to detect Covid.

French Covid breathalyzer produces results in seconds.

India’s new paper Covid test could be a game changer.

The travel rules that let Covid take flight.

The overlooked variable driving the pandemic.

So little is known about this virus.

Vid of the year.

6 October 2020 · Events