By Bruce A. Smith
The US Surgeon General, Admiral Jerome Adams, and President Trump are calling these next two weeks our darkest hours, forecasted to be filled with death and suffering, and comparable to “our Pearl Harbor.” Their mortality estimates range from 100,000 to 240,000, and the current death toll in the US is nearly 11,000.
Yet, the sun is shining brightly outside my door today, Tuesday, without a cloud in the sky. Temperatures are in the mid-60s, and tonight’s full moon is expected to be the brightest “Pink Supermoon” of 2020. Life in my quarantine is safe and quiet, tranquil even, but the world outside is clearly raging. Yet there is a glimmer of sunshine in the world’s statistics. Covid cases are leveling off locally in Washington, and even Vice-President Mike Pence praised Washington for its effective efforts to tamper the spread of this deadly virus via social distancing and Gov. Jay Inslee’s early stay-at-home order. In fact, phone company records tracing the movement of cell phones show an average of movement of 3.7 miles per phone in Seattle before the order, and currently that average is less than one mile, with a notable phone in the upscale neighborhood of Madison Park only moving an average of 61-feet per day!
When Inslee issued his stay-at-home-order he was also projecting 1,000 deaths statewide. But that fear has lessened, and the State of Washington is returning 400 ventilators to the national stockpile. So, where Washington was once the country’s leading coronavirus epicenter, it now has only 8,700 confirmed cases and 378 reported deaths.
In contrast, the country’s current hot-spot is New York, and the numbers there are stark: 130,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday in his press conference that the “apex” of rising cases seems to be “plateauing,” with a decrease in the numbers of hospital admissions, ICU beds needed, and deaths. All those number are still high, especially in New York City, but the rate of growth has curved favorably.
Of great concern to me is that the suburbs of NYC are now seeing a surge of patients and deaths. My Mom lives on Long Island just outside the city line, and hospitals there that are well known to me and my family have become “Covid war zones.” Facilities like Long Island Jewish, where my mother was a rehab patient 18 months ago, or St. Frances Hospital where she took my father when he had a fatal heart attack ten years ago, are jammed now with Covid patients.
Internationally, the situation is more acute. In the UK, PM Boris Johnson was admitted to the ICU and his condition is “worsening” according to news reports today. In addition, he has turned over governmental affairs to his Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab.
Reported cases and deaths in Spain and France continue to soar, but the numbers are leveling off a bit in Italy. Nevertheless, these countries’ numbers are the highest in Europe with 136,000 cases and 13,000 deaths in Spain, Italy 132,000 and 16,500, and France has nearly 75,00 cases and 9,000 dead.
On the homefront, my $1,200 Covid check hasn’t arrived yet, even though the moolah was supposed to be flowing this week to those of us with direct deposit arrangements with Uncle Sam.
But my food stamps got a bump this month – not sure how or why – but it sure was a pleasant surprise when I went to the Safeway in Graham today for a major re-supply and my EBT card covered the whole $111 tab.
Along those lines, I was pleased to see about 20% of my fellow shoppers wearing masks, which is a big improvement since my last trip to Safeway ten days ago. However, none of the Safeway employees were wearing any gloves or masks – still – except at the deli counter where folks were using gloves, as is their norm.
However, I’ve run out of my gloves and couldn’t find any stores that had any. Walgreen’s said they might have some tomorrow.
Speaking of which, the grocery store was still out of toilet paper. This is several weeks now. I read one report that claimed the lack of TP on our shelves is not from hoarders, but rather a supply-chain issue. Apparently, so many people are staying at home the need for “residential” toilet paper nationwide has nearly doubled. Worse, the kinds of “bath tissue” – as TP is called in the paper industry – used in industrial settings, such as offices, is different than residential tissue. I didn’t notice. But the mills making TP have to really ramp up these days, and they haven’t caught up with demand.
But the booze is flowing, Big Time. I’ve read recently that wine sales rose 60% nationwide in March, with beer consumption increasing 40%. But hard liquor purchases increased 75%!
On a personal level, I’ve noticed a malaise settling over me, a kind of stupor. I find it hard to get going in my day. It’s hard to focus in my meditation. It’s hard to find the motivation to write stories like this one. Notably, I’ve been composing this piece for days, and began to write a little yesterday. Taking two days to finish a piece is unusual for me.
My Mom has her own kind of stasis. She is on her own a lot, although her caregiver takes care of all the basics. But when I call Mom she is low energy and only wants to talk for a few minutes. Our chatty conversations of 45-minute duration are but a memory of our pre-Covid days.
Similarly, my technical problems continue at Zoom. Last weekend, I teleconferenced with a group of ol’ Boy Scouts from my Camp Wauwepex and I was cut after two minutes for unknown reasons. I’m still waiting for Zoom Help to help.
But one passion continues to flow for me: my vegetable garden. I’m working there for at least an hour or two every day, and it shows. Already I’ve planted a lot more than I did last year: I’ve squeezed 60 potato plants into my rows and containers, 10% more than last year.
Same for my onions. I had filled my two dedicated boxes, but I had extra “starts,” so I began planting them in little and mid-sized containers. Now I have 30 extra onions.
In addition, I had the time and motivation to start a brand-new project – pruning my fruit trees. I had always considered that a daunting task, and it is, but I finished one apple tree and will be tackling the second one, soon. I even started scoping out what needs to be trimmed on the apricot tree. The plum is a real mess, though, and may have to wait for another quarantine.
Part of my torpor may be emotional exhaustion from the watchfulness of staying safe. My day begins around noon and I meditate for an hour. Then it’s a cup of coffee, some yogurt with my cardiac meds, and then I hit the news. That’s a full hour, and then I go to the emails. My in-box has at least 50% more emails that need attention – friends and family checking in, Mountain News readers, DB Cooper guys and storytellers. But there is a new element: Anguished political links. I receive at least ten emails a day from friends and colleagues offering me videos to watch that are either important to the events of the day, or it’s utterly important to them that I watch what they are watching.
As a result, I’ve been exposed to lots of “alternative journalism,” such as Simon Parkes and Cliff High. I’ve heard a half-dozen different theories on how Covid got started in various bio-weapon laboratories, and who is responsible for the pandemic. The Chinese being irresponsible in their Wuhan labs, or sabotage by the Americans?
More troubling are the emails claiming that the pandemic is a hoax. Or that the governmental response is too drastic and tantamount to martial law. Or nefarious members of a cabal are trying to crash the world economy in a weird power grab.
Singly, none of these theories is new, really, but the totality is. Also new is the politization of the Covid response by governments, and the strident rhetoric coming from friends and colleagues who call themselves “patriots.” That seems to be the term that people I call “trumpers” use to identify themselves.
In fact, when I began this piece a week ago, I thought I would write about the politics of Covid. I considered that my led would be: “Is it too early to consider a 2nd Impeachment of Donald Trump for his incompetent Covid leadership?”
I also pondered raising the specter of criminal charges being filed against Trump for negligent homicide due to all the deaths he has caused stemming from his tardy response to the pandemic. In particular, Trump’s lack of a coherent, consistent, effective effort to curtail the outbreak. Where are the tests? Where are the masks and PPE? Why are we procuring ventilators from China? Why did he diminish the threat all through February and most of March?
Further, I saw a great irony. Whereas four years ago he boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue in NYC and get away with it, it now seems that Donald Trump can allow 100,000 Americans to die, and not only get away with it but be called a hero and get re-elected.
As a result, I felt enraged. I knew Donald Trump had blood on his hands. People had died that could have been saved if the President took decisive, immediate action to control Covid. I’m not the only one. The Boston Globe editorial staff concurred:
Specifically, the Globe editorial titled, “A President Unfit For a Pandemic” called:
“…President Donald Trump ‘unfit’ to lead amid the coronavirus pandemic, (and argued) that he has ‘blood on his hands.’”
Further, the editorial claimed that much of the projected loss of life from coronavirus was preventable, and that the death and suffering from the virus would be the result of failed leadership, not uncontrollable circumstances. In particular, they wrote:
“While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.”
In addition, NBC-TV correspondent Chick Todd asked that very question of several politicians, such as Joe Biden. “Is there blood on Trump’s hands?” Todd asked. Biden replied, “I think that’s a bit too harsh.”
Really, Joe? C’mon.
But in conversations with my friends and colleagues, I realize that their relationship to Donald Trump is more than just a bonding over conservative values. Rather, it feels devotional. When I talk to my friends about Covid as a hoax, I feel like I’m back in Nashville asking an evangelical Christian about Jesus.
Further, it appears that their mistrust of government is profound and extends into all facts of life: Are vaccines safe? Is the stay-at-home order necessary or a pretext to destroy civil liberties? Is the media in cahoots with the Democrats to make Trump look bad and tilt the election?
Regardless, their la-di-da attitude towards staying-at-home puts me at risk. Their daily forays into the world increases the potentials for Covid germs to be spread to people I need, such as grocery workers. Hence, my friends pose a danger to me, albeit indirect. The following meme sums it up well:
Nevertheless, one ray of hope did appear in my missive with friends. Jeff from Austin, my first editor at the Sovereign Scribe, sent me a wonderful video that suggests Covid may be a sublime messenger and not a monster. The video observes that Covid has brought modern life to a crawl, one where we have clean skies world-wide for the first time in generations. It shows that where the forest fires of Australia and California did not capture much attention, Covid did. Where Greta Thunberg and all the cries demanding we address global climate change failed, Covid has succeeded in at least making us stop and listen, look, and consider what is transpiring in the natural world.
That is a great blessing.
Update: Midnight, Tuesday –
John Prine died today of his Covid infection. Tributes abound:
Covid Photo Gallery
Thanks to Victoria in Yelm.
Again, thanks to Vic.
Thanks to the Internet.
The reality of discounting the Covid threat via its politicization is clearly seen in the graph.