By Bruce A. Smith
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 (5 pm)
The sun is shining today and I feel light-hearted, which is surprising since the Covid epidemic is turning fierce around the world – 600 folks have died in Italy as that country goes into total lockdown, and in New York, not too far away from my 95-year old mother, 93 individuals in New Rochelle tested positive.
But I feel fine. In fact, my health is the best it’s been since early December when I began the first of three bouts of bronchitis that ran serially throughout this winter.
Perhaps the greater reason for my joy is that I’m taking decisive action to protect myself. I am in self-quarantine. Last night I informed my theatrical director, Stephanie Brooks, I would have to leave her production of Resi, The Musical, in order to protect myself from infection.
And to protect others from me in case those three episodes of bronchitis might have been undiagnosed Covid-19, since my health troubles began just about the same day as the Wuhan, China outbreak became news. However, a video interview with noted epidemiologist Dr. Judy Mikovitis suggests that the initial Chinese infections commenced in mid-October, 2019 from a Wuhan research laboratory:
Nevertheless, here we are, wherever that is exactly. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared today that Covid is a pandemic, and I find that reassuring because it feels truthful.
Further, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced today immediate restrictions on any gathering of 250 people or more in the Puget Sound region. That includes all sporting events in Seattle and Tacoma, including the Tacoma Dome where I saw Bernie Sanders, and 20,000 of his supporters, just a couple of weeks ago – and that incongruity is perhaps the biggest mind-twist I’ve experienced in this Covid saga.
On a smaller scale, my blackjack party company canceled a local company’s casino shin-dig for tomorrow night. So, I am one of those feeling a Covid financial pinch. Plus, a documentary film crew from Los Angeles is supposed to interview me at the end of the month on DB Cooper and I doubt they’ll get in an airplane and make the trip. I haven’t heard from them, but if they abandon the shoot that’s another few bucks out the window. Sigh.
Or we will Skype. That might be the new way of interacting with people. That’s what I’m doing with Resi this evening. Stephanie emailed me and suggested that we limp along on- screen through the rehearsal period until “all this craziness passes.”
As for health care, my doctor’s clinic did reach out to me as an “at-risk” potential Covid patient, but they only re-iterated their federal CDC-mandated protocols: no test unless I have a fever AND a “productive” cough with colored phlegm. An intermittent dry hack isn’t good enough, and I suspect that’s due to the politics of the pandemic. Too many in government want to downplay the disease to limit the economic fallout. In the meantime, guys like me go untested. Worse, health officials in the Seattle area announced publicly yesterday that many employees of the nursing home in Kirkland where over a dozen residents have died still remain untested. What the hell are they waiting for? “Yee-Gawds,” as my Aunt Teddy used to say…
As for limiting the financial impact of Covid, the stock markets continue to fall. Today the New York Times reported that the Dow Jones average has entered “Bear Market” territory, whatever that means. But the Dow has been going down 1,000-2,000 points a day for most of the past week, so a bear market means tough times for a lot of people.
Over the past few days, I’ve been stocking up on food stuffs like rice and beans, but I’ve realized that I need more Vitamin C and D since I’ve used up all my reserve supplies during this bronchial-impacted winter. I’ll wait until tomorrow to venture into Eatonville to see if I can pick any up – I was thinking of going today, but Inslee’s announcement has triggered a stampeded at the stores. My friend Steve Klein, the editor of the Yelm Community Blog, told me that reports are coming in that the check-out lines at Costco are backed up into the aisle-ways.
When I do venture into the world, I’ll be taking new measures to protect myself. In my car’s coffee-cup holder I now have a bottle of a bleach bath to sanitize my fingers after every contact with stuff other people have touched, like at the check-out counter. I’m astonished that clerks are still not protecting themselves or their customers. Hence when I get back in my car, I’ll be washing off whatever germs they might have given me on my goods that they picked-up from previous customers. I’ll also be washing my door handles since I may be infecting them as I enter my vehicle.
That latter move may be extreme, but it is one thing I can do to protect myself, so I’m taking it.
I’ll also be wearing a mask in stores. I have a fresh N-95 double cloth mask that is unused from my supply I bought during the forest-fire smoke debacles of the summers of 2017 and 2018.
In addition, I’ve noticed that many public restrooms have run out of soap in their dispensers, so now I carry a few slivers of soap in my pocket, wrapped in a little plastic baggie.
I’m also meditating. Today’s session was utterly blissful. A good start to a quarantine, I think, especially since this is the greatest natural disaster I have lived through in my life.
SO – All the best to y’all. Stay healthy, wise, and happy.
For those who would like to scan a comprehensive compendium of media reports on Covid, Steve Klein’s Yelm Community Blog is a superb source:
Steve Klein, Editor of the Yelm Community Blog
Author Bruce A. Smith, back when he was a reporter for the Eatonville Dispatch. Picture courtesy of Guustaf Damave.
Yikes – Midnight Updates:
- Tom Hanks released a news announcement this evening confirming that he and his wife, singer Rita Wilson, have coronavirus. Hanks said he and Rita had intermittent chills and fatigue, and apparently contracted the disease in Australia.
- The NBA announced this afternoon that is has suspended the remainder of its season. This action was precipitated by the fact that a player for the Utah Jazz has tested positive for coronavirus.
- The NBAA announced today that its iconic basketball tournament will continue, but without any audience other than family members of the team, and selected school officials.
- The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City – the world’s largest public display of its kind – has been postponed.
- President Donald Trump announced this evening that beginning Friday, the United States will not allow into the country any incoming travelers from Europe, except for those arriving from the United Kingdom.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called out the NY National Guard to surround and quarantine the entire village of New Rochelle, where nearly one-hundred residents are infected with coronavirus.
- Reported mortality rates vary widely. Washington State has about 10%, Italy 6%, and China 3.4%. But South Korea, where testing is extensive, may only be experiencing a death rate of less than 1%.
Double Yikes – Noon Update, Thursday, March 12, 2020
The NY Times reported, (link below), today that only 3,000 Americans have been tested for the coronavirus since the outbreak began two months ago.
The Times lays the blame for this tragic failure at the hands of the federal government, the CDC, and President Trump. The Times cites numerous instances where early CDC test kits failed, the agency impeded other agencies, states, and private health organizations from developing their own test kits, prevented successful kits from being imported – such as from Germany – and numerous instances of red tape snarling the roll-out of Covid test. To date, it is not known when widespread coronavirus testing will be available in the United States.
Update – 3pm Thursday, March 12, 2020
Steve Klein, the editor of the above-mentioned Yelm Community Blog, emailed me this afternoon the following missive from a contact in Italy. Although I have not been able to confirm the details of the writer’s commentary, I think they are sufficiently dire to post here for all to consider.
“Just received from a dear friend who got this from her friend in Italy:
If you are in Europe or the US you are weeks away from where we are today in Italy.’I can hear you now. “It’s just a flu. It only affects old people with preconditions”
‘There are 2 reasons why Coronavirus has brought Italy to it’s knees. First it is a flu is devastating when people get really sick they need weeks of ICU – and, second, because of how fast and effectively it spreads. There is 2 week incubation period and many who have it never show symptoms.
When Prime Minister Conte announced last night that the entire country, 60 million people, would go on lock down, the line that struck me most was “there is no more time.” Because to be clear, this national lock down, is a hail mary. What he means is that if the numbers of contagion do not start to go down, the system, Italy, will collapse.
Why? Today the ICUs in Lombardy are at capacity – more than capacity. They have begun to put ICU units in the hallways. If the numbers do not go down, the growth rate of contagion tells us that there will be thousands of people who in a matter of a week? two weeks? who will need care. What will happen when there are 100, or a 1000 people who need the hospital and only a few ICU places left?
On Monday a doctor wrote in the paper that they have begun to have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room, like what is done in war. This will only get worse.
There are a finite number of drs, nurses, medical staff and they are getting the virus. They have also been working non-stop, non-stop for days and days. What happens when the drs, nurses and medical staff are simply not able to care for the patients, when they are not there?
‘And finally for those who say that this is just something that happens to old people, starting yesterday the hospitals are reporting that younger and younger patients – 40, 45, 18, are coming in for treatment.
You have a chance to make a difference and stop the spread in your country. Push for the entire office to work at home today, cancel birthday parties, and other gatherings, stay home as much as you can. If you have a fever, any fever, stay home. Push for school closures, now. Anything you can do to stop the spread, because it is spreading in your communities – there is a two week incubation period – and if you do these things now you can buy your medical system time.
And for those who say it is not possible to close the schools, and do all these other things, locking down Italy was beyond anyone’s imagination a week ago.
Soon you will not have a choice, so do what you can now.
And this just out:
New York will see ‘same trajectory’ of coronavirus cases as China, South Korea and Italy, Gov. Cuomo says
- Major League Baseball is suspending spring training and will postpone the opening of the 2020 Season by two weeks
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee announcing today that he is closing ALL schools in the Puget Sound Region – specifically all K-12 schools in the counties of King (Seattle), Pierce (Tacoma) and Snohomish (Everett).