By Bruce A. Smith
Despite his chemo this week, my buddy James has recovered sufficiently to send me a missive informing me that sing-songwriter John Prine is critically ill with Covid-19. In addition, Prine’s wife, Jane, has also tested positive for the virus. The latest news states that John entered a hospital on Thursday and was admitted to the ICU on Saturday night.
This news is hitting me hard. John Prine may not be a world-famous singer, but to me he is a solid artist and his illness is the first celebrity or person known to me contracting Covid. I consider Prine’s music to be a celebration of America’s Average Joe, and akin to Woody Guthrie. As such, I hold his songs dear, especially “Hello in There.” Joan Baez feels the same way, apparently, and today released a YouTube tribute to John featuring his signature song.
Continuing, my family in New York seems to be okay, and I’ll be getting an update from Mom shortly. But the news coming out of New York is horrific.
One hospital, Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center in Manhattan is reporting that half of its intensive care staff has been sickened with coronavirus.
Similarly, Thomas Riley, a nurse at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx told the New York Times: “I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter.” Riley has contracted the virus, along with his husband.
The shortage of masks, gloves and gowns is taking a serious toll. An emergency room doctor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center put it more bluntly: “It’s literally, wash your hands a lot, cross your fingers, and pray.”
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo recognizes the dangers. “Health care workers are our soldiers. They are on the front lines in this war,” he said in a recent press conference, according to the NY Times.
Along those lines, the Times is reporting that more than 3,000 doctors were infected in China during the Wuhan outbreak. More troubling, the number of infected heath care professionals in Italy is over 6,000, and an estimated fifty have died. Worse, 5,000 health care workers in Spain have Covid – 14% of the total confirmed cases in that country.
All workers in “essential jobs” are being affected. 5,000 cops from the NYPD – out of a force of 40,00 – are out sick today, with 900 of them confirmed to have Covid.
In addition, food workers and delivery personnel are threatening to strike if they don’t receive “hazardous duty” pay. I agree with them.
Other areas of life are also being affected in unexpected ways. New York City’s notorious Riker’s Island prison reportedly has more than 160 inmates and 130 staff members infected with the virus. As a result, Corrections officials are looking for ways to release certain prisoners to reduce the potentials of an intense, concentrated coronavirus outbreak.
New York health stats are also showing what may be coming to New Orleans and other emerging hot posts. NYC reported over 30,000 confirmed cases this weekend, with nearly 10,000 admitted to a hospital. Of that number, over 2,000 were on ventilators, indicating that 20% of all hospitalized Covid patients will need these critical devices. Those numbers mean that 7% of all confirmed cases will also require a vent. Yet, the Governor of Louisiana, with thousands of newly confirmed cases, reported that his state has only received 192 ventilators from FEMA last week.
Some good news, though. The US Navy hospital ship Comfort docked at NYC yesterday, a couple of weeks earlier than had been expected. Also, a private religious group, Samaritan’s Purse was featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” today, establishing a small field hospital in NYC’s Central Park. It’s only 38 beds, but it’s an aspirational start.
Back at home, life continues to deliver some interesting dramas. On Saturday, I finally got ZOOM! As a result, I was able to join the Resi rehearsal with my fellow cast members in a regular manner, and not needing a cumbersome phone connection to provide audio. The bugaboo was needing to “double-click” the Chrome download option to my Firefox browser. Someday, I would like to talk to the genius down in Silicon Valley who thought it would be a good idea to develop a double-click technique for certain functions. More importantly, I would like to talk to that person’s mother and learn what went wrong in their childhood.
Continuing, I chickened-out on going to the laundromat – it’s just too scary. I’m not even sure any laundromats are open. Hence, I started washing clothes in my kitchen sink.
On the entertainment front, I bought the 25-dollar package at Amazon so I can see “Star Trek-Picard” commercial-free. The first two episodes were great, and I wept at seeing a true leader besides Andrew Cuomo in action. But I got confused in Episode 3 – who exactly are the Romulans? I forget, and what are they doing with remnants of a Borg Cube? Unfortunately, my Star Trek expert, Jason in New Haven, messaged me in a flurry of heated emails about his state’s new shelter-in-place mandate and we never were able to discuss the finer points of Trek lore. Funny how reality can intrude on vital fantasies….
Jason’s near-apoplectic concerns about powerful forces destroying America’s economy, combined with his warnings that the vaccines to come may be laced with sedatives that make us all mindless zombies utterly exhausted me.
But more friends continued to deluge me with emails and links to videos proclaiming that the pandemic is a total fake, or is the product of a handful of men who seek to control the world. Yes, the information coming in from a variety of sources indicating that Covid-19 is the result of a bio-weapons program – based in, take your pick: China, USA, or private companies – and went amuck in October 2019, may contain real seeds of truth. Nevertheless, it’s here now and we need to deal with it. Besides, I always keep a close eye on the doings down at Fort Detrick in Maryland, and that vigilance needs to be maintained. Plus, I always got the creeps when I sailed past Plum Island, just off the coast of Long Island. More troubling, I hear that those folks just moved their operations to Ames, Iowa.
So, my friends really tired me this weekend. Fortunately, I called my ex in NY, Rachel, last night and we laughed ourselves silly into the wee hours, until she fell asleep on me. Sigh…. It was the first time in a long time that I wished I was in bed with her.
However, I got a few more laughs listening to Jimmy Fallon’s “Home Edition” broadcast of the Tonight Show. “Socks are the new shoes,” he said sagaciously in one show, but some of his comedic bits are real clunkers. Nevertheless, the honest, simple interviews with his wife and selected friends, such as Tina Fey and Alex Baldwin, are wonderful. His kids are a riot, as are their friends. I’d like to hear more from the little ones. Surprisingly, the clips from established singers are terrible. Sound levels are off, lyrics are near-impossible to understand, and they are certainly not relevant in this crisis.
Other friends are calling or emailing, just to check in with me. Jeffrey on City Island, and Joey down in LA. It’s nice.
Onions went in on Friday when the sun came out. Potatoes are next. I thought I’d get to it today, but the dark clouds keep coming and going, dropping a ton of ton o’ rain one minute, and then giving way to a few rays of sunshine – until the next cloud.
Oh well, There’s always tomorrow.
Oh, by the way, my neighbor and friend Dan went to the Plaza market in Eatonville today, and was able to get me some toilet paper – just in time. I was down to my last roll. There may be some price gouging going on, though. Dan was only able to buy me a teeny-tiny 4-pack that contained miniature rolls of paper. It was almost doll-house size. “Anything bigger would have cost ya 20, maybe 30 bucks,” he told me.
Oh, well. I’ll worry about that next week.
Hope y’all are safe and well.
Update, April 7, 2020
John Prine died today in Nashville of complications from Covid. He was 73. All blessings to John and his family.
Covid Photo Gallery
Looks quarantine-y to me.
Thanks to Victoria in Yelm.
Thanks to Rory.
Thank You, Jesus!
Thanks, again, to Victoria in Yelm.
Laundry on the line.
Onions are in.