More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together

Unknown-25
COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

Events are moving very rapidly. Less than a week after I published my post about life in self-quarantine in an epicenter of the pandemic, far more Americans are in similar situations—some in mandatory lockdown, which I suspect will arrive in my community soon. (Update: we’re now in mandatory lockdown.)

In my previous post, I described being in a hard-hit area with a local hospital whose CEO was profoundly worried about running out of ventilators for patients and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital staff. When staff members become ill, obviously, there’s no one to treat patients.

Our community arranged a teleconference for residents to hear from all the relevant local, county, and state officials, as well as our member of Congress. Both my husband and I felt good about what we’d heard. These people knew what they were doing. They were competent and dedicated, and would do whatever was humanly possible to keep us safe.

One person who wasn’t on the call was the hospital CEO.

Today we learned that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Just days before, he’d been at another meeting with all the folks above. So possibly, the entire entourage whom we’re depending upon may now be harboring the disease. This concept takes a little getting used to— and much deep breathing.

Now our governor has taken over these local operations. The governors have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic—from Jay Inslee in Washington state to Mario Cuomo in New York.

They’ve struggled to gain the attention of a President who just weeks ago was declaring the pandemic a “hoax” perpetrated by the Democrats to oust him from office. We lost valuable time while he lived in denial/conspiracy land, bolstered by his friends on Fox TV.

But faced with a free fall in the only indicator he seems to care about, the stock market, Trump has finally awakened and declared himself a “Wartime President.” And then he went missing in action before our eyes. “Mr President,” the exhausted governors pleaded “we desperately need federal help.” His response: “Find your own ventilators. We’re not a shipping clerk.”

It’s so ironic that the President many of us have worried has shown dictatorial tendencies—who has, in fact, declared that as president he has the right to do whatever he wants—is now being so reluctant to use the power he has for the greater good.

The New York Times observed “Mixed Signals From President Sow Confusion.” First he said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which dates to the Korean War and “grants the president extraordinary powers to force American industries to ensure the availability of critical equipment.”

The very next day, he made his “We’re not a shipping clerk” comment. Apparently, some business leaders who didn’t like the idea of being “forced” to do anything got his ear. But will they do enough, quickly enough, to provide the vital protective equipment to ensure that our health care workers aren’t decimated, and that enough  life-saving respirators are on hand so that those working won’t have to perform triage to determine who gets one and who’s left to die–as is currently the case in Italy?

Meanwhile, in Italy, the total death rate reached 3405 on Thursday, exceeding that of China at its highest, according to an article in Bloomberg. The next day, Bloomberg reported 627 deaths, “the highest daily toll since outbreak hit.”

The Prime Minister is weighing even greater restrictions than those covered by the current “near-total lockdown,” Bloomberg reports. “The decision depends on factors including the spread of infections and the fact that many Italians aren’t respecting the rules, the official said.”

And this is happening in northern Italy, which has more and better hospitals than the southern part of the country—and has been overwhelmed. If the virus spreads south, it could be disastrous. The second article cited provides information about Spain, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I am also getting reports about India from my fellow blogger, the Controversial Indian, who provides her thoughts daily from what she calls “house arrest.” She observed on Day 19 that she is suspicious of the low number of cases reported to date—236—and says “the government still refuses to acknowledge that there is any community transmission of the disease in the country.” There’s also very little testing.

You’ve seen the curve of increased cases in Italy? Our curve bears an eerie resemblance to that one, and experts report that at the speed at which the cases are multiplying, we have about two weeks before we’ll be facing comparable conditions.

That’s why it’s so important to try to “flatten the curve” of the incidence of infection by having us remain in our homes. At this point, the number of confirmed cases in the US has climbed to more than 17,000. The lack of adequate testing suggests that number is considerably higher.

Dear Readers:

It appears that more of you have begun to take these events seriously. But if you are still tempted to disregard this threat, please reconsider. I get that the pandemic is affecting various parts of the country differently, but this nasty virus knows how to cross state lines—big time.

And as a country, we have varying degrees of quality and quantity in the health care services and facilities we can access. If New York City, one of the nation’s foremost medical meccas, can be approaching the breaking point, I fear the Italian analogy will be appropriate. Other areas will be hard hit and won’t have the resources and expertise they’ll need.

So I am speaking to you, the Spring Break Invulnerables yukking it up on Florida beaches, oblivious to the threat.

And to you, those who didn’t think twice about going to a large wedding in Brooklyn, NY, that had to be broken up by the police.

And to you, the Self-Styled Immortal Boomer Parents who are in the “most vulnerable” category, but refuse to adapt while their 30-something children scream at them and weep at their heedlessness: “Don’t take that cruise!” Why are you going out to dinner again?” (See The Atlantic article, Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously.)

And to you, bloggers who have expressed disdain at the “stupidity” of people who are going like sheep into their homes as requested—or ordered.

As I and many others have pointed out, we are all interconnected and interdependent. We are in for a rough period unlike anything we’ve seen in the US in our lifetimes.

We will get through this, but we’ll do it more quickly and with fewer casualties if we’re willing to put up with the dramatic changes to our daily lives that the experts insist are essential.

One more thing. A friend forwarded to me a video of a lecture on the coronavirus for health professionals, which was given by Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious diseases specialist at the Santa Barbara (CA) Cottage Hospital.

I found the 1-hour lecture fascinating. One tidbit that I felt important to convey here is Dr. Fitzgibbons’ suggestion, based on findings, that the distance the virus can travel through sneezes or coughs is closer to 13 feet, rather than the 6 feet we’re currently told to observe in social distancing.

For now, social distancing must be our mantra.

There’s a cute little public service announcement made by Max Brooks and his father, the comedian Mel Brooks, age 93. Max is visiting his dad while standing outside his home, talking through the closed window. “If I get the coronavirus, I’ll probably be ok,” he tells us. “But if I give it to him, he can give it to Carl Reiner, who can give it to Dick Van Dyke…and before I know it, I could wipe out a whole generation of comedic legends.”

The PSA concludes with Mel nodding his head in agreement, knocking on the window, and telling his son: “Now go home.”

Very good advice for us all.

And in accord with my ongoing belief that we must keep laughing, I bring you the wise words on social distancing from Pluto, a four-legged. (Also courtesy of my friend Fran Kaufman; thank you, Fran!)

Note: Pluto doesn’t mean to offend with his straight talk; I hope you’ll keep that in mind.

Annie

39 thoughts on “More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together

  1. Great work Anne. We WILL get through this. I sure hope most Americans are taking this seriously now. I know some will always be skeptical. But, the numbers are only going to get worse. Here’s what I do fear though. In a few months, things will start to look better. We slowly get back to life as we knew it before this broke out. Then, in the fall, it comes back with a vengeance. And, we will be even worse off than we are now. That’s my fear, and I think the health professionals feel that way as well.
    But, that’s for another day. First things first Annie. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president who believed in science? I’d feel a lot better. November can’t come fast enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have the same fear. I think it’s inevitable that we’re in for waves of illness as we emerge from isolation and people with varying levels of immunity are affected. We are signed up for a trip to Alaska in September (fly into Seattle and get on a small cruise ship to see the effects of climate change close up) that I’m fairly certain won’t occur.
      As to your last point: ah, yes. One of the commenters on my previous post spoke wistfully about a Fireside Chat to calm the public. I thought of that comment when Peter Alexander of NBC asked Trump what he would say to people who are scared. His response: “I’d say you’re a terrible reporter.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been pondering the short and long-term economic, political, health care and societal impact this pandemic will have on the United States and throughout the world. It could be profound in a number of ways which have not even begun to be apparent. Annie, you can report on this three, five and ten years hence!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great! That’s the most depressing thing I can imagine. I’m sure you’re right, though. Let’s hope that at least one of the after-effects will be a renewed commitment to a meaningful and enduring safety net in the US.
      But now I get to thank you here for sending me the Fitzgibbons video, which I also forwarded to my nephew, a radiologist at the hospital in the heart of the local epicenter.

      Like

  3. Okay, Annie! Well done on both the facts and the oh-so-appropriate, reality-check admonishments. If I allow myself to access my deepest feelings, I am terrified, Less for myself than for my children, one of whom is in a hot spot and the other in a populated area. My friends buoy me from afar but this blog, my dear, is where I find the real facts, links, and common sense we all need in these uncertain times. BTW, whatever else New Yorkers feel about their mayor, to my mind, he’s just terrific. Calm, reasonable, factual, appropriately sanguine . . . such a relief to hear him speak. The current administration should just shut up, sit down, listen, and learn. Dr. Fauci, Governor Cuomo, other governors . . . and this blog not to mention the source material from the leading institutions! Stay well — a phrase that has taken on a completely different meaning these days. Thinking of you. Thanks for your work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so very much, Denise. Maybe visit those deepest feelings oh-so-briefly and then get busy doing something else? Remember: for most people, this won’t be much worse than a flu. And your own immune system doesn’t need a frequent stressor right now.
      I haven’t thought much of de Blasio in the past, but he’s certainly risen to the occasion. And the fact that he and Cuomo seem to be working so well together is encouraging—as is their willingness to do what they must to get the President to pay attention to their pleas—despite their being blue and therefore his enemy. All the best to you and yours.

      Like

  4. Good stuff Annie. We had a “last supper” with friends a couple of weeks ago at a good restaurant, tonight we are trying a group video conference. I’ve been working from home & my wife the nurse practitioner is preparing to be redeployed for the coming wave. “When was the last time you started an IV? Oh about 20 years ago”
    If you follow “Ozzie Man Reviews” on YouTube he has some funny and good advice as well.
    Stay well and be good to each other!

    Like

    1. Hi, Doug. Thanks for your comment and recommendation; I’ll look for Ozzie Man. Are you videoconferencing via Zoom? It seems to me that everyone is Zooming around these days.
      And best of luck to your wife—and to you! Every health care person is a hero—now more than ever.

      Like

      1. Mary, you are the only one to date to comment on the video, which I could watch multiple times. Maybe you and I are the only ones who hadn’t seen it before? At any rate, I also got a good laugh from your paired comments. Cheers!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Annie,
    The dog’s message was right on. But hard to take her seriously with that voice- hope she’s not coming down with something! Do you know a good Vet for a referral?
    Don

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alas, no. All the best ones I know have retired…or so I’m told. I thought Pluto was a high-pitched male. I can’t tell by the photo. What in your greater expertise persuades you otherwise?

      Like

  6. Thanks as always, Annie, for your FACT- based commentary and sharing your gift of phrase. Hoping you and your family keep well and strong. Oh.. my regards and thanks to Pluto. Xoxo

    Like

  7. Hi, I very much appreciate your blog and how well it is written. Would you be able to address another issue which I see as needing attention? I am fortunate to be retired and currently okay financially. But what about the families who have currently unemployed parents and children who are stuck inside and unable to go to school where they got a few meals as well as the attention of teachers, friends and the needed structure that everyone benefits from. Also, I worry that the uptick of gun purchases and the continued availability of alcohol may also be facilitators to tragedies that we want to avoid. How do we find the way? Karen Kanter State Executive Committee Brady United Against Gun Violence middlesex@bradyunited.org http://www.bradyunited.org http://www.facebook.com/BradyNewJersey 732 213 6523

    TAKE ACTION, NOT SIDES

    Like

    1. Karen, thank you for your kind words. I have been pondering these issues, and I worry about them too. If I can find some way to address them meaningfully, I’ll do that.
      And I thank you for consistently fighting for rationality with regard to one of our country’s most serious problems— the lack of adequate gun safety measures.

      Like

  8. Would that this, if nothing else, would demonstrate to voters that we need educated non-self-serving people in public office. I’m sure certain senators are just as busy buying potentially lucrative stocks now that they are hitting bottom as they were selling them at their high points rather than actually dealing with the problems of the masses. Would that they are the ones touching the doorknobs the Aryan nation seeks to infect rather than those whose interests it best serves to overthrow them. Just crazy. I went to a reading by Alice Walker when Trump was first elected and she chose to talk about “Ten Ways to Survive the Trump Years.” Her tenth instruction was to get our political news only from comedians. Your little dog commentator well-illustrated her advise. Thanks for following.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks again, Annie! I hope you’re all doing well (at home). I saw pictures, over this past weekend, that showed the DC area’s version of the Spring-breakers on Florida beaches ignoring “don’t crowd” warnings–the crowds of people who went to see the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin (that was always a down-side of going to see the Blossoms for me, even before Coronavirus). Thanks for the cute dog video too–funny thing is, our daughter sent it to us also (don’t know where she got it).Stay well!

    George

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I noted in response to your post today, George, we’re very much in agreement.
      I suspected little Pluto had made the rounds when few people commented. I replay that video from time to time and it always makes me laugh.

      Like

    1. Unfortunately, our President appears to be listening to his questionable economists instead of to the world’s scientists, and is talking about removing the quarantine next week. We haven’t even seen the worst of the impact and we are far from ready for such a foolish move—without adequate hospital space, ventilators, and protective equipment for health care personnel. He is worried about the economy, but if our health care system is overwhelmed, the economy won’t recover either. This is willful ignorance.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A great post with an important message and a cute video at the end to give us a little lift. I’m afraid that Trump, in two weeks, is going to tell people it’s okay to go back to work, that it’s okay to go back to bars and restaurants and not to worry about social distancing. And, his minions will listen to him. I mean, why should a 2.4% mortality rate prevent the rest of us from living life as usual. Hell, you don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease, right. Sheesh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have the same fear— only it’s about a week away. I hadn’t seen your comment but have responded similarly to others. And Anthony Fauci, the only one whose voice I trusted, seems to be the next casualty to this president’s insatiable need to be the center of attention and receive total fealty from all those around him. I hold out hope that someone will reach him, but things are looking pretty grim right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. As some have said, it’s the state governors that have truly put social distancing into effect, based on their personal knowledge and up close and personal instincts about the people in their states. If Trump does remove the restriction, it will be interesting to see what these governors do. I hope they stand their ground.

      As has been noted here and elsewhere, there is only ONE thing that Trump is interested in … HIMSELF. For many/most of us, this trait is incomprehensible. We all live in a community and we are all affected by what happens in that community. Yet for Trump, if he had his way, he would literally be the King of the World.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Definitely worrying times. It’s interesting about your fellow blogging friend in India saying about the cases seem low. I’ve long suspected an under-reporting of cases. Here in the UK, they’ve only been testing those poorly enough to be admitted to hospital, so our infection rate will be a fraction of what it really is. Plus we’re told not to seek any medical attention on the phone and not to get actual help at all unless you think it’s life-threatening, ie. wait until it gets really bad then it’ll be too late for anyone to help you, so you’ll only be in hospital one night before they take you out in a body bag. I’m beyond angry with how people are being treated worldwide. Breaks my heart.
    Stay safe & as well as possible, Annie.
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Caz! I just responded to Sandomina about what we appear to be facing here in the coming weeks—much of it due to our president’s willful ignorance and unwillingness to listen to scientists.
      Take good care; I’m sending my most positive thoughts to keep you safe.
      Annie xx

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A hard stay-home order goes into effect at midnight in Indiana. So far, we have been hit fairly lightly, but it is getting worse. My daughter is a rec therapist in a mental hospital and reports that patients are being moved to other facilities to make room for overflow from the “regular” hospital next door.

    I am with you on the moronic students who insisted on a spring break binge on the Florida beaches. I feel for the parents who have to deal with kids in this outbreak, and feel lucky that mine are all out on their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you have been moved by the governors’ pleas to the President that only a federal effort can stop the insanity of rising prices on life saving equipment because the governors have been forced to bid against one another and scour the world.

      And as the situation worsens, this president talks about returning to business as usual next week. Our current statistics are dramatically lower than reality—and the people who know what they’re talking about say such action must not occur until we have a better sense of where disease is worst and can trace its incidence, vastly increased hospital capacity, and far more protective equipment for staff and ventilators for the seriously ill — who’ve now been shown to include much younger people with no underlying conditions. If he proceeds as he says, both the health care system and the economy will be even worse than now. I just hope someone can reach him before it’s too late.

      Like

      1. It is a terrible thing that this contagion is happening during an election year. Something that should be pulling us all together is becoming one more thing to disagree about.

        The one thing I know from my undergrad days of studying economics is that everything involves tradeoffs, whether we want them to or not. I do not know which is worse: a crush of patients where there is too little medical treatment available and thus a spike in the death rate or a cascading economic disaster where companies fold like dominoes and ordinary folks suffer bankruptcies and foreclosures through no fault of their own, and everyone has to scrabble over not-enough assistance to go around. That kind of scenario could make us look back fondly on the days of mere toilet paper shortages.

        We are in completely uncharted seas here, and anyone who says there is a right answer that will not lead to unintended consequences (and ugly ones, at that) is not looking at the whole picture. I thank the good Lord that I am not the one having to make these decisions, because bad things are going to happen to some people no matter which way things go.

        Like

      2. There’s much I agree with in what you say: we are indeed in terrible uncharted waters. But we do have the experience of countries that managed to flatten the curve more quickly, and that required quarantine. We also have the experience of countries like Italy, which delayed, and now don’t have enough places to bury their dead. We are behind where we should be because we delayed. I think this is the time to forget about the deficit and hope that our legislators can come up with a plan that wisely and fairly distributes aid widely to small businesses and people, while helping large industries—but not with the kind of do-whatever-you-please latitude that will enable them to reward their CEOs and stockholders at the expense of their employees. And I say that with full awareness that my dwindling nest egg would probably be affected.

        Like

Leave a Reply to Invisibly Me Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s