Frogs Do It, Bees Do It–Even Educated “We’s” Do It…

 

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Honeybee image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

I altered the first line of an old song (“Let’s Fall in Love”) to shamelessly draw you in to a discussion of an important topic.

As an intro, here’s a little Haiku for These Times

Social distancing—
Ants isolate selves when ill
Healthy queen makes room.

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Ant image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Why are ants so much smarter than a growing number of humans? I’m speaking now of the American variety (of humans, not ants), but surely there are others.

There is near unanimity in the scientific community that social distancing is essential if we are ever to gain control over the coronavirus.

Most people in the US are pretty cranky about the isolation and feel/recognize the terrible economic burden it imposes. We want out as soon as possible, but we understand that social distancing is for our safety and that of others.

And it doesn’t take a college degree to understand—just common sense, a willingness to listen to reason, and a bit of compassion.

Yet the President has swung both ways on the issue, now firmly enunciating what he regards as essential: reopening the economy—come what may.

And he’s encouraging defiance of the standards his administration developed–even as the coronavirus has sneaked its way past the Secret Service and into the White House.

He’s a very confused person who declared himself a success when deaths passed 64,000 and told us we can expect twice that many. As I write, they’re about to pass 78,000.

Is there a magic number that will maybe move him to consider the role he might play in reducing this catastrophe?

Meanwhile the Senate Republicans see no need to beef up the successful food stamp program when millions more need it—for fear that people will become accustomed to such “handouts.”

Bulletin just in from Politico: Republicans all in to focus on touting Trump’s success in handling pandemic.

But let’s get back to the animals. Unlike the heavily armed Michigan “protesters” whining that their liberties are being infringed upon, animals know when it’s not safe to go get a haircut.

I’ll state at the outset that I’m not endorsing all these animal behaviors—merely pointing out their existence and the reasons for them.

Take mandrill monkeys, for example. They spend a lot of time grooming each other, keeping one another’s fur clean and free of parasites.

But if one member of their group shows signs of a contagious disease, that poor soul is involuntarily isolated. They do, however, make exceptions for ailing family members.

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Mandrill monkey image courtesy of pxfuel.com

Chimpanzees take matters even further, aggressively ousting an ailing member. Jane Goodall reported observing a chimp with polio in Tanzania in 1966. At one point, the chimp, partially paralyzed, reached out to greet his fellows, but they moved away from him.

Goodall did note that eventually, chimps would allow some of their stricken fellows to return.

Honeybees do more than move away. Older bees, capable of smelling serious bacterial diseases like American foulbrood, which destroys the larvae, will throw the bees out of the hive.

As this seemingly heartless act (forgive me; I tend to anthropomorphize) actually protects the colony as a whole, leading to healthier bees, beekeepers and researchers have been selectively breeding for this behavior for many years.

American Bullfrog tadpoles also react to chemical signals to prevent them from catching a lethal yeast infection, according to Joe Kiesecker, a research scientist.

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American Bullfrog tadpole image courtesy of flickr.com

In the late 1990s, models of the spread of disease were based on the prediction that animals got sick by random contact with infected beings.

“But it’s clear animals are smarter,” Kiesecker said. Healthy tadpoles he studied avoided those that were sick.

I think you get the picture. The concept of social distancing, practiced in varying ways, isn’t some wild-eyed idea from scientists that Trump would prefer not to listen to. It is an evolutionary survival mechanism.

According to Dana Hawley, professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech:

“Anytime we see a behavior that has evolved again and again in lots of different animals, that tells us that this has to be a very beneficial behavior.”

Hawley and Julia Buck, an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, have said:

“The evidence from nature is clear: Social distancing is an effective tool for reducing disease spread. It is also a tool that can be implemented more rapidly and more universally than almost any other. Unlike vaccination and medication, behavioral changes don’t require development and testing.”

We humans presumably have the intelligence and compassion to use this concept effectively and wisely. But we dare not pretend it isn’t necessary for our survival.

Yet that seems to be what some “magical thinkers” are doing.

The Texas Lieutenant Governor has said “there are more important things than living.” (I wish he’d been asked to name one.) Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie concluded that “there are going to be deaths no matter what,” so we should forge ahead in opening the economy.

The President appears to have simply picked up his golf ball and gone home: telling us what a great job he’s doing while acknowledging the death tolls will be far higher than anticipated.

Without adequate testing—which both the President and Vice President get every day, by the way—as well as tracing, we’ll never know how many of us this pandemic has truly sickened and killed. And we won’t be able to contain it better than we’re doing.

A powerful New York Times editorial by Charlie Wurzel expressed concern that as the death toll rises, we will become inured to it—just as we have to the unfathomable toll from gun violence.

Wurzel quotes Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University devoted to gun violence prevention, who sees similarities between individuals protesting gun control and those protesting pandemic lockdowns.

You will recall that the President encouraged the armed people who terrorized those in the Michigan State House.

According to Ranney:

“This group has moved the reopening debate from a conversation about health and science to a conversation about liberty…It’s no longer about weighing risks and benefits and instead it’s this politicized narrative…

“Most gun owners are smart and responsible and safety-conscious—just like most Americans want to do what’s right for public health. But the small minority dominates the conversation.”

Wurzel writes:

“As in the gun control debate, public opinion, public health and the public good seem poised to lose out to a select set of personal freedoms…where any suggestion of collective duty and responsibility for others become the chains of tyranny.”

The animals who practice social distancing are following their instincts. But we are seeing a deliberate rejection of social distancing now by the President, Senate Republicans, and a small but noisy group of malcontents.

They base their objections on a distorted view of economics and individual liberties that not only presents a false dichotomy between the economy and human life, but also cruelly casts our most vulnerable people as the sacrificial “warriors” in this dreadfully unnecessary war.

As we have seen, people of color are among the most heavily affected. In addition to the disproportionate deaths and poverty, they are even being subjected to heavier policing in the areas of social distancing and wearing masks.

(Is there reason to wonder why African American men may be reluctant to don masks when the most recent senseless killing of an unarmed, innocent young man out jogging is so painfully fresh?)

The term Social Darwinism comes to mind. Briefly, this long discredited theory reshaped Darwin’s theory of evolution to create a negative societal ideology. To Social Darwinists:

“Survival of the fittest”—the idea that certain people become powerful in society because they are innately better. Social Darwinism has been used to justify imperialism, racism, eugenics and social inequality at various times over the past century and a half.”

Is this where we are in America now?

Annie

Continue reading “Frogs Do It, Bees Do It–Even Educated “We’s” Do It…”

The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings–What Do You Think the Press Should Do? My Reassessment

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

I am hoping that recent events will make the reason for this post irrelevant. But I have my doubts. Despite efforts by his staff to persuade him to limit his appearances at daily press briefings, this President does not seem capable of surrendering the limelight.

In my April 8 post on this topic, I expressed some ambivalence about the idea that the press should no longer cover these briefings live at all.

It was never my belief that they needed to show the two-plus hour nightly events in their soul-sapping entirety, but I also wondered whether disbanding live coverage completely might be a bad precedent.

The approach that some were following seemed to be a good compromise: airing a portion and then cutting away, rather than dropping long-held norms just because he was slashing and burning them.

On Friday, I heard Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times, say that covering this President raises profound problems for the press and is in fact, the central issue for them at this point.

I can imagine that most, if not all, members of the Fourth Estate are struggling to determine how to do their jobs when faced with the double whammy of a pandemic that requires them to deliver timely information to the public—and a President who lies, contradicts himself, insults them, and seems to care not one whit about anyone or anything but himself.

And then, as you know, this President offhandedly suggested that the scientists should look into the question of whether drinking or injecting disinfectants could be a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

For me, that was a moment of clarity.

He faced others on the podium as he raised what he apparently thought was a clever idea, and his scientific adviser, Dr. Deborah Birx, to her discredit, remained silent, eventually mumbling “not a treatment.” She wilted.

Stokols and his colleagues at the LA Times reacted with some thoughtful reporting and observations:

“A slew of federal and state agencies — and the makers of laundry bleach — issued an implicit rebuke to President Trump on Friday, warning the public that his off-the-cuff medical advice and off-the-wall musings in nightly White House briefings could endanger even more lives as the country’s coronavirus death toll passed 50,000…

“Trump’s inclination to view his rhetoric as fungible — his comments are often intentionally open-ended and then open to ex post facto dismissals — reflects a lifelong effort by a highly public figure to blur context and avoid consequences for his comments and actions.”

“Trump’s shifting and often self-contradictory comments are not a bug but a feature of his nightly briefings, where, even amid a profound national crisis and widespread anxiety, questions and specifics typically drown in a sea of self-lavished superlatives.

“Last week, he managed to flip-flop three times on how quickly to lift stay-at-home orders, first insisting that he had “total” authority to order states to reopen, then telling governors that they, not he, had that authority, and then urging citizens to protest decisions by the governors and “liberate” their states.

“When pressed Thursday as to why he continued to float untested and potentially dangerous remedies from the presidential podium, Trump lashed out at the reporter who questioned him.
“I’m the president and you’re fake news,” he said. “I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.”

The next day, the President falsely claimed that he was sarcastically responding to a hostile press query.

In the meantime, while all responsible parties have been trying to contain the pandemic, protect the public, and find scientifically sound ways to consider when it’s safe to lift the quarantine,  Trump’s suggestion that internal disinfectants were worth considering caused consternation and warnings from many quarters.

So many people spent so much valuable time that should have been devoted to more worthy efforts as this gargantuan threat persists.

Those who raced to address this obvious danger ranged from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to the US Surgeon General to the American Chemistry Council to the makers of Chlorox and Lysol, among others.

And former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, exerting leadership from his basement, tweeted:

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but please don’t drink bleach.”

Lest you think that Americans wouldn’t be foolish enough to consider such a ridiculous idea, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency reported that its emergency hotline received more than 100 inquiries about whether the injection or ingestion of disinfectants could be a cure for COVID-19.

Reading that, the noted Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe tweeted:

“What worries me is how many DIDN’T call but just tried Trump’s insane experiment on themselves or their kids.”

On April 24, Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted:

“A week ago I asked whether it was responsible to carry Trump’s nightly stream of consciousness on live TV.

Today, he suggested drinking or injecting disinfectants or ‘sunlight’ to kill the virus.

So I will ask again: What value is there to this spectacle?”

There’s no longer any doubt in my mind. I fully agree with Adam Schiff. We have a President who is hazardous to our health. He needs to be quarantined—his every word fact-checked and accurately reported.

And it’s just as important that the press and cable TV programs stop allowing him to control the narrative. The public needs information.

That’s why they listen so intently when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks—or Maryland Governor Larry Hogan—or the mayors who have been thrown in disarray when the governors of their states have precipitously decided to disregard scientific caution and remove the quarantines.

We’re not getting information from these press conferences. We’re getting bad theater, farce-turned-deadly.

As many have pointed out, his wacky schemes often serve as a distraction: reporters must follow the story and not ask their questions about the climbing and undoubtedly underreported incidence of infection and death and—his protestations notwithstanding—the lack of adequate testing, largely because he refuses to exert power when he really must.

Here’s a possible example of what might have been reported immediately after Trump made his bizarre recommendation.

“President Trump suggested today that ingesting or injecting disinfectants might be a treatment for coronavirus. This is a dangerous suggestion that could prove lethal, as the makers of Chlorox and Lysol rushed to emphasize. We regret to report that you will endanger your health and possibly lose your life if you listen to the President.

“And now, here’s a report on the impact of the lifting of regulations to prevent water pollution in neighboring communities…” or “Here’s the latest on President Trump’s pressuring the United Kingdom to bail out his failing golf course in Scotland….” or “What will the implications be from the President’s recent temporary Executive Order halting the issuance of many new green cards?”

With his poll numbers plummeting, his staff is reportedly engaged in an effort to persuade him to shorten these dreadful marathons. That is, at least, a start. But we’ll see if they’re successful, and if so, for how long.

He’s not suitable for prime time.

Annie

Continue reading “The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings–What Do You Think the Press Should Do? My Reassessment”

Why Are Women World Leaders Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic So Well–and What Does This Tell Us About Leadership?

With the world caught in the vortex of the pandemic, it’s clear that some of the best results to date have occurred in countries that have elected women as their leaders. Indeed, an article in The Guardian bore this headline:

“The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Coronavirus: Women.”

I find this phenomenon intriguing and have been wondering what lessons might emerge to help us going forward. There seem to be several commonalities among these women.

First, Let’s Look at Some of the Notable Success Stories.

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Tsai Ind-Wen, President, Taiwan

There’s Tsai Ing-Wen, who was elected President of Taiwan in 2016. Although Taiwan is close to mainland China, where the virus first surfaced and rampaged, her rapid actions resulted in fewer than 400 confirmed cases and six deaths out of a population of about 24 million people. 

Working with her vice president, an epidemiologist, she ordered all planes from Wuhan inspected when she first heard about the virus in December. She then restricted flights from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, created an epidemic command center, and increased production of personal protective equipment (PPE).

These efforts were so successful that Taiwan has actually been donating masks to the US and 11 European countries.

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Katrin Jakobsdottir, PM, Iceland

Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland, has overseen testing of nearly 12% of her country’s population, a much greater percentage than any other country. She’s done so by collaborating with a biotech company that offers free tests to anyone who wants one—regardless of whether they have symptoms or believe they’ve been exposed to the virus. Iceland also does in-depth contact tracing to locate and isolate people who may have been exposed.

Although there hasn’t been a countrywide lockdown, they’ve banned gatherings of more than 20 people. I’m assuming that with a population of just over 364,000, that degree of testing and tracing inspires some confidence that greater restrictions aren’t needed.

In fact they’ve screened five times the number of people as South Korea. As of April 17, Iceland had 1,739 known cases, with eight deaths.

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Sanna Marin, PM, Finland

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, is the youngest female leader in the world, at age 34, and has a largely female cabinet. Finland recently increased its testing capacity by 50% and began nationwide antibody testing.

With a population of about 5.5 million, Finland has seen 3,489 cases and 75 deaths. According to The Christian Science Monitor, a Finnish Broadcast reporter said:

“Her performance at press conferences and in parliament has been just what works best for Finns–clear, concise, unemotional; but with an undertone of warmth.”  

A recent poll showed that 85% of Finns approve of Marin’s handling of the pandemic.

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Erna Solberg, PM, Norway

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, announced recently that the contagion curve has been sufficiently leveled so that her country “has managed to gain control of the virus.” She began lifting the strict controls by reopening some businesses and kindergartens. The known incidence in Norway, with a population of nearly 5.4 million, is 6,905 cases and 157 deaths.

Solberg has followed the scientists’ advice in her actions and comforted her people: she said in a news conference that “It’s okay to be scared,” and that she missed hugging her friends, words she felt were especially important for young people to hear.

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Jacinda Ardern, PM, New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, closed the borders immediately, prepared people for self-quarantine, and implemented widespread testing; to date, there have been 1300 cases and just one death in a population of 4.8 million people. The fact that New Zealand is an island has been a factor in her success, but Ardern has also received high marks for the clarity of her leadership and her compassion.

She’s appeared in streaming videos at home, reassured kids that she counts the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny as “essential workers,” and announced that she and her cabinet would take 20 percent pay cuts for six months. She’s been said to demonstrate that a head of state can actually lead with both resolve and kindness.” 

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Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany

And then there’s Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. There have been more than 148,000 infections among its 83 million people, but very low deaths per million (fewer than 5000 as of April 17)—considerably lower than other European countries. Germany has the most large-scale testing program in Europe and the most intensive care beds.

Merkel’s popularity has skyrocketed because she’s handled the crisis so well. She told the public:

“I’m absolutely sure we will overcome this crisis. But how many casualties will there be? How many loved ones will we lose?…We are a community in which every life and every person counts.” 

A Guardian account reported:

“As one wag on Twitter joked: if you’re asking why death rates are so low in Germany and so high in America, it’s ‘because their president used to be a quantum chemist and your president used to be a reality television host.”

Merkel, whose title is chancellor, has a doctorate in quantum chemistry.

Why Have These Women Been So Successful?

According to The Guardian reporter,

“Correlation is obviously not causation. Being a woman doesn’t automatically make you better at handling a global pandemic. Nor does it automatically make you a better leader; suggesting it does reinforces sexist and unhelpful ideas that women are innately more compassionate and cooperative.

“What is true, however, is that women generally have to be better in order to become leaders…held to far higher standards than men…you have to be twice as good as a man in order to be taken half as seriously. You have to work twice as hard.”

It seems fairly obvious that what makes a successful leader is a combination of strength, effective decision-making, and compassion. That doesn’t necessarily describe a woman.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reputation has soared, despite the delay in aggressively confronting the threat, because his tough guy persona has been substantially softened by what appears to be genuine compassion. 

But the effective women leaders are the result of a specific environment, says Kathleen Gersen, a sociology professor at New York University.

“Female leaders are also likely to be nourished and supported within societies that themselves have a certain culture.”

For Gersen,

“If you have a political culture in which there’s a relative support and trust in the government, and it’s a culture that doesn’t make stark distinctions between women and men, you’ve already got a head start.” 

She also thinks that women who reach such lofty positions feel less tied to traditional methods of leading.

“There are so many ways that men are expected to behave when they’re leaders that I think it sometimes makes it difficult for them to step over those boundaries and act in a different way from the norm.” 

Though Gersen offers Governor Cuomo as an example of this breakthrough, we’ve seen one terrible—and several poor—examples of male leadership, or lack thereof, that involved differing from the norm. 

These bad examples show us in the negative why the ways the women have acted have been successful. 

In fact, the pandemic forces leaders to face the vastness of unknowns, so they must rely on their inner strengths and creativity more than on existing norms. They have acted promptly and forcefully.

They have also sought expert advice and relied upon the science. And, importantly, they have brought along the people they serve by communicating with them with honesty, clarity, and compassion.

Looking Forward…

If, Gersen says, women leaders can demonstrate that strength and compassion are not conflicting traits—that they actually complement one another and are both essential for good leadership,

“I think not only will society benefit. but so will men. Maybe then we can begin to open up the scripts for roles that leaders play”—regardless of gender. 

What do you think? Women presently make up only 25% of the world’s leaders, but they’ve been the shining lights in this darkest of times.

Do you agree with Kathleen Gersen’s belief that women succeed where there’s relative support and trust in government and not the stark distinctions between men and women?

If so, what does that assessment say about our future in the US—or wherever else you, my thoughtful readers, reside?

Annie

Continue reading “Why Are Women World Leaders Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic So Well–and What Does This Tell Us About Leadership?”

The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings: What Do You Think the Press Should Do?

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

There is no doubt that in the midst of this fearsome pandemic, the calm factual voice of a trustworthy leader is sorely needed. But what we are getting from this President are not the Fireside Chats that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to calm the nation. This President’s litany of falsehoods, which began on Day One when his hapless then-Communications Director lied about the size of the crowds, has ruled him out as that persona.

I am very frightened by his daily press briefings, which many have pointed out are his way of remaining in the limelight while his campaign rallies are on hold. Instead of Fireside Chats, we are getting State TV: with a captive audience.  This President holds “press briefings” that remind me of an autocrat’s taking over the means of communication to lull a willing public, eager for hope, that all will be well. In essence, he’s saying (I’m making no attempt to mimic his speech patterns here): 

Pay no attention to all the evidence that I have repeatedly failed as your leader in curbing this pandemic, first by destroying the pandemic preparedness office set up by the Obama administration, then by ignoring those who warned me the pandemic was coming, then by calling it fake news, then by saying it’s no worse than the flu and totally under control, and then by not listening to my scientific advisers’ pleas for social distancing. We lost precious time? Don’t believe it; that’s fake news. Trust me: It’s all gonna be fine.

Forget that I continue to fail, ignoring urgent requests from governors, forcing them into character-building bidding wars against each other and the federal government (FEMA) in a Wild West sellers’ market for life-saving equipment, refusing to call for a nationwide shelter-in-place. So what if I belittle and insult the governors who have requested federal help? I can even criticize the physicians and nurses who are in the front lines if I want to, accusing them of hoarding or selling their supplies. They’re greedy. They had enough supplies before the pandemic; why can’t they make do now? Look, somebody’s gotta be responsible, and it sure won’t be me.

For all these reasons and more, although he refuses to accept a pinky’s worth of responsibility as the deaths mount and the economy continues in free fall, Trump will be remembered in the history books as bearing huge responsibility for more loss of life and economic turmoil than any of us could imagine. In other words, as the worst president this country has ever seen. (See The Washington Post article about the “Denial and Dysfunction” that delayed a response for 70 Days.)

But he insists on appearing before us nightly, not practicing social distancing from those who share the crowded podium with him. Look at me, he says. Listen to me. Buy my snake oil.

Former Vice President Joe Biden had a virtual Town Hall Sunday night to talk about the pandemic. Did you see it? I didn’t. It was streamed on his website, but I can’t find a video. Doesn’t the apparent Democratic nominee for the Presidency deserve a bit more attention from the press at this point? 

I can’t bear to watch much of Trump’s briefings, but I am eager to hear what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the highly respected Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has to say when he’s allowed to speak. Asked if the Administration had the outbreak under control, Fauci said:

 “I will not say we have it under control…That would be a false statement…we are struggling.” 

Sunday night (at the same time that Biden was appearing), Trump again spoke about the wonders of hydroxychloroquine, a drug designed to treat malaria and rheumatic diseases such as lupus, as though it was the answer to this pandemic and would save the lives of the dying. He had been advised against doing so by Fauci and his colleague, Dr. Deborah Birx, but he insisted there was no time to test it—it had to be out there. When a reporter asked Fauci if he agreed, Trump refused to let him answer.

According to a tweet from Andrew Freedman, a climate reporter for The Washington Post,

“This is a really chilling moment from a science standpoint, with Trump having just pushed an unproven COVID treatment and Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., getting muzzled on live TV. Was clear Trump didn’t want to be contradicted.” (emphases mine throughout)

I hasten to note here that I believe CNN correspondent Chris Cuomo was wise and correct when he encouraged reporters not to “politicize” Fauci by asking him questions in front of the President that would necessitate a contradiction. We need Fauci.

But look what this debate says about where we are in this country: reporters would have to censor themselves from asking questions that will provide much-needed scientific information to avoid embarrassing the President.

Fauci had said Sunday morning, on the “Face the Nation” TV program, that “in terms of science, I don’t think we could definitively say” this drug works for coronavirus. He had reportedly had a heated discussion with non-scientist Peter Navarro, Trump’s Director of Trade and Manufacturing, who had said there was “clear scientific evidence of the drug’s efficacy.

Fauci, who has a worldwide reputation dating back to his work during the AIDS epidemic, had said there was only anecdotal evidence. Trump obviously chose the non-scientist’s opinion over the scientist’s.

During Sunday’s briefing, Trump insisted that the drug is completely safe, with no side effects. But Megan L. Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, told a New York Times reporter that she’d never seen “an elected official advertise a ‘miracle cure’ the way Mr. Trump has done.” 

“There are side effects to hydroxychloroquine. It causes psychiatric symptoms, cardiac problems and a host of other bad side effects.”

When it is prescribed, it is used very cautiously. 

Some hospitals have been using it out of desperation. According to Dr. Adhi Shara, chief medical officer at the Mount Sinai South Nassau County branch of Mount Sinai Health Systems in Long Island, New York, they’ve been using hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin (which Trump also touts) “pretty much since day one.”

The results have been mixed, he told The New York Times.

“We’ve been throwing the kitchen sink at these patients. I can’t tell whether someone got better on their own or because of the medication.”

It is truly bizarre the extent to which the President has latched onto this alleged “miracle cure.” The Guardian has an excellent article describing the events leading up to the drug’s receiving the White House seal of approval. It’s worth reading the full article, but here’s an excerpt.

“The story of how hydroxychloroquine was anointed the Trump administration’s miracle drug for the coronavirus pandemic is a distinctly modern tale of misinformation within a global information ecosystem beset by widespread uncertainty, fear, media fragmentation and hyper-partisanship.

“Belief in the drug’s potential to cure patients infected with the virus followed an extraordinary trajectory from a small [and now acknowledged as highly flawed, not double-blinded or randomized controlled] study conducted in France (Trump’s “very good test”) to Silicon Valley social media influencers, Fox News, and the largest bully pulpit: the White House.

“But it’s also a story as old as medicine itself. When an epidemic killed thousands in ancient Rome, said Aaron Shakow, a research associate at Harvard Medical School and historian of medicine, the chief physician of the emperor Nero circulated a recipe for an old miracle cure.

“‘It was an attempt by Nero to sustain his legitimacy in the midst of this catastrophic event,’ Shakow said. ‘Epidemics are dangerous to rulers.’”

One can picture Trump, as the death toll exceeds projections, claiming that if only everyone had listened to him and taken this “safe” drug, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved.

And, not surprisingly, he also has a small financial interest in Sanofi, the drug company that makes a brand name version of this medication. Its patent has expired. Am I being too cynical to anticipate an effort to renew the patent due to the alleged urgent need?  Others around him also have financial interests in Sanofi, including one of his major donors.

Also not surprisingly, there are now shortages of the drug for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, as well as for those stricken by malaria. These patients are suffering, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that malaria patients may well die due to sudden redirections to the US of a drug that is effective for that disease, but not proven effective for COVID-19.

This is just one example of the perverse nature of Trump’s acting as spokesperson. 

The spread of such dangerous misinformation in real time has created a dilemma for news people. Forbes asked:

“At what point does taking the government’s daily coronavirus briefing become malpractice on the part of broadcasters? If experience tells us that day after day the President of the United States makes false or misleading statements about the pandemic that has shut down huge parts of America and forced millions to shelter in their homes, is returning the next day to air the next episode a rational decision—since it’s tradition to hear what the leader of the free world has to say?”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the subject of the article, says it is not a rational decision:

“I would stop putting those briefings on TV. Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation. We should stop broadcasting it, honestly, because it’s gonna cost lives.” 

Some have said the mainstream networks should air only fact-checked, edited recaps. Others say, and do, air just a portion and then cut away and summarize the rest. Still others point out that since the news media’s own credibility has been questioned (in good measure, due to Trump’s “fake news” campaign), setting a separate set of rules for covering him would simply deepen the mistrust.

And this thoughtful view comes from Jack Schafer in Politico:

“The un-coverists greatest fear isn’t that Trump will lie or that Trump’s lies will somehow deceive them. What they worry about the most is that the average viewer will be sucked in by Trump’s lies. This paternalistic mindset holds that the same individual who can be trusted to vote in elections can’t be trusted on his own to listen to long, unbroken statements from the president. He must be guided and protected by volunteer censors. However well-meaning the un-coverists are, I find their efforts more troubling than I do Trump’s lies.”

I find this a very difficult and vexing decision—for both the newscasters and for us, the viewers.

The President is using these briefings to assuage his ego and campaign for reelection—as well as to continue to attack (and fire) the public servants and others who’ve blown the whistle on him or whom he views as personal threats for any reason. 

He is endangering us with his falsehoods and diverting us from the other harms he’s doing. (This just in: he’s fired the overseer of his administration’s handling of the $2 trillion relief package Congress just passed.) Nevertheless, he is the President. 

How do you think the news media—including White House correspondents in that small briefing room who are actually jeopardizing their own health—should handle these made-for-TV events?

And I hope we can extend this discussion to my fellow bloggers in other countries: Do you feel your leaders are over-reaching and taking advantage of the pandemic? What is happening there with regard to press coverage—and how is the public reacting? And what are your thoughts about what’s happening/should happen in the US?

Annie

Living Through a Pandemic: The Lighter Side

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The photo disproving the adage that duct tape is the answer to every need.

 

 

Please don’t get me wrong: I am appalled, shocked, infuriated, and beyond sadness at what’s become of our country and world.

But I also know that laughter is the best medicine, and even smiling has been shown to have a positive effect on our immune systems. As we all need our immune systems to be as strong as possible now, I thought I’d tell you some fun things—a few real, others of undetermined origins that have found their way to my inbox. (I hope you haven’t seen them already!)

Earlier this week, my husband and I, both in the vulnerable population due to our being past 60, set out for our every-day-it’s-not-raining walk. Our next-door neighbors, a lovely couple with two sons, ages 3 and 5, rode past us, each on a separate bike. 

The dad, bringing up the rear, offered to add our grocery list to his when he went to the supermarket on Saturday. We gratefully agreed. Then the three-year-old, up front on his little bike, offered his own assistance: “And if you have any monsters in your house, call me!” 

Imagine our good fortune having a monster-destroyer just steps from our home. We’d no idea. “Gee, I said to them, “you’re a full-service operation!”

We do go to the supermarket ourselves during the newly enacted “happy hour” (my term, not theirs) for seniors and other vulnerables: 6:00 to 7:30 am. Actually, my husband goes, as my body clock isn’t at all happy at that hour. 

I arise a little later and quickly begin my responsibilities, preparing the kitchen for THE DECONTAMINATION: the washing and spraying and otherwise new bloodless rituals to slay the invisible foe that may be (but probably isn’t) lurking in our groceries. 

Are we being super-cautious with our decontamination? Not according to Michigan Family Physician Jeffrey VanWingen, in this demonstration video.

Yes, according to Dave Price, an ICU physician at Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York, whose soothing video says just wash your hands well after throwing away the bags. (His entire lengthy talk about protecting your family from the disease, though it has some technical glitches, is well worth watching–except that he keeps talking about Purell, which most of us can’t get.)

For the time being, we’ll err on the side of caution–even if our broccoli sometimes tastes a little soapy.

My husband describes his forays in the sparsely populated supermarket: he’ll start down the aisle, see someone about to enter from the other end, and reverse his direction. Simultaneously, the other person does the same. Result: the aisle remains empty in prime shopping time.

This pas de undo conjures up less a ballet than a scene from an old Western when both gunslingers at the OK Corral retreat simultaneously. Any suggestions for aisle etiquette arising from the new phenomenon will be most welcome.

When I hear horror stories about couples on the edge of divorce after just a few weeks (and the divorce rate has definitely soared in Wuhan, China), I realize how lucky we are. Our house isn’t large, but it’s big enough so that we can each have privacy. Thus, we haven’t been at each other’s throats, and we find enough absurdities in our situation to laugh a good deal. 

Except, that is, for the Bagel Dispute. It occurred because we are both aware that the stash of bagels from our beloved bagel store is rapidly dwindling—and alas! The store was an early casualty of the self-quarantine. We saw the owner, whom we’ve known for years, interviewed on the news, when he lamented that he just couldn’t keep going for long. 

Our last visit was three weeks ago, immediately after that interview. My husband quickly went in for a dozen bagels—buy six, get one free—which afforded us 14 bagels. 

He said the owner looked appropriately depressed. When my husband tried to cheer him up, acknowledging his 15 sad minutes of TV fame by requesting his autograph, the poor man glumly said, “You’re gonna have to pay me for it.” He and his bagels will be missed.

Back to our dispute. We cut the bagels in half and froze them in two large plastic bags. They’re big, so we usually have one-half at a time. Yesterday, after I had eaten a half, I thought there was one full bagel and one-half left in the bag I’d extracted it from. We took stock. There were two whole bagels in the other bag. “We have six halves,” quoth he. “No; we have seven,” insisted I. 

But the evidence-based fact, verified by the observation portion of the scientific method to which we firmly adhere, was that he was right, which made me, de facto, wrong. The big fat bagel half remaining in the bag sure looked like a full bagel, but it was not.

End of dispute. Cue more laughter. If this is how bad things get, and we’re lucky and careful, we’ll make it through. Of course, the bagels still aren’t completely gone…and bigger tests lie ahead.

At least we have enough toilet paper for the nonce—though we thought we should shore up a bit and found that was impossible. Who would have thought that toilet paper would be the gold bullion of this pandemic? 

Or that it would become the source of so many jokes. If you’re on FaceBook, you’ve surely seen the toilet paper roll in place, with each little square bearing a letter: M, T, W, T, F, S, S. Or perhaps you’ve seen the one that opens this post.

The astonishing news, according to an Op-Ed in The New York Times, is that we’ve had this toilet paper thing all wrong: toilet paper is BAD for us! Or so says writer Kate Murphy:

“…toilet paper is an antiquated technology that infectious disease and colorectal specialists say is neither efficient nor hygienic.” 

I’ve included the link so you can decide for yourselves whether this is one less concern for you to fret about—as long as you have running water. A bit of history for perspective: according to Murphy, substances that preceded toilet paper included “leaves, seashells, fur pelts, and corn cobs.” Ah, the good old days!

One of the things about the good old days a month or so ago was that most kids went to school. My heart goes out to parents who have also become their children’s teachers. This bit of pathos appealed to me:

Home Schooling Day 3: They all graduated. #Done.

Here’s one for all who care about writing well:

Out of an abundance of caution, the MLA and the Chicago Manual of Style will be reinstituting the “two spaces between each sentence.”

And the inevitable comparison with “Man’s Best Friend”:

You thought dogs were hard to train? Look at all the humans that can’t sit and stay.

Dogs have been the stars of a number of humorous bits. Here’s one of my favorites.

image

The other is Pluto, the talking dog, whom I gave the last word to in a previous post. I didn’t realize at the time how many of you had already seen her. That was her first appearance, but she continues to show up, making Pluto Service Announcements, or PSAs, such as Please stay indoors, and make sure that you look people in the eyeballs from a distance and wag your tail.

Pluto has become an Internet sensation. I was especially impressed during her Monday Funday episode, which yielded this astute canine observation:

A lot of the socialers have asked me for suggestions about how to spend their time during this period of hashtag home. It’s not a stellar declaration of the two-legged imaginations that you’re asking me about this…

But I echo Pluto when she says:  “We’ve got this. We’re all in this together. Be kind to one another.”

If you have any smile- or laugh-inducing stories/jokes of your own, please insert them in the Comments box. Consider it a public service.

Annie

Continue reading “Living Through a Pandemic: The Lighter Side”

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic

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Image courtesy of health.mil.

Catastrophic delays
Of equipment for patients and carers
Reveal huge flaws in America’s design.
One thing I do
Not hear discussed
Applies to the “have nots’”
Vying for their tiny share of
Income from the supposed stimulus:
Registering their presence without
Use of computers and Internet?
Shadowy reminders of those we forget.

Small businesses
Tethered lightly to viability
In line for loans
Must wait months to see $$
Urgently needed, as
Life savings go out padlocked doors
Unless some Cuomo-esque souls
Snip through the bureaucracy…

Relying on small amounts,
Each home health aide, waiter,
Likely most in gig economy, live
In fear of dislocation,
Eviction, illness, as the
Fat big business cats purr in delight.

Phase 4 bill? The Dems want more $$ to
Aid states/locals still fighting virus,
Care via family/medical leave,
Keep first responders safe,
Add to Fed food aid,
Gird pensions for stability,
Extend more checks to meet great need.
(See below…)

_________________

The three bills were bipartisan, a remarkable accomplishment at this time that meant both sides compromised. To date, the Republicans say no more stimulus is needed–except Lisa Murkowski, who wisely notes that serious mental health needs arising from the pandemic will have to be addressed.

The Democrats improved the Republicans’ bill, but said they’d be back for more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the first two bills were for emergency relief; the third for mitigation. The fourth will be for recovery.

In this fourth bill, the Democrats will plead for all in Phase 4 above, plus virus-revealed issues: money for Internet services, now a necessity; money for states and the Post Office for vote-by-mail to ensure our democratic processes can continue despite the pandemic.

(Will the President sign this bill? Speaking of the previous bill’s funding request for vote-by-mail, which is expected to enable more Americans to vote, he stated:
“The things they had in there were crazy…that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”)

Two parties; two different wish lists.

For Phase 4 to pass, We, the People, must loudly say we agree. Do you? Will you?

Annie

Continue reading “CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic”

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

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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

Continue reading “More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together”

Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Our Quarantine Begins

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COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

This wasn’t the post I’d originally planned to publish. That one can wait for another time. This post is more timely. And since my story may become your story—if it hasn’t already—I thought I should tell it to you now.

I live in a medium-sized community in the eastern US. Yesterday, our mayor requested that we move beyond this new status we’ve just learned about: social distancing.

We’ve now been asked to self-quarantine, voluntarily at this point. We should stay at home, going out only to buy food or medications. We are suddenly activists in the effort to flatten the curve and slow the exponential increase in disease incidence. 

The community officials have been acting very responsibly—closing the municipal buildings and library and encouraging people to conduct their business online. (Woe to anyone without functioning computer and Internet connection, but that’s a story for another day.)

They’ve even stated the number of people who will be permitted to enter the food markets at one time: 50 for the largest; 25 for each of the smaller stores, with only one family member permitted per visit. I’m all for these restrictions, which seem well thought out to me.

As my husband and I are past 60, we are considered part of the vulnerable population. We don’t have the other conditions that would increase our odds of becoming severely ill—such as heart or lung disorders or diabetes—but our well-worn immune systems are better off not being called into combat against this particularly nasty bug.

I’ll note that we’re careful about our health and diet, don’t smoke, and are both gym rats. One of the hardest things about this quarantine is that even though we’d decided it was probably not a good idea to continue going to our gym, the gym announced today that it’s closed until further notice.

That deprives us of the most important man in my life: the personal trainer we work out with together once a week. (I’ve told the trainer that in my husband’s presence.) He has really strengthened us and made us feel we’re up to all sorts of challenges.

I had assumed that under the circumstances, even if I got the damn virus, I would be sick for a week or so and then recover. But I’ve since learned that it’s quite tricky, and even when people seem to be recovering, it can do a sneak attack that brings them to an ICU needing a ventilator.

My purpose in telling you this is not to create panic; I feel amazingly calm myself considering my basic catastrophizing nature. Mindfulness meditation works wonders for me: I don’t dwell on what may happen.

Similarly, I see no point in checking the balances on our rapidly crumbling retirement accounts—or spending more than a fleeting moment pondering potential breakdowns in our food supply chains and the availability of medicines I must take. 

But there are plenty of people who either aren’t getting or aren’t hearing the facts about COVID-19. The messages from the White House and the CDC are conflicting and confusing. Putting out a blanket limit on 50 people congregating in a single spot does not take into account the size of the spot (unlike my local regulations) and how much “social distancing” is possible therein. 

Such ambiguity may lead people to continue taking advantage of not having to be at work to meet with their friends in a bar; that’s definitely not smart. This is not your grandmother’s flu. It’s spreading more quickly than other viruses in the past. It’s also more lethal.

On March 14, our local hospital had 11 cases, and 6 of them (all younger than 60) were in the ICU. Another 40 patients were under observation. Those numbers are increasing rapidly, and they somehow haven’t made it into the state’s official count.

You know those N95 masks many people are talking about, which can be used only once and are essential to protect health care workers as they tend to infected patients? The hospital’s CEO said in an interview that those masks are running low statewide. His hospital had gone through 795 of them by 7 pm in a single day.

He described the past week as something he’d never before seen, even though he’d fought cholera in Haiti after the earthquake, when there were no medical supplies, and “even when we ramped up for Ebola.” He called this crisis “unprecedented.”

The CEO said a number of things that were quite concerning. One that disturbed me the most was that he’s given up on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had yet to confirm his hospital’s first case.

In his view—and this is something he wants people to know—testing is problematic. It’s more complicated than it’s been described. To be effective, it must be done under strict conditions with a sample taker appropriately outfitted with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and differing RNA assays make test sensitivity questionable. 

So at best, the tests are 90% accurate, whereas flu tests are 99.999% positive. He fears drive-through testing that shows someone is negative will give that person “a false sense of security.” He said he told the Governor his concerns. 

There are many experts with differing views; I’m noting his because he’s a highly regarded individual who’s working with labs—not to suggest that his opinions necessarily be used as guidance in individual decision-making. 

Testing in the US has certainly been botched, by nearly all accounts, but many point out, as this Atlantic article states, that knowing how many people have been tested would give us some sense of how far the disease has spread and “how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering.” Hmmmm….

Though our hospital CEO doesn’t want to incite panic, he does want people to take this disease seriously because in infected patients

“things can turn around very rapidly. We had a patient that we were thinking about releasing—he seemingly was recovering—and then, two days later, he was put in the ICU. The flu isn’t like that. People need to know this.” 

He encourages people to be responsible: stay home, avoid malls and theater and group activities for now.

“We need to sort of hunker down at home. Go outside if the weather’s nice in your backyard. That’s healthy and good. But we shouldn’t be out and about.”

That’s what we’re doing. Going into stores for food only when they’re not crowded. Avoiding situations where we’ll have to stand on line. Bringing our rapidly disappearing hand sanitizer with us when we’re out of the house, and swabbing our door knobs on the outside and inside with Lysol when we return.

(We’ve also made some hand sanitizer by mixing alcohol with aloe vera, but both ingredients are no longer available.) 

I heard one virologist say COVID-19 is most likely to linger for up to 9 days on metal and hard smooth surfaces. Clothing and porous surfaces seem not to be a concern. I haven’t found confirmation of this statement, however.

What else are we doing? Agonizing over whether to buy two or three small packages of tissues (8 each pack): they were going fast, and we felt we could use them to open doors once our hand sanitizer was gone. But was buying three packages selfish? 

We’re wiping down our cell phones (Apple said Chlorox wipes are OK) and other surfaces. Lifting weights and exercising at home, and taking walks in the late afternoon when few people are around. And yesterday we toured our small garden, buoyed by the sight of the first crocuses pushing their way through the mesh we’d placed over the hard soil to allow them to get a head start before the feeding faunas’ visits. So those back-aching hours planting bulbs last fall paid off! The appearance of those young green shoots couldn’t have come at a better time.

And we’re washing, washing, washing our hands. I find it so interesting that this devastating organism can be vanquished by plain old soap and water.

Finally, we’re still remembering to laugh. (See my previous post.)

My sister-in-law sent this cartoon today.

PHOTO-2020-03-14-07-32-36

My response was: “Gee, do you know where he got it? I could use some.” 

Do you have stories to tell about how you’re coping? I’d love to hear them. I hope you all stay safe.

Annie

Continue reading “Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Our Quarantine Begins”