Coronavirus Time Capsule #1

I saw a few people posting a chain letter around Facebook designed to memorialize today for them to find again in the future. It was pretty good, but it was terse and general. I decided to make a custom version for my blog. So here goes.

Today it was announced that 1 million people around the world had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and more that 5,000 have now died here in the United States. Poor Italy has been absolutely shattered by this virus.

That one million mark was inevitable. In a few years there will be hundreds of millions who have had the virus. But hitting this first milestone is still a bit terrifying because at this point we have no real idea how things will turn out.

To set a marker on how this pandemic has affected the global economy we can look at gas prices. The average gas price in my hometown was $1.75/gallon today, and even cheaper in other parts of the metro area – some as low at $1.23/gallon!!

The president predicted that would soon cost less than US$1 at the pumps.

Insane.

Georgia schools have been cancelled for the remainder of the academic year, leaving all the graduating high school seniors with a non-ending to their primary education. The kids who cared must be incredibly disappointed – some of their parents have expressed their own disappointment on Facebook.

One of my teaching friends retired from teaching this year, not with a bang or a whimper – his carer just ended.

The number of people allowed to gather in one place at one time has been slowly being reduced by various state and local governments from 50 to 20 to 10.  We’re supposed to maintain a 6 foot distance from each other, although it seems the virus can remain airborne in an aerosolized format long enough that it could be wafted to you on the breeze…

Mom and I have been in isolation together for going on 2 weeks now. I’ve driven her on outings twice, but the only place I’ll allow her to get out of the car is at the cemetery, when we visit dad’s grave. It’s peaceful there, a great place to sit in the sun and get fresh air.

People have been encouraged not to socialize with anyone outside of our own homes, and some of my friends have had a harder time adjusting to this advice in the past few weeks, as have many around the country.

My friends who work retail have been reporting over the past several weeks that many customers just haven’t gotten the idea of being locked down and have continued to go shopping like normal, touching all the things on the shelves. 

One friend (who I will not name) works at a popular home improvement chain and says that his customers have been treating this period of social distancing more like a vacation and are coming in to buy supplies to fix up their homes.  I want to do the same thing but I’m not going to risk getting in those crowds.

Sample headlines from this week

I have not witnessed it in person, but have been told that some grocery stores have put down tape on the floors to show shoppers how far apart they should remain, and even that isn’t being respected by a lot of people.

Many stores are limiting the number of people allowed inside at the same time, and stores and businesses that have been identified as “non-essential” are supposed to be closed.

No idea how that will be enforced.

President Trump initially appointed Vice President Pence to oversee the response to this coronavirus. Those daily press conferences were really getting a lot of coverage and after the first few Trump took over from Pence to lead them himself. 

A few days ago he bragged about his ratings. Maybe he didn’t get hugged much as a kid?

Georgia has been one of the last holdouts to provide statewide advisement for behavior during this pandemic.  Governor Brian Kemp has deferred to local governments for the entirety of March, and a wide range of policies have crept in around the state.

My cousin’s husband is a teacher in middle Georgia and his school district said they would keep going until they had their first observed case, betraying a deep ignorance about why they should have shut things down from the beginning to prevent the potential for the spread of the virus.

They changed that policy a week or so later.

Last week the President began floating the idea of coming back by Easter, which many felt was a pretty arbitrary date.  Pundits surmised that Trump’s idea might have been to appeal to his evangelical base.

My liberal friends felt an Easter return was a terrible idea and were looking at worst case scenarios, while my conservative friends felt it was a reasoned response and that things would probably be over pretty quickly.

Funny how a pandemic became a litmus test for your political bent.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/republicans-agree-61-back-trumps-easter-back-to-work-goal

I figured that every doctor at his disposal must have sat on top of him because he eventually came to his senses a few days ago. According to the New York Daily News Trump’s change of heart was based on an old friend being diagnosed with the illness. At least he is finally admitting that we might have as many as 200,000 Americans die from this virus (with quiet mumbles that it could be more) and said that the month of April would prove to be very difficult.

It will probably be hell.

Finally, yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp announced that he would institute a statewide shelter in place order beginning tomorrow (Friday, April 3rd) which will last at least until April 13th.  I personally suspect it will be extended but we’ll see.

At that same press conference, held out in front of the State Capitol, Governor Kemp declared that his administration had only just learned that people could be asymptomatic (display no signs of infection) yet spread the virus.

This brought lots and lots and lots and lots of withering scrutiny by local and national press.  I personally cursed out loud at the radio when I heard him say that, because it’s all we’ve been talking about since the beginning of March.

A straight party ticket voting Republican friend has been quite critical of the Governor’s slow response to this outbreak, and she was especially irritated by this latest statement. I suspect this will stick with Kemp for the rest of his political career and I’m sure his Chief of Staff must have considered tackling the Governor during the press conference.

While the CDC did publish fresh updates regarding the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus, the world has known that it was possible for asymptomatic spread for at least a month – so in my opinion the Governor would have been safer if he had simply stated that “Georgia cannot wait any longer to implement a shelter in place order”.  It would have brought less criticism.

Anyway…

Citizens have been instructed to NOT call their doctor if they believe that they are infected but to instead call the Georgia Department of Health Hotline at (844) 442-2681 and follow instructions.

Our church has gone virtual, with the pastor delivering a weekly homily that I edit together and upload to the internet for our members to listen to when they are ready. We only have about 12 folks at church on a normal Sunday, so an online church service is actually a pretty radical thing for our older folks.

Here’s the link to those sermons.

Parks and trails have been closed.  I read a story about American reporters in Rome, Italy, watching as police made sure that the few people out on the streets weren’t loitering. There are videos I’ve seen of BIG American cities looking deserted. It’s so weird.

The reason I have always hated zombie movies is because they make me think of the horror and misery that must have happened in order for our cities and normal lives to be so radically disrupted and destroyed. I seriously hate those movies even more now.

Plenty of concerts, tours, festivals, and entertainment events have been cancelled, which is smart because we have plenty of examples of this virus being spread in what they believe to be an aerosolized fashion – a 60 person choir rehearsal in Washington state infected something like 48 people, with 2 of them passing from the illness.

I had just showed mom the 1990s movie Outbreak around the time of the news of that choir’s mass infection and couldn’t help but associate it with a scene from the movie, when an infected man is coughing in a theater, spreading the virus through the air.

Back in mid-March I was supposed to take mom to see Andre Rieu play at the State Farm (Philips) Arena. I had already put us on lockdown as the tour date approached and was super concerned that I might expose her to the virus, and made the command decision to simply eat the cost of the tickets. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead, the tour was rescheduled until NEXT March (2021).

Entire sports seasons have been cancelled, which is astonishing and a true burden for my friends who rely on sports to keep them calm.  When Japan announced that the Olympics (THE OLYMPICS!!!!) had been rescheduled for 2021 it was obvious that 2020 was quickly becoming our Lost Year.

Word on the street is that one of my favorite spring events, the Georgia Renaissance Festival, has been cancelled – although the company has yet to announce anything through their official channels. The Georgia faire may be looking at options later in the year, but they’ll be facing competition from the other faires that run at that same time.  Renaissance faires draw upon a limited pool of performers and vendors, so pulling together an event at any other time of the year than spring may prove tough for Georgia. Even tougher are the times that those performers and vendors now face, as so many of them have very little financial cushion.

It’s difficult to imagine health officials allowing 80,000 nerds to congregate in just 5 months at Dragon Con –  can you image putting con crud on top of a waxing coronavirus outbreak? It just seems dangerous.

If the 11th Annual Cardboard*Con turns out to have been the biggest science fiction convention of 2020 it will put the cherry on top of a dumpster fire of a year. (Cardboard*Con was a lot of fun).

This virus has been a disaster for brides around the world.

My friends Kat and Andy had to reschedule their wedding until October, which is actually great because they’ll make it into a fun event and by then we will all need a Halloween blow-out.

Just like in Italy, front-line healthcare workers around the country have been running out of  PPE (“personal protection equipment”) like masks, gowns, and face shields.  I doubt you could find rubber gloves from here to Timbuktu.

This past week the talk has been all about ventilators – the machines they employ to help coronavirus patients breathe.  There has been a shortage of ventilators, with single units being converted to serve two people at once.  A lot of finger pointing has been happening between the president and governors over this issue, and it’s frankly embarrassing to see them not all working as one.  Nobody seems able to stay on the president’s good side for very long these days.

The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, holds a daily press briefing of his own every morning, while the President Trump holds his in the evening.  Trump has been blamed for ignoring this event for months, while Cuomo is being criticized for not budgeting for respirators in his last budget. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the more people who die means the more scrutiny out politicians will receive some day in the future.

Automakers and other businesses have joined a movement to produce ventilators to fill the great need, and it seems every day that passes brings a new story about a distillery producing hand sanitizer from their company hooch.

N95 masks have become like unicorns at this point.

A practice that people in Asia have been doing for decades is finally coming to the United States: wearing masks when you’re out in public, to reduce the spread of illness.

I wonder if this will become a common thing in the United States from here on out. I kind of doubt it, but time will tell.

Many of my friends with sewing skills have joined a movement of people around the country to sew masks to donate to hospitals.

People have been panic buying at the grocery stores, like we do in Atlanta in the winter when we hear rumors of Satan’s dandruff.  For many, the hardest things to find have been soap, disinfectant, paper towels, and toilet paper.

Mom is smart.

Three weeks ago she bought several packages of toilet paper, which will allow us to poop with peace of mind for a few more weeks although we are down to our final roll of paper towels and I am wondering what she will do once we run out of them, as she relies heavily upon paper towels.

They say that Florida State Patrol is stopping travelers at the border. Countries around the world are closing borders to non-essential travel to rebuff potentially-infected travelers from spreading the virus.

Fines have been established for public gatherings – I’m sure they’ll have a heck of a time enforcing penalties later, but it’s a tool for law enforcement to use to work against crowding.

Stadiums are being converted into facilities for mass handling of Covid-19 patients. In New York they’re converting the Javitts Center into an overflow for infection cases. Here in Atlanta, Georgia Tech is rumored to be preparing dormitories to be converted into beds for patients. I’m sure this type of planning is happening quietly in cities around the country.

The stock market lost a lot of value all the way through March, but it keeps trying to rally.

To comply with social distancing white collar and some small business workers have switched to working from home. Many who can’t work from home have lost their jobs.

Last week the Department of Labor reported that 6.6 million Americans had filed for unemployment – approximately 13% of Americans out of work.

The film industry began folding up its tent in early March, and the 5,000+ folks who belong to my union, IATSE Local 479, are out of work and holding on as tight as they can. They don’t have the same resources that famous actors have.

We’ll see how many can hang on until this storm passes.

Last week Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill to provide a one-time cash payment directly to taxpayers, with enhanced payments for unemployment benefits.

UNITED STATES – MARCH 27: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., signs the bill for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, after it passed in the House in Washington on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
President Donald Trump signs H.R. 748, the CARES Act in the Oval Office of the White House on March 27, 2020.Erin Schaff / Pool via Getty Images

It’s really not all that much money when you look at how long we may be out of work – something like $1200 for single people who make less than $99k a year, or for couples who make less than $150k a year.

But at this point anything helps.

There are fewer cars on the road but I’ve seen several traffic jams on the news, proving that bad drivers will survive the apocalypse.

Some areas of Atlanta are like a ghost town, while parts of the metro area seem as busy as ever.

The doctors and nurses of Italy must be walking wraiths at this point and I fear that our medical folks are headed in that same direction.  Our medical workers are becoming exhausted and frightened – every night there’s a new video of a doctor or nurse caught in emotionally compromised situation. They’re terrified that they’ll take the illness back home to their families and I worry about the medical people I know and even the ones I used to know.

This will end, eventually.

You and I will probably contract Covid-19 at some point, hopefully after the biggest wave of infections have passed.

Hopefully after hospitals are restocked and their staffs rested.

Hopefully after better treatment methods are available.

For now we hunker down and wonder how long we will have to hide in our homes.

How long it will be before we can hug our friends again, without fear.

And one day we will look back with nostalgia at how innocent and naïve we were in the time before this began.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *