Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 6, 2020

As is traditional, they start by emphasizing: it’s looking really bad in the US. Today they also add that it’s getting better in Europe.

On this day, there are 1.25 million cases worldwide. The US is responsible for most of the new cases, they mention straight off. In Sweden, there are 7206 cases. The number of new people place in the intensive care is still pretty constant (the black line in the graph). There are 477 people who have died.

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There are fewer new cases over the last few days, but that’s because cases are always under-reported on the weekends. We have to wait till tomorrow to see what it ends up looking like.

Today, the main person talking is Anders Tegnell, the chief national epidemiologist.

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He showed a graph that shows cases of regular flu during the last two years (the purple and marigold lines below) compared to this year (the turquoise line), and says the quick decline in the turquoise line during the last two weeks shows the measures put in place are having an effect.

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Anders Tegnell: We think we have flattened the curve. We at least see the effect of our measures. And we still have enough hospital beds.

Anders Tegnell continues: Our biggest trouble is we have the infection spreading in retirement homes in Stockholm and in the west. So everyone involved in that has to think about how to do better. Any staff with the mildest symptoms should stay home, and there should be more testing among the retirement homes. The spread in retirement homes is a big reason for the increase in fatalities in Sweden. When talking to my Nordic colleagues, they don’t have this same problem. Whether it’s a matter of time or if they’re doing something better, is something we’ll have to discuss.

Then he comments about masks: the biggest way to stop infection is by staying home when you’re sick and washing hands, not protective material — at least when it comes to retirement homes.

Question: how many of the deaths can be linked to retirement homes?

Anders Tegnell: No, yes … I think it’s too much to say that much of the coronavirus spread is in retirement homes, it’s not like that; most of the infection spread is through community spread. But many of the deaths are linked to them. We are looking at that. In the coming days, we are going to look carefully at the deaths among old people and see which ones actually had an address in a retirement home. We will share that information in a few days.

Question: so again, what about face masks? [while a reporter in a face mask sits right there]

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Anders Tegnell: No, we still say that face masks should be used where they are needed, in hospitals, because there you can have situations where the best way to stop infectious spread is through protective material. Out and about in the community, however, there’s no evidence that they help. I know in some countries there’s discussion that you should have a face mask, but still, that’s so you don’t infect anyone else. But here in Sweden, we don’t say that. Rather, we say that if you have symptoms, you should stay home. In these other countries, they’re saying if you have symptoms, you should just wear a face mask [are other countries really saying that?] and personally, I think it’s more effective to just stay home rather than wear a face mask of doubtful quality.

Questioner continued: but what about if you are infected but have no symptoms? Couldn’t you then infect others if you go out and about without wearing a mask?

Anders Tegnell: “I think it’s very important to remember what is important to do. That which is important to do is to stay home if you’re sick.” The number of people who get sick from asymptomatic carriers is very small in all the studies — somewhere around 10%. The most important thing is not that we get rid of all infection, but that we get rid of enough infection so that our medical services don’t collapse.

Question: why don’t you think that protective material can’t solve the problems of the spread in retirement homes? (asked by a journalist with a scarf-made face mask)

Anders Tegnell: Because you have to look at the complex situation of the spread of coronavirus in retirement homes in its entirety. If you think you can solve it through more face masks, then you will be entirely wrong. You have to look at how well trained the staff are, if they are able to stay home when they are sick, if you can test them, how you can isolate sick patients.

Question: could we have avoided some of the spread in retirement homes if we had tested more of the staff?

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Sharp questioning by a reporter

Anders Tegnell: It’s a good question. We’re looking at different retirement homes to see if that makes a difference. There’s indications of that. My Nordic colleagues have tested a lot in the retirement homes, and they have fewer problems than what we have, so absolutely, as soon as we can test a little more, it will be a priority to test more staff and patients at the retirement homes. We test everyone who comes into the hospital, and there we have good control, we don’t see infections spreading there. So in retirement homes, it might help, too. But yet again, it can’t solve the situation all by itself, we have to look at the situation in its entirety.

Question: what about libraries? Some have closed. What do you think?

Anders Tegnell: I personally think it’s important to read and get books. But it’s the same conditions as for other public spots — things to do to reduce infection. Make sure it’s not too crowded, etc. If the libraries can follow that, then I think it’s good for them to stay open.

Then, the press conference was over, and it was back to the studio:

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This lady mentioned how, contrary to what Anders Tegnell was pushing for, in the US, the authorities are encouraging increased use of face masks; people are even making their own, even if they’re not medical-grade masks.

Then there was an individual interview with Anders Tegnell:

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Anders Tegnell

Question: let’s start with good news, the curve appears to have flattened out quite nicely. Can you say something more about that?

Anders Tegnell: Well, we have to look at it very carefully. We have to remember the latest numbers are from the weekend and are not complete yet. The even better news is that incidences of regular flu have gone down a lot. This means that our measures have been effective.

Question: When do you think the peak will come? Some other expert said in 3 weeks.

Anders Tegnell: We have a lot of people modeling this in different ways. They are all indicating that we might reach the peak of new cases this week. Then it would take another week for those new cases to start showing symptoms. So somewhere in that range. More and more are in agreement about this now.

Question: The report about the available capacity of intensive care units seems to show that Sweden is pretty well-prepared. Is that also your evaluation?

Anders Tegnell: Yes, I think so. We have had a pretty flat curve of the number getting admitted into intensive care for a long time. And now we are getting to the point where a lot of people are getting better and being discharged from the intensive care. So I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to keep up with the intensive care capacity. And we should have great respect for the great efforts people have made to open up the intensive care capacity, they’ve done a large job. But it looks like it’s going to work.

Question: How should people celebrate Easter?

Anders Tegnell: most important, do not celebrate with your old relatives. Also, don’t travel from hard-hit cities like Stockholm to other places. So be careful, stay outside as much as you like.

Question: You mentioned that infection is spreading quickly in the retirement homes. There’s a lot of old people in retirement homes who maybe visit hospitals. Is there evidence that that’s how the infection spread into retirement homes? Or what else do you think was the biggest factor?

Anders Tegnell: We don’t know. We’re looking at it. I don’t really think that if old people had chanced to visit in a hospital that that would have made a big difference. It’s not so normal right now that people have been going from retirement homes to hospitals. People have been trying to avoid visits to hospitals. And we also have very good control of the infections in hospitals, so I don’t think that’s the biggest source.

Question: Clarify about face masks again.

Anders Tegnell: Yes, it should be used in hospitals. No, it should not be used out and about. If you’re feeling sick, you should stay home.

Question: A study out from China shows that there’s been a lot of infection from people without symptoms. What do you think of that paper?

Anders Tegnell: Yes, but those cases of infection are not the majority. In most studies, the number of people who are infectious without symptoms is very low.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 3, 2020

On this day, there were 1 million cases globally. There were 6078 cases in Sweden; including 612 people who got sick in the last day; and 469 people who had or still are in intensive care. There were 333 fatalities.

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They start off, as usual, by mentioning that global cases are growing quickly because of the US.

This time is was not Anders Tegnell holding main court, rather it was Anders Wallensten. So not the chief epidemiologist, but the vice-chief epidemiologist.

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Anders Wallensten

By the way, this is the guy who introduces all the speakers at the beginning of the press conference:

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Anders Wallensten says: you see the number of cases by day is increasing.

Question: Based on the curve now, meaning the number of dead and the number of cases and people in intensive care, is this where you expected to be at this point?

Anders Wallensten: Um …. [asks a clarifying question back to buy time!] …

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Anders Wallensten feigning confusion

Wallensten: We’re looking carefully at these figures that we have, and we have done some modeling and … you see, these numbers are what the numbers are, we don’t have to compare them. We can make a prognosis of where it’s going, and then we can change tact based on that.

Question: Do we see a peak coming in Stockholm?

Anders Wallensten: No, by these figures, no. It also would take a few weeks to know that we actually had a peak.

Question from a Norwegian reporter, speaking Norwegian: You’ve asked people to stay home during the Easter holidays and not go on vacation. Do you think people will do that?

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Norwegian reporter from NRK

Anders Wallensten, speaking Swedish: I think there will be a few trips, but I really hope most people will re-think. It’s not forbidden, but I think most people will stay home.

Question: do you have a prognosis of how many people are going to die?

Anders Wallensten: It’s hard to make an exact prognosis. We can see the developments in Italy and other countries. It’s different in every country. So to come up with a specific number is hard.

Questioner continued: okay, but if you could come up with a number, what would it be?

Anders Wallensten: I haven’t calculated that, but we have people working on modeling and …

Questioner continued: so haven’t they said anything to you about a number?

Anders Wallensten: I don’t have an exact figure today.

Question: Will the number of intensive care units be enough?

Johanna Sandvall: she says that we have capacity right now, it’s Stockholm it’s a bit tight, etc, etc, and all our resources will be used to  meet the need, etc etc.

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Johanna Sandvall

Questioner continued: [a bit unintelligible] but will it be enough?

Johanna Sandvall: [snaps] it’s not possible to answer that question!

Question: An epidemiologist in the US by the name of Dr. Anthony Fauci (*mispronounces the last name*) has estimated that the coronavirus death rate is 0.1% (Has Dr. Fauci actually said that?? Or was this guy making it up?) And this is not worse than a bad season of flu. So with that in mind, how can you justify shutting down an entire country?

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Anders Wallensten and Johanna Sandvall trying to figure out what to say, while the guy on the left grins

Anders Wallensten and Johanna Sandwall first stare dumbfounded at the reporter for a full two seconds; then stare at each other, hoping the other will try to answer first. Anders Wallensten finally makes an attempt.

Anders Wallensten: Well, eh, okay, we don’t really know what the real mortality rate is. The first rates from China were at 2-3%, in Italy, it’s been higher. It can vary. The more time passes, and the more information we get about mild symptoms from this illness, the more these mortality rates can fall. Where it’s going to end up, we don’t really know. If we look at the American statistic that you just gave, it’s pretty low and maybe comparable to influenza, but we also have a situation where we see how the medical resources in certain countries are extremely stretched, and that’s a good reason for taking these measures. It’s not just about comparing to influenza. If it had been an pandemic of infuenza, then it could have been an equally serious situation.

Questioner persists: Ehh, the article in question is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which is one of the world’s most respected journals. So if New England Journal of Medicine considers the mortality rate of coronavirus is at 0.1%, and one of America’s leading epidemiologists says the same, how can it be that we impose such stringent measures that affect the economy and that can have really large consequences for public health? So I ask again. How can you shut down the whole country?

[Heads of the other journalists are swiveling around to take a good look at this guy]

Anders Wallensten: Um, eh, if you, if we look around the world, for example, the situation in Italy. We don’t want that situation here in Sweden. So these measures are hopefully going to be a short-lived thing that will make a big difference for how well we are able to take care of sick people. That’s what we’re trying to do. Of course, in the long-term, these measures can affect public health negatively, so we do want to be clear that these measures are for handling an acute situation and are not meant to remain in the long-term. Absolutely not. So it’s important to share information on how to take care of patients, how to slow the infection rate, develop a vaccine; and you’re absolutely right, if this goes on a long time, it would be a big problem.

To his credit, Anders Wallensten kept a gentle expression on his face. There was no hint of, why are you so stupid?

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After the press conference was over, they went back to the studio, and Iva Horvatovich, a reporter, was asked to summarize.

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Iva Horvatovich

I think Iva wants to give encouragement to the people trying to keep coronavirus from being a catastrophe, because she always puts a bright spin on things, as though to say: I know you’re working hard! I’ve got you!

This is what she said today: Well, today there was not much news, which is maybe good, because that means nothing too terrible is happening. We’re going to continue tracking this curve, and if you have a flat curve, it takes a little longer to reach its peak [except no one today said anything about a flat curve], and that’s why we haven’t seen a peak, yet. A positive sign is that the rate of people in intensive care who are dying has gone down a little.

And there’s still capacity available in the intensive care units, but especially in Stockholm, it’s getting a little tighter, but at least we haven’t yet shot over the top of the capacity of the medical resources.

Iva continues: And yes, it’s true that coronavirus is infecting people in retirement homes, (but Iva hurries to add that) this is completely in line with what happened in other countries in Europe and the world. It’s happened in Italy, Spain, in the US, that you’ve had the infection spreading in retirement homes, and many people have died. We don’t know if the total number of fatalities will be as high in Sweden as it has been in Italy, where they weren’t as prepared for coronavirus at the same level that we were.

Finally, there was an individual interview with Anders Wallensten.

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Anders Wallensten

Question: There’s been an increase in the number of cases. Have we reached the peak?

Anders Wallensten: I don’t think so. We won’t know if we’ve reached the peak until we’ve started going down in new cases for a few weeks. And we’re not there yet.

Question: There’s also an increase in the number of dead, what do you think [I thought they just said the number of dead was a little lower. Or was that just Iva who said that?]

Anders Wallensten: I’m afraid it will continue like that for a while. It’s a sad time.

Question: How happy are you with your strategy for combating the disease?

Anders Wallensten: Yes, well, it’s of course not until later that you can really know which strategy worked the best. But the advice and recommendations that we have laid out is followed carefully by most people and I think this has a clear effect.

Question: are you worried that there won’t be enough intensive care units?

Anders Wallensten: well, of course it would be a big problem if they weren’t enough. But Socialstyrelsen (some sort of agency that does ‘social’ stuff ???) has their eye on that and they have said that there’s possibilities for expanding capacity, so I hope it will be enough.

Question: is it time for some clearer prohibitions on what people can and can’t do?

Anders Wallensten: from what we see, the recommendations we’ve given out have had a good effect. Of course, you can’t know exactly until afterwards what the real effect has been. There’s a certain lag between when you make a rule and when you see any results from it. But for now, we think our current recommendations are at a good level.

Question: You’ve talked about flattening out the curve. Is it going to plan?

Anders Wallensten: We’ll have to see. So far, it’s manageable, even if it’s tight. And that’s our goal, to hold it within the manageable.

More bokmärken in the US

I wrote once about the first time I ever found bokmärken in the US. It was such a wonderful occasion.

I went back to Payn’s Stationary story when I visited San Francisco again in December 2019 for a conference. He was still selling bokmärken, and there were different varieties than the last time I’d been there a year and a half previously. It was delicious! I bought a whole bunch, and the guy at the register, who I guess maybe was the owner, told me: oh, I’m going to have to order more of these now!

He said that he orders them from some whole-saler who imports them from Europe. He just orders more as he needs them. Yes, you keep doing that.

And then about a week later, I visited Solvang in southern California. This town is built as a “traditional Danish settlement”, though I don’t know exactly how much real Danish history that town has. Whatever the case may be, there’s lots of stores there that sell trinkets, and among them was a store entirely dedicated to Christmas stuff. It was called Jule-something. Amidst all the Christmas ornaments and decorations, I found a shelf drowning in bokmärken! It was so wonderful. And they were selling for cheaper than at Payn’s! Like half-price. I bought all I wanted (maybe 6 sheets), and although I got some Christmasy ones, I also got frogs, and fairytales, and flowers, and all sorts.

However, the sad news is that according to the cashiers, their supplier of bokmärken is no longer selling them or something. So I think that stash on that shelf might be the last of them. Maybe they’re just slowing going to wean themselves off of that particular piece of merchandise. It’s a shame.

I afterwards took the train from California to Chicago. In Chicago, I visited the Swedish-American museum. They don’t sell bokmärken there! Can you believe it?

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 26, 2020

I shall summarize this press conference, introducing you meanwhile to the world’s ugliest and stupidest idiot. But stop a while.

On this day, there were 417,000 cases throughout the world. There were 2806 cases in Sweden; 66 dead; and 178 patients in the intensive care.

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Press conference by the public health officials in Sweden

Look at that: both the national epidemiologist and the vice-national epidemiologist were at the podiums. That means two Anders: Anders Tegnell (in the middle with the red shirt) and Anders Wallensten, next to him to the right.

Anders Tegnell on the current situation: we had fair numbers over the weekend, but now we’ve had a couple of days with increasing numbers. We have to see what happens now. There’s been a few days of increasing numbers especially in Stockholm.

He adds: Those that die have been in the hospital for maybe 4 weeks. We still want to keep the curve under the capacity of the hospitals. It’s going to be very hard.

After Tegnell spoke, so did Taha Alexandersson (the lone woman) about medical equipment. And finally the man on opposite end spoke — he’s from the school system, and he was talking about what to do about all the closed schools and graduation ceremonies.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have entered the Ugly Stupid Pig portion of this press conference. It’s this ugly loser in the press corps:

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Except, he never actually introduces himself or his media bureau, so he could be anybody at all.

Ugly loser spits out: I have a question for Socialstyrelsen (shoving his ugly loser hands in the direction of Taha Alexandersson, while looking as though he wants to kill her).

His question: You say that medical staff should feel protected from coronavirus infection. How are you going to guarantee that? And if there is a medical staffer in Sweden (now with his voice rising unsteadily with emotion!) who feels at risk for infection, and doesn’t feel that their bosses listen to their complaints, can they turn to Socialstyrelsen so that you (another ugly gesture at Taha Alexandersson) will do something about it?

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WHY are you looking at her like that, you sick pig?

Taha Alexandersson responds: Socialstyrelsen doesn’t take in complaints, but I truly hope that we give the best support we can to employers so that they can adequately support their employees. I hope that medical staffers, and I think that they do, turn to their employer for support. We are a knowledge-steering authority, not an enforcement authority.

Here’s Taha Alexandersson as she listens to the sick pig and answers him:

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Taha Alexandersson

And here’s the sick pig breathing heavily and about to explode at the indignity of needing to give her time to answer:

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Sick pigs do explode

But it doesn’t end there! Sick pig is not about to end his righteous assault. In his sneering, ugly voice, he decides to ask again:

Sick pig with sneering, ugly voice: You said that medical staffers shouldn’t feel unsafe, and I ask again, how are you going to guarantee that?

Taha Alexandersson takes a breath:

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Taha Alexandersson: Just as I cannot guarantee how coronavirus is going to spread, or what the global shortage of medical supplies will look like, I also cannot stand here and guarantee something that’s not in my power to guarantee. What I can guarantee is that Socialstyrelsen will do its utmost to work to give advice and recommendations and support so that medical staff don’t feel unsafe. Thank you.

But the curt “thank you” didn’t work … sick pig comes back with more.

Sick pig (sounding like a 2-year-old at this point; no, wait, 2-year-olds actually sound cute): Then why did you saaaaaay that no medical staff should feel unsafe? If you now say you can’t guarantee it???

Taha Alexandersson: Then if I can re-phrase myself: Socialstyrelsen is working to try to support employers, as well as municipalities, so that they will be able to make sure that their medical staff don’t feel unsafe. Thank you.

But take a look at sick pig’s face, and tell me you don’t think he’s going to harp on about this:

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Sick pig: So what should a medical staff who feels unsafe doooo?

Taha Alexandersson, now having to explain two plus two equals four: I hope that all employees in all workplaces know where to turn if you feel unsafe. I turn to my employer.

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Yes, mr. Sick Pig, Dr. Taha Alexandersson knows what you’re about.

So Mr. Sick Pig now needs to do his final business, which is, to ask his questions again of the white men on the stage, because otherwise, he can’t be satisfied. With a suddenly innocent expression on his face (at least he tries; there’s no rubbing off that muck), and having exchanged his sneering angry voice for an appropriately worried but respectful one, and glancing lovingly upwards at the white men, he asks:

Sick pig: we’ve gotten reports that there’s people out doing the medical work who are worried about infection, they’re worried that equipment will run out ..

Anders Tegnell answers quietly, just repeating what Taha Alexandersson already said: that’s a dialogue that they need to have with their employers, we can’t just stand here and discuss how that dialogue should proceed. I can only say that which Taha has said (!!!!), that we on this level will do everything we can so this will go as well as possible. We will give the best advice possible, and we will do all we can so that we can get the right equipment.

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And now that Sick Pig has gotten his assurance from the white man, he calms down and nods even, to show how good and obliging he truly is.

So now that sick pig is out of the way, we can move on to the next question, which came from Johan Nilsson of TVT (?). He asks: do you see that you risk confusing people when you say at these press conferences the the situation is stable, then a few hours later Stockholm City comes out and says that the storm is upon us? What can you say about this discrepancy?

Anders Tegnell: It’s not a discrepancy.

Johan Nilsson: well, then, that the general public won’t understand …

Anders Tegnell cuts him off, and turns the question back: It’s also your responsibility, as journalists, to be clear that what we report at these press conferences is just the situation at an instant, and things can happen very quickly. Also, there’s 2 different things we’re talking about: we’re talking about how the epidemic spreads, that’s one thing, and we’re talking about the medical situation in Stockholm, that’s the other thing. They’re related, but they’re not going to be at the same level. I think we have a responsibility to be very clear in our communications so that this doesn’t cause worry to people.

Later on, after a few minutes of boring questions, something of a repetition occurred when a journalist asked this of Anders Tegnell:

Yesterday, you describe the situation as stable, while the authorities in Stockholm said something completely different. Why was there such a difference?

Anders Tegnell, getting saucy: I answered that question once, but I can answer it again.

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Anders Tegnell and his combat-with-the-press grin

Tegnell continued: We are talking about two different things. I never said the situation in Stockholm was calm. I said there was pressure on the medical situation there, and that was also repeated on the evening news. But the epidemic spread in Stockholm that we’ve seen so far, at least till yesterday, looks quite fair. Now, for two days, we’ve been seeing quite a few more cases. That changes things. But it doesn’t change was I said yesterday, which was talking about two different things.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 1, 2020

I actually only saw the end of this one, but there were three things to mention:

1) On this day, there were 853,000 cases globally. In Sweden, there were 4947 cases. Out of those, 512 people had become sick during the last day. There were 393 people in the intensive care. Anders Tegnell, the national epidemiologist, stated about this: our curve is starting to look steeper. There were 239 dead.

2) For the first time, one of the people doing the sign language was a man:

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3) At the end, when they were back in the studio, they were analyzing whether or not the list of recommendations from the government was too long, too much too follow … were all the measures and communications clear? The reporter in the studio gave her opinion: I think the recommendations have all been very clear …

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Iva Horvatovic

… and I think she said that in response to people who tweet like this, who seems quite honestly super annoying. This tweeter seems like someone who moves to a new place and goes, OMG, OMG, OMG, please recognize what a great person I am, OMG, and in order to prove that I don’t actually care what you think, let me breathlessly list all the ways you’re failing.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 31, 2020

On this day, there were 716,000 cases worldwide. There were 4435 cases total in Sweden, and 358 people in intensive care. 180 dead.

This time, the press conference started off with politicians.

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Isabella Lövin of Sweden

Do you see her? Her name is Isabella Lövin, and she is the vice-Prime Minister. I have taken two selfies with her over the years. It was very exciting.

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Stefan Löfven of Sweden

And that man is the Prime Minister. I have seen him. I wrote about it here. I maybe was over-excited when I wrote that. I seemed to be very fond of him.

The politicians did a lot of talking, but mostly what they said was: on Easter, don’t go around distributing candy, that will have to wait. And no more visits to your parents or grandparents in retirement homes.

Oh, and that there will be more testing in Sweden. Testing will continue to be prioritized for old people and for medical people, but also now extended to other people who perform critical jobs (police, ambulances). But no, not everyone who wants a test will get one. Right now, about 10,000 tests are being done a week, and they want to get up to 20,000 to 30,000.

Question from the journalists: have we been testing too little, too slow?

Prime Minister: No, we’re testing as much as our neighboring countries, and we keep testing more and more.

Later, there was an individual interview with Isabella Lövin:

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Isabella Lövin

Correspondent: Why did you decide to make the rule prohibiting visits to retirement homes?

Isabella Lövin: some homes had already made this decision, others had not; and we wanted to have one clear rule for everyone, so that there will be no doubt, and so the head of the retirement doesn’t have to try to justify it themselves, but can just say, sorry! No visitors! Rules are rules!

Correspondent: Does this mean people can’t see their parents as they’re dying?

Isabella Lövin: there can be exceptions, but that’s up to the local chief.

Correspondent: you are asking people to stay home over the Easter break, but there’s no harder measures. Why not, for example, shut down ferries going to islands?

Isabella Lövin: It’s very important to follow the Public Health Authority recommendations. And we will take stricter measures if we need to.

Then it was back to the studio, where this self-satisfied analyst started summarizing:

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Mats Knudson

Mats Knudson: no, they’ve decided not to close the ferries to the islands; they’re going to trust that people will do what authorities tell them to do. So Easter will be sort of like a test to see if people listen or not.

By the way, Hiba Daniel was again the main newscaster that he was talking to:

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Hiba Daniel

Then it was time to leave the studio, because a second press conference was starting: this one with the people from the Public Health. Anders Tegnell wasn’t there today, instead, the vice National Epidemiologist stepped in. His name is also Anders.

Like Anders Tegnell, Anders Wallensten starts off by mentioning, oh, by the way, cases are increasing rapidly in the US.

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Anders Wallensten

This is what the graphs of the day look like:

The graph for the number of deaths by day is on the left, and number of cases per day on the right.

This this guy talked about something important: misinformation and propaganda with coronavirus.

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He said: Our job is to inform people about the correct things. But today, instead of informing, I want to talk about recognizing and confronting propaganda that’s coming from outside directed towards Sweden. Things that foreign entities are doing towards us. What we see right now is that a whole lot of distorted information is coming in — distorted information about the management of coronavirus in Sweden. Some things that are being said:

— that coronavirus is a form of biological warfare
— that it is not dangerous and the government is overreacting
— that Sweden is not doing anything at all about coronavirus (which, he then adds, you see is absolutely not true, motioning to the three other speakers on the podiums standing next to him)

He continues: Right now, there’s a lot of worry among us, and when people are worried, it makes them more vulnerable to these types of propaganda campaigns. So what we’re doing is trying to analyze these threatening propaganda-actors, figure out what they’re doing, and when they activate their resources against us. And then he lists some other things (kind of vague) that they’re trying to do to protect against the misinformation.

He continues: that’s what we’re doing. But what can you do? It maybe sounds like a broken record, but I have to say it anyways: think critically about news you read. Can you confirm the source? Where is the information coming from? What’s the goal of the people spreading it? If you see something suspicious, then don’t share it. Don’t let anyone steer you; it’s you that holds the truth (I maybe translated that wrong).

Then it was time for questions:

Here’s a picture of Anders Wallensten looking slightly perplexed at one of the questions:

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The same German journalist from the day before asked: Denmark yesterday said that they’re going to keep everyone locked inside till Easter, and then maybe think about loosening the restrictions. And the numbers in Sweden are going up. So are you all still sure that your measures are the correct strategy with your more liberal coronavirus policies?

Anders Wallensten: We believe that what we’re doing is correct right now. I don’t say that we won’t adopt new restrictions later if the situation changes, but the increases in coronavirus cases that we see is expected. Denmark knows best what to do for Denmark. But what we see here so far is a rate of increase that is not super steep.

German journalist again: Anders Tegnell said the other day (Tegnell is I think Wallensten’s boss of sorts) that in Sweden there is a pretty stable situation. Do you still think that’s true?

Anders Wallensten: It depends on which of the numbers you look at. We see an increase in cases. That increase is constant, day by day. It’s not shooting up.

So the press conference ended, and then it was time for individual interviews. They did an interview with this lady, who was one of the speakers. They asked her: there’s 3 doctors and 2 nurses that are in the intensive care with coronavirus. What can you comment about that?

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And what did she say? She kind of blamed the poor doctors and nurses. She said, well, it’s all very sad, but it’s up to every medical staffer to use the protective equipment they have properly! And she repeated that a couple of times. Yikes.

They also did an individual interview with Anders Wallensten, but they dragged him outside for that, and it looks cold:

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Anders Wallensten

Then it was back to the studio, and Hiba Daniel was leading the discussion again. Mats Knudson had disappeared, and Iva Horvatovich was back.

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Iva Horvatovic

They talked again about the misinformation campaigns directed towards Sweden. Iva summarized as follows: there’s lots of talk that Sweden isn’t doing anything, that Sweden is taking it very easy. And Sweden’s strategy has raised a lot of notice. In the established media, it has been said simply that Sweden is going its own way. But on social media, it’s a different story with a lot of misinformation.

Finally, and I’m sorry to do this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t show Hiba Daniel’s little grin when bringing up the out-of-control situation in the US:

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Anders Tegnell on the Swedish news on coronavirus

The newscaster at the Swedish TV (SVT) is named Anders Holmberg, and he is asking questions of Anders Tegnell. Don’t get confused between them, even though they are both called Anders. Tegnell is the national epidemiologist.

Holmberg: Many people have talked about how much less Sweden does compared to other countries when it comes to putting restrictions on social contact. Some countries have shut-down and entered quarantine, but Sweden has a strategy based more on getting information out and voluntary compliance. What if it turns out that you were wrong about this approach? There’s many people’s lives that are standing in the balance.

Anders Tegnell does not look so amused:

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Anders Tegnell, national epidemiologist

He says: I’m not the one who’s wrong, it’s a national authority  …

Holmberg hurries to say, yes, yes, I meant the Public  Health Authority, you and your colleagues.

Anders Tegnell: We believe that we are taking the entirely correct approach. If you go out on Stockholm’s streets, you’ll see that there are many fewer people out than normal.

Holmberg: So is everyone else in all the other countries just wrong, then?

Tegnell: I’m just not sure that those other countries have achieved anything much beyond what we have, with us using information and voluntary compliance as we usually do in Sweden. I think it’s very important to use the sorts of tools that we already know work within the public health sector. And in Sweden that is built on trust, voluntary compliance, and that each person looks for good solutions. In other countries, there’s other traditions, where you might use laws to force people to take things seriously.

Holmberg, the newscaster, again: But aren’t you worried that it will turn out that you have taken the wrong path?

Tegnell: No one knows at all how this is going to turn out …

Holmberg: that’s not my question, but are you worried?

Tegnell: Of course, everyone is worried, including me, about how this will develop. I’m not so worried that here in Sweden it will turn out much differently compared to other countries. We will all need to confront this in different ways and take different measures. So far, the situation has developed fairly in Sweden. The medical sector continues to cope with the measures we have taken. If we need to take more measures, then we will.

Holmberg: It’s still early now.

Tegnell: Exactly.

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Anders Tegnell interviewed by Anders Holmberg

(By the way, I’m not entirely sure when this interview was conducted, but it was sometime around March 29, 2020).

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 25, 2020

Another day, another press conference on coronavirus from Sweden.

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Press conference of the Swedish public health officials, March 25, 2020

They had 2510 cases in Sweden at this point, and 42 deaths. There were about 375,000 cases worldwide.

The press conference started with the national epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who I think was more interested in talking about the USA than anything else. He says: the US has a big potential for many cases; in the US, a lot is happening very quickly.

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Anders Tegnell

As for Sweden, says Anders Tegnell, we have a pretty stable situation here in Sweden. Here’s the PowerPoint slide he showed of new cases per day, up to that day:

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Cases of coronavirus per day in Sweden, March 25, 2020

Tegnell further said: from the doctors on the ground, we hear that there’s pressure in Stockholm; and some pressure even in the other cities. But elsewhere it’s pretty calm. He repeats, we still have a pretty stable situation.

Further from Tegnell: We still have a lot of cases aged 50-59. We think it’s still because those people recently returned from traveling. We don’t have a lot of old people (aged 70+) sick.

Then Tegnell turned the topic over to testing for the virus. Some people have asked, why is there so little testing in Sweden? Well, says Tegnell, we are testing more and more every week. We have lots of labs willing to test, but it seems there’s a bottleneck among medical people in having the time to test so many and then properly send in the tests to the labs. At this point in the epidemic, they don’t want to just go out in society and test whoever, because there’s no point.

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Weekly tests of coronavirus in Sweden

And Tegnell reiterates the main strategies that they are focused on to slow the spread: stay home if you’re sick. Re-think your trips. Don’t visit your old relatives. It’s good to work from home, but make sure to talk to your boss that it’s not disrupting the work.

Then it was the turn of Taha Alexandersson to speak:

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Taha Alexandersson

She says: We are working well with the military on distributing equipment (?), and they already had good collaboration built up between the medical sector and the army sector so it’s been going great. At this point, we’re not in such a crisis where we have to worry about medical staff working without proper protection.

An American named Frank asks a question. This man works for Radio Sweden, and I’m sorry, but hes clearly annoying, unfortunately. He also mispronounces Anders’ name.

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Frank from Radio Sweden

Frank asks (in English): Sweden is relying on people taking personal responsibility and following recommendations. Some people are saying that’s not enough and that stricter enforcement is needed. Based on what you’re hearing and seeing, are recommendations enough, or do you want more enforcement?

Anders Tegnell (answers in English): so far, we are happy with what we are hearing. I mean, a lot of people and organizations are finding innovative ways to avoid contact. We can look at the infection curves. They’re not going up in a catastrophic manner. We are happy with it so far. We do believe that we can continue this way, which is how we normally work in Swedish communicable disease control, with voluntary measures. People are very responsible. They are taking correct decisions most of the time. We will see what happens in the future if we need more enforcement. And we will follow the outlook and progress in other countries with more enforcement: does that enforcement really make a difference, or is what we are doing now here in Sweden just as good, or maybe even better, rather than trying to force people to do things?

It has to be stated, Anders Tegnell looked quite pleased with himself giving this answer.

Then it’s the turn of a German journalist to ask a question, but he manages to do it Swedish: In Germany there’s a lot more restrictions. And one big point of difference is the infectiousness of people without symptoms. In Germany, we’re discussing about a scientific study from Hong Kong University that 30-40% of people are infectious before they show any symptoms. Of course, this is just one study out of many, but you all here say that, no, you become infectious after you display symptoms. So can you clarify what you think about this? Have you heard about this research out of Hong Kong?

Anders Tegnell: yes, I’ve heard of it, but they’re not actually talking about asymptomatic people, they’re talking about undocumented cases: people who had symptoms but weren’t sick enough to go to the hospital. We ask that people even with very, very mild symptoms of illness — who wouldn’t at all consider needing to go to the hospital — to stay at home. Those people are indeed infectious. As you say, there is certainly also a risk of infection from people completely without symptoms. But that’s very low compared to risk of infection from people with symptoms. What we are now trying to do is not to stop the infection completely. That’s not possible. This illness is here to say. But we are trying to keep the infection rate as low as possible with reasonable measures, so we can flatten our curve, so we can have a situation that the hospitals are able to cope with. And our evaluation is that this is possible to do by isolating people with symptoms. This is our thinking and strategy.

German journalist: But there was another study that showed << something something, starts describing details >>

Anders Tegnell interrupts: oh, I’ve seen that study, too, our statisticians are looking into it, but it was a very small study, it’s very hard also to assume that << something something >> … there’s a lot in that study that one could discuss about whether or not  << something something >>

After that was over, the people at the podium switched positions with a new group, and the press conference continued. This time, the representatives were all from civil society, as opposed to the public health people who had just had their turn:

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Civil society representatives in Sweden

They talked about civil society and helping people. This is enormous, one of them  proclaimed. We’ve had a social mobilization. There’s lots of entities involved: the municipalities, the national sports club (?), Swedish Red Cross, Save the Children, the Swedish Church, and Sweden’s << something >>. So a couple of them spoke, but it was kind of boring.

Then it was back briefly to the studio with the lady who was the chief anchor:

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And then they went back again to the room with the press conference, to do an interview with Anders Tegnell.

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Anders Tegnell said: We want to keep this stable situation as long as possible. Every day we win now, that means that when the curve starts to go up, which it will, it will be flatter and have a lower peak.

The correspondent asks: Where on this curve are we now?

Tegnell: well, we are still quite far down on it. We’re not up on the steep part. And hopefully, if everything goes as we hope it will, we will stay on the flatter curve and it will go better than seen in some other countries.

Correspondent: You pointed the US out as a critical area. Explain.

Tegnell: well, you see a very quick increase. Already lots of deaths and lots of people in intensive care. It might even be a little late to take control now. We shall see.

Correspondent: Norway has decided to close schools. Have you seen if that’s stopped the spread?

Tegnell: it’s too soon to say. It’s only been 1 week since they closed the schools. And there’s no big difference in their coronavirus case increase compared to other Nordic countries. We’d need lots of weeks to be able to draw conclusions.

And Tegnell closes by saying: If we start to see locations with lot of new cases here in Sweden, then we would look into additional measures to take. But on a national level, the most important things are the things we’ve already talked about. It looks like we’ve been successful so far, we have a pretty flat curve and now it’s just a matter of hanging in there with the measures: stay home if you’re sick, work from home when possible, and protect the old.

Then it was back to the studio, and this reporter gave some summary:

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Tomas Eriksson, SVT reporter in Sweden

Reporter: We are quite early on the curve. We don’t have the steep rise as seen in Italy or Spain, and earlier in China. I get a feel that there’s quite good monitoring/control right now.

And because they can’t help themselves, they had to finish by talking about the US: yes, there’s a worrying situation there. But also, we hear that Congress came up with a rescue package, $2 trillion, that amount of money is hard to even wrap your head around.

And they talked about the different pots of money from the overall package being distributed to families, corporations, or hospitals.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 30, 2020

On this day, they had 4028 confirmed cases. There were 715,000 cases globally.

These pictures come from SVT, I think that stands for Svensk TV (Swedish TV).

Disclaimer: My Swedish is not 100%.

Here was the lady who was the main anchor, and beside her is one of the sign-language workers.

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The name of the anchor is Hiba Daniel.

And here was their correspondent over at where the press conference was being held. It was a press conference of the public health officials.

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Diamant Salihu, SVT correspondent

And then they got started with the press conference, here you see the speakers:

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Press conference of the public health officials, Sweden

The man in the middle is Anders Tegnell. He is the national epidemiologist. In his opening remarks, he makes sure to say, by the way, the USA has a growing crisis.

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Anders Tegnell, national epidemiologist

Anders Tegnell has a PowerPoint that he shows. Below is a slide of the new cases of coronavirus every day. The reason you see continual humps is because cases aren’t counted during the weekend. That results in the little dip about every 7 days. The weekend cases are then added in later (I guess). The blue line is people coming into the intensive care.

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Coronavirus cases by day, March 30, 2020

The blue intensive care line is low, that is true, but Anders Tegnell says that doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy in the intensive care units. Instead, because patients stay in intensive care for a long time, it gets successively more crowded in there.

And here is the graph of deaths per day:

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Coronavirus deaths per day, Sweden, March 30, 2020

But then Tegnell closes by saying, looks like we in Sweden still have a flatter coronavirus curve.

The main advice is repeated: stay home if you’re sick. And the risks for old people and people working in the medical field must be minimized.

Then Taha Alexandersson speaks. She is in charge of dishing out medical equipment across the country. She says there’s no shortages, but also no surplus.

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Taha Alexandersson, Crisis preparation chief in Sweden

Then a man called Svante Werger speaks. He says: we are more vulnerable at this time, so please be critical of the news you are reading, and of where it comes from. If you see information that makes you become very upset or excited, stop and think: is this reliable information?

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Svante Werger, Strategic advisor

Werger finishes by talking about all the ways his team is planning to get official information and recommendations and rules out to people.

Once everyone was finished talking, it was time for questions.

Question 1 was about retirement communities. There’s reports that some already have coronavirus in them. So what are you planning to do?

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The press corps at the Swedish public health press conference

Anders Tegnell says: we have recommendations to stop virus spread in retirement homes. However, these recommendation won’t work 100%. So far, we’ve done pretty good but it’s impossible to completely stop it. But <<something something>>. The more the guidelines are followed, the better.

Then there was a back-and-forth between a journalist and Anders Tegnell about mouth masks. The journalist was saying that doctors want mouth masks, but according to the national recommendations, mouth masks are not essential protective equipment (??)

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Journalist

Anders Tegnell answers: well, first, when we take decisions about what is essential protective equipment, we do want to make sure those decisions have buy-in from the doctors. Second, know that more protection doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. Sometimes, more protection makes it hard to do your job.

Journalist: But you say that there’s not a lot of science yet about what protective equipment is essential. Why are you therefore deciding to have less protection than may potentially be necessary, instead of more protection?

Anders: I didn’t say there’s no science about it, I said there’s no published science about it. So <<something something>>, and we’re going to follow that.

There was a person in the audience who actually wasn’t a journalist, but it was a person who works in a retirement community. He asked: we have one person sick already. Should we be testing our staff without symptoms to be sure they don’t have it? Why wait till someone has symptoms?

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Man working at the retirement home

Anders Tegnell: there’s no test that can detect coronavirus without symptoms. The test won’t give you good results.

Then they closed out the press conference, and they did individual interviews. First, there was an interview with Anders Tegnell, in which he asserted: looks like we’ll have a relatively flat coronavirus curve here in Sweden. But of course, there’s a lot of pressure on the hospitals, especially in Stockholm.

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Anders Tegnell at his individual interview

Diamant Salihu, the SVT correspondent, asks him: Sweden has twice as high a death rate as Norway and Germany. Why?

Anders Tegnell: I don’t think we should make those comparisons at this point, we’re all at different points in the epidemic. If you look at Denmark and Netherlands, they have many more deaths than Sweden.

Then there’s an individual interview with Taha Alexandersson, who is repeating the advice that no one travels during Easter.

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Taha Alexandersson

Finally, it’s back to the studio with Hiba. Hiba is joined by a reporter, so they can talk back and forth.

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Iva Horvatovic

And what do they talk about? First, they again have to drag the US into it: there’s over 100,000 cases.

And here are their final summaries:

— so far, the hospitals are coping in Sweden, but it can get overwhelming quite quickly.

— the government is not making super strict laws about self-isolating and quarantining, because this is something that can continue for a while, and they want to have guidelines in place that people will be able to follow for months and months.

— how are Sweden’s measures being reported in international media? According to Iva, here’s been some articles about it, and the criticisms are mostly in the comment sections.

My best tips for your Fulbright-National Geographic Application!

My Application

I applied two years ago and my application didn’t move on to the semi-finals. As a favor to you just starting your application, let’s go through mine to see where you can do better.

My application

Here’s the summary of my proposal:

“I will undertake a series of animated film projects at schools and libraries in six locations in Sweden to discover how working together on common challenges builds social cohesion. The projects will intimately involve children in the narration, illustration, and animation of simple kids’ stories focused on environmental issues. The children will be drawn from all backgrounds, and I will tell a story of how these projects promote community building with immigrants and refugees.”
You can read more in depth here:
Personal statement
Statement of grant purpose

Now, let’s go through it step by step!

Main point

This application is a scam. Point-blank. You are asked to spend months and months of preparation entrusting all your highest dreams and hopes to David Braun and Vincent Pickett, both of whom spend their time acting like they are so, so sad because there’s never any application that really, truly will “humanize each other”, and will be “working for a future peaceful planet that we can all share.”

That, it turns out, is just a bunch of highfalutin, fancy prose from these two. In reality, they want the girl who’s going to go backpacking through Kyrgyzstan, hyperventilating because she rode in a taxi, and they want the white guy to go tell the story about Africa.

This fellowship is nothing more and nothing less than you entrusting your highest dreams, and an awful lot of your time, to a panel that will ignore you, not read your application (see below), and be totally careless with those dreams.

They are the prime example of a Trump-like autocrat. They want all the power — all your time, all your effort, all your ideas. They give you nothing in return. And they want you to sit back and accept their decisions mutely, and treat them as though they are almighty deities with all the right wisdom and all the right decisions

Writing style

David Braun from National Geographic said during a Q&A webinar: “The way you write is judged very harshly. Writing needs to be clear, crisp, no grammatical errors. Poor writing throws you in the non-select pile.”

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David Braun: If you can’t fulfill the most basic requirements, don’t expect my grace and esteem.

So, read my application, and for the love of God, no matter what else you may do, don’t write like me. Let my application stand as an example of how not to write.

New

During at least 3 webinars, they stressed that they are looking for something very new: “fresh”, “unique”, “creative”, “inventive”, that “hasn’t been done before.”

My application was all about doing animations with kids, which definitely hasn’t been done before. So I advise you to pick something new, but make sure your level of ‘new’ stays far away from where my level of ‘new’ so clearly transgressed. Does that clear it up?

A kinder, trusting world

Vincent Pickett from the State Department said during two webinars that your application should “break down barriers”, help create a “peaceful, prosperous planet”, help “humanize each other”, and be “working for a future peaceful planet that we can all share.”

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Vincent Pickett says: why aren’t you good enough? Why are you not impressive?

Read my application carefully, find all the times that I talked about these topics, and just … don’t do what I did.

Community engagement

During one webinar, they had fellowship alumni come in and give us their tips. They mentioned that some journalists will go to a foreign country, take a few pictures, and then run away. David Braun from National Geographic echoed that in a later webinar: “What will be the benefits for the community, and the wider world? You don’t want to just come in, photograph people, and leave.”

You know what, I give up. When I compared my 2017 project to all the previous projects, I concluded that widespread community engagement was far more intrinsic to my project than any others.

So, engage the community; but just don’t overdo it.

“Every moment of your life led to this”

The same fellowship alumni also said that you should demonstrate that “every moment of your life has been leading to this grant. All your life experiences added up to this. All they have to do is fund you to make something awesome happen.”

You can read my personal statement and decide for yourself whether my application fulfilled this criteria or not. But let’s be real. Because, who was that self-same fellowship alumni who blabbed that “every moment of your life has been leading to this grant?” Oh, well, it was a white American guy who’d grown up in Africa. And for his grant, he went traipsing back to Africa to make a movie about how the primitive natives live. And he didn’t even know the local languages – he had to hire a translator. But that’s okay! Because you know David Braun himself, the fellowship dictator, is another white guy who grew up in Africa. So why not?

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David Braun: sad because applicants are so unimpressive and it makes him worry for humanity

Digital portfolio

My samples included videos of finished animations that I made with kids. Logical choice since that’s what my proposal was about. Because these videos are on YouTube, I’m able to access viewership statistics. I can even see what states viewers are from. I noticed that from October to December, there was not a single view of the pertinent videos from any of the states where are located the colleges at which the 11-member Fulbright-National Geographic review panel work.

So I don’t think they looked at my digital portfolio at all. Maybe at best they skimmed the first page of the grant proposal. Maybe they look at your name and decide they don’t want to read the rest; or maybe they look at where you’re from and give up from there. Who knows?

Passion

From at least two webinars: “Your passion should come through.”

I was passionate enough about my project that before I ever heard about this fellowship, I had already done it small-scale three times, twice in the US, once in Sweden. I found the classes and libraries to work with, I came up with the idea on my own, I found time while doing my PhD to pull the projects off, and I spent my own money drawn from a student budget for the plane ticket and rooming in Sweden.

So don’t do this.

Feasible

On at least two webinars, they stressed that your project can’t be a fantasy. You have to demonstrate that it’s doable. I’ve done every step of my project before, multiple times, but that’s not good enough. I hope you who are applying now have something far better up your sleeve.

Language skills

They suggest speaking the language of your host country. I do, but that is after all not even semi-finalist standards. I probably needed to win the grand prize for the Sweden-wide “Best Swedish Essay” competition for them to consider me.

Be the best to tell the story

Vincent Pickett from the State Department says: your application has to make clear “how you fit into the story, and why you’re the best to tell it.”

In my case, I understand that the world is chock-full of Americans with Swedish backgrounds and another immigrant background, who make animations, work with kids, and have a background in environmental science, and speak Swedish; how could I ever have thought that I was the ‘best’ to tell the story?? Make sure that you do better.

Affiliation letter

Click here for mine.

Your affiliate must be ‘willing to work with you’, ‘help you carry out the project’, ‘connect you with resources or people’. And ‘if you have local contacts already, then weave them into the statement of grant purpose’. (Quotes from webinars).

My affiliate and I knew each other; we had worked together before on a small-scale pilot of the same project I proposed here … not good enough for semi-final standards.

Recommendations

Two of my three recommenders shared their letter with me.

Here’s the first one.

The second one I received as a google document, and unfortunately I didn’t think to save a copy and now it’s been deleted. But from what I remember of its contents: that I have a “careful, storytelling mind”. That this project is especially feasible because it will take place supported by the existing robust infrastructure of libraries and schools in Sweden; that my work writing in the local community newspaper had been very well-received, that it was entirely on a volunteer basis, and that my readers would email me and even take me out to lunch; something like I have a keen intellect and lots of curiosity; that the recommender herself received a prestigious media fellowship, and she’s married to a former Fulbrighter who now judges Fulbright applications, and with that background, she can still full-throatedly endorse me and my project.

So, to those of you applying now, make sure you show these example recommendation letters to whoever you’re asking; and tell them they’re going to have to step it up about 70 or more notches from here. Because this is not even semi-final standards!

How much time should you spend on your application?

Well, I spent five months. Five stupid months. Let me give you a few tips so you don’t feel as stupid as I do …

First, the fine fellowship judges aren’t actually going to look at your application, darling (see “Digital Portfolio” above).

Second, you can probably finish your application in a day. All you have to do is rush off some silly essay about how you’re planning to spend the fellowship money on a typical, post-college, backpacking trip “through the Caucuses” so that you can really find yourself.

Lens to choose

I picked the ‘Human Journey’ lens and emphasized that, but there was probably some overlap with a more environmental-focused lens. I thought that was okay based on what I heard in the webinars:

Vincent Pickett from the State Department: You need to cover one of the lenses, and they’re pretty broad, but you could cover 2 to 3. Sometimes, there’s “human journeys” happening in very “wild places”.

David Braun from National Geographic: Don’t sweat it too much. It’s pretty much the whole world and everything in it.

Honestly, don’t believe any thing that David Braun or Vincent Pickett say in these webinars.

If your country already had a fellow

Sweden did have a fellow, maybe 2 or 3 years ago; but she was only there for 3 months. During the webinars they said:

“It’s all about the project, first. If a project is proposed for the same country as a previous year, then make it a new topic at least.”

“Syrian refugees is a huge story, and affects millions. So [even if it’s been done before] you could for sure look at it differently. Maybe something that closes the loop, finishes the story, or takes it to a new level.” – Vincent Pickett from the State Department.

In retrospect, that was another lie they told. Or maybe the new State Department policy is that your application can’t say anything nice about Sweden, because it will inflame Trump, because Sweden is one of his favorite punching-bags; or maybe Sweden just told the Fulbright they don’t want any more applications about migration. Who knows?

So who does get these fellowships????

Oh, let me tell you. There was a girl who got to go to Kyrgyzstan. This is what her blog posts sounded like:

 

Oh, my God! Today, I rode in a taxi. Like, oh my God! And I got into the taxi all by myself. Like, oh my God! And guess what, there was a Muslim sitting on one side of me … and a Christian was, like, sitting on the other side of me … and oh, my God, no one killed each other because I was sitting right in between them … can you believe it? Like, oh my God … our taxi ride … oh my God, I just solved world peace.

Yeah, so that was one of the fellows. Sad to say, that’s not even an exaggeration. Literally, she wrote a series of super boring, trying-to-be-profound blog posts from Kyrgyzstan that any backpacker who’s traveled there at probably 1/10 the cost has already written about.

And then another fellow went to Taiwan. Let’s sample her blog posts:

Hehehehehehehehehehe … ! Oh my God … I’m here in Taiwan, and I’m supposed to be  engaging with people  and there’s just one small problem … I don’t remember how to speak Taiwanese … hehehehehehehehehe …. ! So I’m sitting here on a bench with a stranger trying to practice ….. hehehehehehehehehehehe!

Now that you’ve seen some samples, just make sure to make yourself as stupid as possible in your application … that will give you the ticket in.

Final thoughts

vincent snotty0053
Vincent Pickett in peak form

I am so, so sorry for every second, and every thought, that I placed into my application. If I could take every moment back, I would.

I am so sorry that when one of my recommenders disappeared (she was getting married) about three weeks before the application was due, and was no longer answering emails, I biked around at night so I could find someone to give me her phone number, so I could interrupt her two days before her wedding and honeymoon with nagging about my application. I am so sorry for the effort, for the worry, that I gave to tracking her down — and that was just one tiny, tiny piece of trying to put this application together.

I am so sorry for the spreadsheet I made of dozens of libraries in Sweden, of the time I put in searching for libraries in different cities, running through the staff lists and gauging who I should contact, keeping notes on the seventy people I’d emailed, who responded, when they responded, what I told them in return.

I am sorry for the separate packet of notes I put together for each person who wrote me a recommendation.

I am sorry for the twenty pages of notes I took from the various websites with information: the site with the application checklist, the Sweden country Fulbright site, the site with the application tips, the site with the information on the three lenses, the general information site. And I am even sorrier for the I-don’t-know-how-much time it took me to watch seven webinars, most over an hour long, and take 31 pages of notes on them all together.

I am sorry for how I agonized over the website instructions, nitpicked over every sentence, and debated what to do when two sites indicated two different rules to follow; how I censored the number of emails I sent to the contact at the IIE so as not to annoy her too much. Why did I do all that?

I am so, so sorry that both times when submitting the application – both during the initial school submission and then the post-campus interview submission – I re-read every part of the application twice, just to check one last time that there wasn’t any word, any letter out of place. I regret that time and that concentration.

They give you no explanation.

I regret everything about this application.