A Note from Maynooth

I’m indebted to colleagues from Maynooth University Special Collections & Archives for sending out the following bit of history.

It is now over 100 years ago the 1918 “Spanish ‘flu” influenza pandemic came to Maynooth College. It was officially closed from 8th November until 7th January and 60 students remained in the infirmaries. Over 500 students went home and sadly 11 of these did not survive the pandemic. More details below.

One difference between 1918 and 2020 is that the Spanish flu mainly affected the young. Covid-19 is remarkably different, as these grim mortality statistics from Italy demonstrate:

Nobody at all under the age of 30 has died (so far) of Covid-19 in Italy. It’s the mortality rate for those over 70 that is terrifying. This is just the rate so far. Many of those currently in intensive care won’t make it, so these figures will probably change significantly.

Last night the Taioseach Leo Varadkar gave an unusual address to the nation, which pointed out the gravity of the situation facing Ireland and indeed the world in genderal, which is even more serious that a century ago. In particular he stressed that the COVID-19 emergency would probably last well into the summer.

I don’t agree with Varadkar on many political issues but I think his speech last night was very good. He praised Ireland’s front line medical staff, but also found time to mention the teachers and lecturers who trying their best to deliver remote teaching. Above all, though, he was honest.

I feel very lucky right now, not only to be so far unaffected by Coronavirus but also to be living and working in a small University town in Ireland right now.

There are no obvious shortages of anything and my local (small) supermarket has put out hand wash and wipes for people to use on baskets and trolleys.

We’re also in a Study Week that has at least given us some time to figure out how to move to online teaching by next Monday when we are supposed to start again.

We are probably going to be in this for months rather than weeks but aat least we academics are in no imminent danger of losing our jobs. The same is not true for the folk working in local shops, restaurants and other businesses. We owe it to them to do what we can to support the local community and its economy as much as possible.

In particular, I’ve often remarked that we are lucky in a small town like Maynooth to have quite a few nice cafés and restaurants. Some of these have switched to takeaway or delivery mode during the emergency. I wouldn’t normally use a takeaway service but I will do now, and I suggest my colleagues and friends in Maynooth might do likewise. If we don’t support these establishments now we might lose them for good.

That goes for other local businesses too!

9 Responses to “A Note from Maynooth”

  1. telescoper Says:

    Yes, a majority of the people in intensive care in both France and the Netherlands are aged under 50. The signs are that this age group have a good recovery rate and few if any will die.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Yes, being in intensive care helps people to recover. Are under-50s being preferentially admitted to it?

      • telescoper Says:

        I don’t know but I think in both those countries anyone who needs intensive care gets it as they are still within ICU capacity. Italy is not in the same situation and some difficult triage decisions are being made.

      • telescoper Says:

        Italy has now been forced to stop intubating patients over 60.

      • telescoper Says:

        Heard today that Italy is no longer intubating anyone over 60. Nobody at all of that age who has needed a respirator has yet come off it.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Terrifying? Even if you are in your 80s you have an 80% chance of surviving. So in terms of expected number of years to live I don’t think it makes much difference.

    What terrifies people about this virus is that they are no longer able to assume they will live into their 70s and then start worrying.

    • telescoper Says:

      In no way do these figures suggest an 80% survival rate. They exclude many still in intensive care who won’t make it in the long run.

      As of this evening there are 35713 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Italy. There have been 2978 deaths (8.3%), but only 4025 (11.3%) have recovered. I don’t know if that includes people who never showed symptoms anyway. The rest are presumably still in treatment.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      It all comes down to how long is the interval from onset used in calculating the case fatality rate. I am presuming that the very quoting of a number as a case fatality rate indicates some measure of reliability, ie that the interval is significantly longer than the time to death of most people who die of it. If not then the number in the RH column should be given some other title..

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    Here is some quality information about the two strategies for dealing with Covid-19, which the MRC Centre for Global Infection Disease Analysis call Mitigation and Suppression:

    Click to access Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

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