Partially Stepping Down Isolation

On March 13th our household started isolating. We've relaxed our rules about surfaces a bit since then in response to changing estimates of risk—we've stopped sanitizing our groceries—but otherwise we haven't changed things much: I haven't gone into any buildings, or been close to anyone outside of my household. While the country as a whole is still seeing increasing cases, Massachusetts is doing pretty well:

The other indicators are also good: testing is way up, hospitalizations and intubations are way down, and the fraction of tests that are positive is below 2%.

Our house has decided to step down our isolation somewhat, while still being pretty careful:

Poly Domestic Partnerships

This is a joint post with David Chudzicki. Neither of us are lawyers.

Somerville just introduced domestic partnerships:

Domestic partnership means the entity formed by people who meet the following criteria ...

Cambridge has a similar ordinance:

"Domestic partnership" means the entity formed by two persons who meet the following criteria ...

Like most, Cambridge's ordinance is limited to two people, but Somerville is novel in being open to more.

Both, however, recognize domestic partnerships from other jurisdictions. Here's Cambridge's:

"Domestic partner" means a person who meets the criteria set out in subsection D of this section or who is registered as such in another jurisdiction.

Since Somerville does not restrict domestic partnerships to residents, it looks to us like a group of Cambridge residents could register a Somerville domestic partnership, which Cambridge should then recognize.

Second Wave Covid Deaths?

Two weeks ago I looked at covid cases by state, and divided states into three groups:
With eighteen days of additional data (6/13 through 6/30) we can see that the second wave has continued to build:
Somerville Mask Usage

Two months ago, Somerville made facecoverings mandatory, both indoors and out. A few weeks later the state of Massachusetts required them "in public places where social distancing is not possible". A week ago Somerville reduced its requirements in light of the heat: "during the summer months, when you are outside and able to social distance at least six feet from others, you may temporarily remove your face covering but must put it back on when others are nearby."

I was curious what people were actually doing, so while Anna was playing in the "woods" along the edge of the bike path, I gathered some statistics. As each person passed along the path, I tracked mode of transportation (walk, run, bike, scooter/skateboard), apparent gender (female, male, child, unclear), and face covering status (covered, mouth only, removed, absent). Raw data is here.

In forty minutes on June 28th, from 9:41am to 10:21am I saw 179 people pass. Of these, 73% (131) were masked, 5% (9) had their nose exposed, 15% (27) had masks on their chin or otherwise removed, and 7% (12) had no mask at all:

Preview On Hover

A couple years ago, Wikipedia added a feature where if you hover over an internal link you'll see a preview of the target page:

Other sites with similar features include

And LessWrong:

In general, I like these features a lot. They dramatically lower the barrier the following internal links, letting you quickly figure out whether you're interested. On the other hand, they do get in the way. They pop up, overlapping the text you're reading, and mean you need to be paying more attention to where the mouse goes.

I decided I wanted to add a feature like this to my website, but without any overlap. The right margin seemed good, and if you're reading this on with a window at least 1000px wide then hovering over any link from one of my blog posts to another should show a preview:

Coronavirus and Rents

With everyone staying home, cities make a lot less sense. Many people who previously wanted to minimize their commutes are working from home, and could live anywhere. People who wanted to live close to friends and family aren't seeing them. People who like to go to restaurants, bars, clubs, or dances aren't doing that either. On the other hand, the benefits of living farther out, such as space, proximity to nature, and cost, are if anything even more important. So I've seen a stream of friends posting about how they're leaving Boston, NYC, SF, and other cities, at least for now.

I track Boston rental listings for my rent map, and you can see this reflected in the data. Here are new two-bedroom listings for the last three months, compared to the same three months last year:

More Posts