Saturday, May 16, 2020

"Contact Tracing Via Old Shoe-Leather Epidemiology While Spurning the Techno-Fix Fairy: How Hong Kong Quells COVID-19 Without Killing Civil Liberties"

The state of Washington is requiring pre-contact tracing when dining at a restaurant. According to Eater: 
The plan, which includes logging time of arrival, emails, and phone numbers, is meant to facilitate contact tracing....

And via naked capitalism (hey, i didn't tell them to go with the e.e. cummings lowercase):
By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
Many countries are trying to quell their COVID-19 outbreaks by submitting to the tender ministrations of the technofix fairy, willingly sacrificing civil liberties to untested tracking apps.
Now, I’m not going to deny that technology – including some form of contact tracing via mobile ‘phones – is part of future COVID-19 management. But the necessity of over-reliance on such tracking is far less clear.

And we just have to look to the case of Hong Kong, which has so far registered only four COVID-19 deaths, to see that health authorities can effectively track and trace via old shoe-leather epidemiology and not rely on any app at all.
Naomi Klein penned a chilling account in The Intercept recently, describing the future that New York state’s politicos, led by NY governor Andrew Cuomo, and Silicon Valley, spearheaded by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, have teed up. I encourage you to read  this article if you have not done so already (Screen New Deal). Following Rahm Emmanuel’s advice – “You never let  a serious  crisis go to waste” – and realizing most people are so petrified by the prospect of catching COVID-19, those who seek to construct a high-tech dystopia know the mass of people are all too willing to capitulate:
It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.
This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.
The Case of Hong Kong
I checked in again this week with my old friend, Dr. Sarah Borwein, who has practiced medicine for the past fifteen years in Hong Kong. Sarah has on two other occasions shared with Naked Capitalism readers what this city of 7.5 million residents has done to stem the spread of COVID-19, while limiting cases to just over 1000, and deaths to four. (See Tale of Two Cities Redux: HK to Ease its COVID-19 Restrictions, While NYC Situation Remains Dire and A Tale of Two Cities: How Hong Kong Has Controlled its Coronavirus Outbreak, While New York City Scrambles).

She sent me an excellent article from The Atlantic: How Hong Kong Did It. One thing I’ve found troubling in discussing the U.S. and especially the NYC situation is that people are all too willing to blame the failed COVID-19 response on Donald Trump – as if he alone is responsible for the debacle. What the Atlantic piece makes clear is that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s hapless chief executive, also bungled Hong Kong’s initial response. Badly. From The Atlantic:
Lam fumbled the response to the pandemic as well, reacting with ineptitude, especially at first. Hong Kong’s first coronavirus case was reported when she was having dim sum with world leaders in Davos, Switzerland, and there was an outcry over the fact that she did not quickly return. She dragged her feet in closing the city’s borders, and never fully closed down the land border with China. The hospitals suffered from shortages of personal protective equipment. Lam wavered on masks, and even ordered civil servants not to wear them. There were shortages of crucial supplies and empty shelves in stores, as well as lines for many essentials. In early February, the financial outlet Bloomberg ran an opinion piece that compared Hong Kong to a “failed state”—a striking assessment for a global financial center and transportation hub usually known for its efficiency and well-functioning institutions....