Stanford Alumni – March 24th Loop

Subject: Cardinal binge-watching guide; financial market news; Commencement

You’re in the Loop… from Stanford Alumni Association and STANFORD magazine  
March 24, 2020      
Campus right now.  
Stanford provost Persis Drell announced on Friday that spring quarter courses will be taught online for the duration of the quarter, and that since restrictions on large gatherings will likely still be in place later this spring,

Commencement is not expected to be held in its traditional form. “I share your disappointment at having to arrive at this place, which again is the product of the extraordinary circumstances around us,” she wrote. “We absolutely recognize the importance of this treasured milestone for our students, and we are working on a number of options that will allow us to honor our Stanford graduates appropriately and celebrate together. We will be coming back to you soon with thoughts on how we can best do that.” Find continuing updates on Stanford’s response to COVID-19 on the university’s dedicated health alerts website.
Things are moving fast.  
In some communities, response to the coronavirus pandemic has been swift.
Others have been slower to respond. In an op-ed in the New York Times on March 17, Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT to urge organizations and communities to take drastic action: “Based on what we are learning from our own experience, and the accelerating spread of the disease, we urge you to act quickly and boldly.

Regardless of the number of cases in your community, the time to act is right now: Public health experts tell us that as a society, the steps we take this week will have an immense impact on determining whether this crisis becomes a catastrophe.”

Flatten the curve is the phrase du jour, and more testing is needed to identify people who are infected with the novel coronavirus and their contacts who may be infected but are not yet experiencing symptoms, experts say, because quarantining exposed people before they infect others is key to slowing the spread. The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory is ramping up the university’s testing capacity: Last week, the lab was testing hundreds of patient samples per day, a number they hope to increase soon to more than 1,000 tests per day.      
Hoping for a quick (economic) recovery.   Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen remarkable volatility in financial markets and increased uncertainty about the performance of the economy, says Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research senior fellow Darrell Duffie, in a video where he discusses potential stabilizing measures. “This is a good opportunity to take stock of financial market conditions and to evaluate policy options.”

As cities across the country shut down and millions of jobs are affected, Stanford Law School professor and labor law expert William Gould says the legislation signed into law last week is an important first step in addressing the perilous circumstances that employees and gig workers face. “This is a down payment, a Band-Aid, the enactment of which dramatizes the enormous gaps in America’s inadequate social safety net.”

John Cochrane, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes in the Wall Street Journal that economic fundamentals are good. “Yes, it is likely that large parts of the economy will have to shut down for a few months. But once the virus is contained, the economy should turn right back on again, as it does after long holidays.” But, he notes, an economy can’t turn on and off like a light switch. “A pandemic can turn quickly to a financial crash and a long recession, not a V-shaped pause. That’s the scenario spooking markets, and it should spook all of us.” The central goal of policy, he writes, should be to keep businesses alive so they are ready to turn back on again.    
Quiet.       With few people on the Farm, familiar scenes take on an almost palpable air of silence.

STANFORD magazine has photos from recent days.
At least we’ve still got TV we can stream.   Season 3 of HBO’s Westworld was released on March 17, and the robots have left the theme park. The pilot episode, in which modern-day Singapore stands in for 2058 Los Angeles, promises a heady exploration of “algorithmic determinism” and humans’ relationship with technology. “The earlier seasons, the gods are tech people. Now, outside of the park, everyone has delusions of grandeur, of agency, free will . . . and maybe they’re not delusions,” co-creator Lisa Joy ’99, told Variety.

In other entertainment news, even though Issa Rae, ’07, has been a tad busy wrapping up season 4 of HBO’s Insecure (which premieres April 12), promoting her movie The Lovebirds, founding a record label and opening a coffee shop, she says she’s not tired. “It’d be great if I could just be creative all the time, or if I could just be building businesses all the time.
Those are all the fun parts, but there’s press and photo shoots that come with it. All those things that I don’t necessarily enjoy are what make me tired,” she told Refinery29.

Do TV the Stanford way: Make it a challenge.
Get your all-Cardinal coronavirus binge-watching guide here.      
Keep your stress (and sharing) in check.   Don’t let protecting yourself from the novel coronavirus take a toll on your health. Randall Stafford, professor of medicine at Stanford, says increased stress and decreased activity can compromise our general health and well-being, leaving us more susceptible to the virus and its complications. He suggests using some of the forced changes to your daily habits as an opportunity to maintain or improve your health. (No commute? You can exercise. Or, um, sleep in.)

Loneliness takes a toll, too. Instead of social distancing, try distant socializing, says associate professor of psychology Jamil Zaki.

“Ironically, the same technologies we often blame for tearing apart our social fabric might be our best chance, now, of keeping it together,” he told Stanford News Service. “In my lab, for instance, we have a coffee room where people congregate and take breaks together. We created a Zoom channel called ‘the coffee room’ meant explicitly for doing nothing together.” And if you feel anxious during the day, Rosan Gomperts, director of Stanford’s Faculty Staff Help Center, says that’s a good time to do a short breathing exercise to lower your physiological response.

You might also feel better if you check your sources on COVID-19. The stream of news on social media could be increasing your anxiety—and some of that news might be fake. Professor of communications Jeff Hancock says one way to spot fake news stories is that they seem more surprising, upsetting or anxiety-provoking than credible news. The Graduate School of Education’s Sam Wineburg, author of Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone), has advice for detecting fake or biased news. One tip: Before you share something about the novel coronavirus on social media, open a new browser tab and check out the reliability and potential bias of the source.           But wait, there’s more.  

What’s it like for athletes whose college careers have been cut short by the coronavirus? Senior forward Nadia Fingall received the news that the NCAA basketball tournament was canceled shortly before a scheduled team practice. But it wasn’t until she sat down with the team, in the back-row spot she’d chosen as a freshman, that she realized her days playing for the Cardinal had come to an abrupt end. “That’s when it really hit me,” she told the New York Times.
“I realized that was the last time I was going to sit in that seat.”

“Career politicians are not addressing the urgency and the desperation that so many of us feel.” Jackie Fielder, ’16, MA ’16, spoke with Teen Vogue about how her environmental activism and her experience with homelessness have informed her campaign for the California Senate.

“The best way I know to get better is to acknowledge where we’re not meeting our expectations for ourselves.” Stanford provost Persis Drell met recently with alums to answer their questions about the university’s Initiative for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL).

Alcoholics Anonymous, a program regarded with skepticism by some mental health professionals, works better at keeping people sober than other interventions do, according to a comprehensive analysis of 35 studies. “It absolutely does work,” says Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and one of the researchers who conducted the analysis.

Fitness is a state of mind: People exposed to stringent guidelines for exercise were less motivated and exercised less than those who were given more liberal guidelines, says a new study. What’s more, they perceived themselves as less fit, a negative mindset that may have detrimental effects on health and longevity.

Stay healthy, everyone!
Note: The Loop sometimes links to articles outside of Stanford that may require a subscription to view.
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