I Practicing Self-Quarantine and Social Distancing


I drop into bed mid-afternoon. Exhilarated by ten days and three good trips – Portland, Seattle and Sequim. The first the usual combo of bicycle-bus-bus-boat-bicycle-bus-bicycle with a similar return. The last two by boat; today sunny and cold on the churning currents of Point Wilson.

I stretch my weary muscles under the comforter and dream backward. The joyous success of Port Townsend’s Repair Café on Saturday. Tracy had convened a planning team around her dining room table in October. We slowly moved an international big city idea to little Port Townsend. And people loved it! They came clutching tired treasures, mundane items.They left with them repaired, or knowing of what to do next, or comforted by caring professionals on the definitive demise of their vacuum cleaner or electric drill.

The Repair Café was bracketed by two days delivering Out of the Blue for the Shipwrights’ Regatta, a sorry but not regretted conflict with the Repair Café.

March 1 – Back Home

For the mid week cruise to Seattle on Morning Light, Jack and moored downtown at Bell Harbor. Spent hours at the aquarium and had Kinza and Philip for leftovers as the lights came on in the towers on the waterfront..

Portland whirlwind. Merilee and her forty NETs – smart City of Portland emergency team members – had intriguing questions about disaster sanitation and emergency hygiene. Breakfast with Greg. Lunch with Tom, Rinnah and Genevieve. Shawn’s performances for Portland’s diverse audiences. Suppers with the PHLUSH team. Dinner with the Rippeys. Long nighttime bike  rides across the bridges and through the city.

So good to be home.

March 2 – Kirkland Deaths

Pre-dawn jumble of news from WNYC, then WBEZ, and finally KUOW.  Coronovirus has claimed a second life in Kirkland; also the second for the USA.  Super Tuesday – tomorrow –  has stirred the pundits. Politics and virus jumble together. The President sees “a hoax.”

Fifty-five emails on a Monday morning? I scroll through, delete, read, procrastinate with flags in several colors as I look for dates and times to move into the empty blocks on my calendar. Hey, not a bad week at all! A couple of meetings. I can stream City Council. Lots that’s missable.

I decide to self-quarantine. There is no need. I have no symptoms; no malaise. Rather, my quarantine will bring the calm local health authorities are calling for. Plus good practice in maneuvering conditions that remain stubbornly unexplained.

Rain continues. I’m 25 emails down the list. Move through it slowly. Allow myself distractions. Pundits and public health folks.  By mid afternoon, there are four more deaths in Kirkland WA; all six US fatalities in one small cluster.

March 3 – Super Tuesday

I awake to the news that the Seattle area now has 9 COVID-19 deaths. Several from last week ID-ed posthumously. Testing protocols in multi-layered confusion.

With a note to Jen, I beg off my regular Tuesday gig at the Jefferson Community Foundation training people to use the powerful Foundation Database Online.  PHLUSH has been doing some emergency hygiene training and I’d like to take it further and advocate self-quarantine. The only face-to-face meetings on my agenda are grants search training, which doesn’t allow “social distance”. Even though this is mostly a reflective experiment, I’d rather not come in. 

Admiralty Audobon newsletter shoots in. Birding at Point Hudson, Fort Flagler,  and on the Larry Scott Trail. Workparties at Kah Tai Lagoon and the garden of Salish Coast Elementary. How wonderful to see opportunities to be useful and learn from the great outdoors while hanging out with friends at safe social distance.

Monica comes. For the spring garden cleaning, only she knows what is a weed and what is not. I’m sent to prune the long-neglected mahonia. What a blast hacking through the thicket to expose the interesting twisted branches and allow sight lines under the tree. I quickly fill her truck. Twice.The exercise is better than what I’m missing at the gym and I chat with each passing neighbor.  Everybody knows that mutual preparedness for whatever may come – the big quake, wildfires, or COVID-19 – starts with knowing your neighbors.

The sun sets, the polls close. I toggle between two sets of New York Times’ maps. Super Tuesday primary results from 14 states and COVID-19 infections in more than that.

March 4 – A sunny Wednesday

Morning maps: California firmly behind Bernie, who loses Texas to Biden. Eighty countries report COVID-19 infections. Globally 94,100 infected, 3,210 dead, all but 229 in mainland China.

News of tornados ripping though Nashville, Tennessee area, killing 24 people in unpredicted winds up to 160 mph, now seeps though the other news. Like so much else, this seems new.  NWS gets it wrong on tornadoes in Tennessee; their algorithms don’t work.

States of Emergency in California and Washington. US deaths rise to 11.

In what the New York Times calls ” extraordinary public health experiment” schools for 300 million children – from infants to university students – are now closed. Today Italy shut down all the country’s schools  until March 15. “The burden is likely to fall particularly hard on women, who across the world still perform most child care duties,” reports the paper. DUH!

But I’ve trusted the New York Times since I was little and their live updates on coronavirus are both concise and comprehensive.

This afternoon I finish off my work and look up to see the last of the day’s sun fall on a very low tide. I pull on my boots and head out, stepping over enormous old growth drift logs onto the sand. I cross the wrack line, not stopping to admire the tiny crabs that live there and head into the squishy mud. It’s lovely. So many kinds of seaweed, each laid out holding fast to stones with their holdfasts. My friends the barnacles. A bright red blood star. So many different bird tracks!  Finally I meet the waves at the pile of ballast dumped by one of the hundreds of sailing ships that stopped at Port Townsend before making its way down Puget Sound in the 1880s.

Point Hudson beach at low tide late this afternoon. I walked out to that distant pile of rocks, ballast dumped from an ancient sailing ship.

March 5 – Holding pattern

Today’s The Daily podcast summarizes Washington coronavirus developments over the last five days, albeit with added drama I find unnecessary.

I get an email from Janet who’s working with  KPTZ  – Port Townsend’s beloved radio station – which has a Coronavirus Watch. Janet’s my hygiene and sanitation guru, having worked as an EMT, in wilderness search and rescue, and as a septic system designer..

Scott calls Jack at to see how things are. Joy, his daughter and Jack’s niece ran a great campaign for seat on Glendale Unified School District board. but in the end lost to the incumbent. Scott, who works full time and has Parkinsons, was rather received at the end of the nightly gatherings of campaign volunteers in their living room. I’m pretty sure Joy McCreary has a political future; you could see it when she was a middle schooler. I just hope she’ll want to do it.  This afternoon Elizabeth Warren, the one-time front runner equipped with well-conceived programs, dropped her bid for President. The suddenly lost hope for a female president was expressed by Nancy Pelosi. The short-term discouragement of older women will translate into dogged encouragement for likes of Joy McCreary.

This afternoon comes the announcement of another old-person-death in the Kirkland cluster. The US Vice President, of whom so much fun has been made, meets with Gov Inslee this this afternoon.

I’m impressed by the info released everyday from Public Health – Seattle and Kill County. It’s not marked with a day, date and time. With the rapid unrolling of unknowns, it regular updating of any guidance for citizens seems to make sense.

The scientific facts and the political machinations are tumbling over each other. The past four years have disoriented me.  Now I’m working to balance calm and action. Still, this week’s intersection of elections, infection, volatile markets, and a disrupted economy whose impacts are manifold and inequitable.

March 6 – The more data, the more unknowns

It’s 9 am.  I screen shot these stats from the New York Times’ map that tracks every case of coronavirus in the U.S.   These numbers are from Washington, Oregon and California alone. With that number of unknowns, I’m enjoying not being with people even more. Will get on with my day and resist the temptation to check live updates.

COVID-19 transmission routes largely unknown.
The transmission routes for COVID-19 infections in Washington, Oregon and California remain stubbornly unknown.

It’s noon.  Listening to the community calendar on KPTZ, I learn 60-something Jefferson County man recently discharged from hospitalization following treatment has returned home. His case is first on the Olympic Peninsula and is part of Kirkland community-level transmission. PDN just tweeted a link.

The sun comes out just as I set myself to some heavy boat cleaning work.  Best thing I hear all day is Ari Shapiro interviewing Patty Murray. Senator who lives on the island out out window – Whidbey. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee.  Plain spoken.  Lets Pence have it.

UW is shutting down. Joanna’s been rattled by cancelations at the Austin W and now SXSW is cancelled.

Get closer to anyone I have in a week today, with the exception of Jack, of course.. Charlie at 1-2-3 Thai. Ordering take out over the din of a noisy happy kitchen.  Our first supper in months with the sun still shining. Well, that will change with daylight savings this weekend.

I check the stats before turning in. 306 infected in US. 17 deaths include first ones on east coast.  Today 15 more Kirkland LifeCare residents ended up in hospital. Two more Seattle nursing homes are hit. This is taking a toll on older folks.  But kids and under 60s are resisting. Although likely passing the virus on.  Johns Hopkins is tracking 53,600 recoveries globally. Do they know when individuals are no longer contagious?  The more data, the more unknowns.

March 7 – In the classroom

This time of the year my thoughts turn to cruising north. A notice in Friday’s local paper announces a workshop for those seeking a Washington State Boat Operators License. People born before 1955 are exempt so we never thought too much about it. However, since Canada accepts the Washington document as equivalent their own license, it seems like a good idea to get it, especially with White House that thinks closing boarders can solve all sort of problems. What a bummer it would be to get hassled crossing into BC on day one of our cruise.

I take a seat in the large classroom at the Northwest School for Wooden Boatbuilding. An interesting looking young woman with magenta hair approaches the seat next to me and I ask if she would sit one away, explaining my experiment in social distancing. She gets it and when a classmate heads for the vacant seat, she joins him in the rear. So in a room with twenty people I only need to make my request of one of them. No one else notices. Soon maintaining space will be be part of our new culture: shaking hands has disappeared in Seattle within the week.

The class is an intensive review of all the stuff we have to bone up on as we head out: aids to navigation, rules of the road, identifying the maneuvers of boats by their lights, and the like.  I quiz Jack when I get home. He get most of the answers right and decided to join me for the test next week.

March 8 – Scenarios

Richard Dandridge sends a Vox piece entitled How does the coronavirus outbreak end?  Well, it may be here to stay. May just become endemic like the flu, kill a bunch of elders every year, defy treatment and keep the vaccine makers busy tweaking their barely effective product. It may wreck havoc infecting everyone in its path until “it creates its own herd immunity.” Or it could spike, overwhelming the healthcare system. The best scenario would be to slow the spread by having everybody do what I’m doing. This along with summer warmth and humidity that may make the virus less welcome would give scientists time to work on treatments and vaccines.

Vox senior science reporter Brian Resnick is writing some good stuff.

March 9 – On the hard

Beautiful day, frost on the grass, ice on the docks, and then shirtsleeves at noon. Active work most all day.  Headphones on with radio and podcasts, for more news than I need. The stock market hits a low not seen in a decade as Russia pushes oil prices down after failing to push them up.  And, of course, there’s coronavirus.

Aren’t these the perfect conditions to create demand for a cruising sailboat?  Someone wants to have a look at Aurora.  She’s sitting on the hard in a chainlink-fenced, little-used corner the boatyard, both out in open and locked. Cheap long term storage. I ask the folks at the Port office  to open the gate.

I wrestle a long, heavy aluminum ladder vertical and place it against the side of the boat and start moving supplies up. Soaps, rags, a brush, a broom, kneepads, rubber gloves, and finally our old sun shower bag. No water or electricity here. The cockpit is filled with leaves from the nearby poplars. There is black dirt and green mold on the deck where lines and fenders have lain all winter. Plus the usual gull shit. I get down on my knees in impossibly tight spaces and scrub. The sun shower works well with elbow grease. So little water on the deck that only a very stupid move would cause me to slip and fall overboard to the hard ground.

Pleased with my work, I throw everything down, pack up my bike and leave. Later, Rob emails Jack to say the boat looks much better. Seems the first-timer prospect has fallen for the idea of a boat more than any particular boat. That’s a good start. These are good times for a boat.  I imagine the high-rise dwellers of Seattle, freaked out by having to use door handles and elevator buttons along with so many other people. Or folks with diminishing income in the gig economy and service industry.

At the end of the day, this graphs cheers me. Nice colors. All you have to do is jump up over the death fence.

From the New York Times coronovirus tracker.

March 10 – Primary election day

The morning brings news that 600,000 college students are now studying remotely: UW, Stanford, Princeton, and smaller colleges everywhere. I suspect this is a sea change. Undergraduate culture may disappear as education blends in with the rest of life and more campuses go up for sale.

Washington State officials gloat that there are no physical polls to manage. Everyone votes safely by mail.

March 11 – Time with friends

A wonderful, long-anticipated day.  For Jack, it’s an opportunity  and honor to welcome friends. For me, it’s throwing caution to the wind.

I stress about the house, scrubbing down the bannister without which descending the stairs to the front door is not safe. How do you manage a railing anyway? Leave gloves or hand sanitizer at the top and the bottom?

Food? For starters, we can’t have dips. Too much sharing. Individual plates of crackers and whatever? Too much handling. Smoked salted almonds in individual bowls will do.  Then a simple meal.  Mixed meats grilled by guests, soup, fruit and pie.

Today WHO declared a pandemic.

March 12 – Combing through the info glut

As a volunteer for an organization focused on sanitation and hygiene, I’m happy to see some science-based information being written, videoed, or documented in graphic artistry.

Here’s a short  New York Times video that tries to makes the point that covid-19 is not transmitted through the fecal-oral route!  I just wish they’d come out and say it. (I’ve been Tweeting my annoyance at journalists for this every since the 2017 Hep A epidemic in San Diego, which is only transmitted via the fecal-oral route. Why replace a perfectly clear term with an awkward  work-around?)

We live in a small house and still get a daily paper so hoarding toilet paper is the last thing on my mind. But three months of food for two people?  Got it!!!

March 13, 2020 – What! How many ventilators?

Having moved carefully and productively through most of this Friday the 13th,  I’m suddenly in shock. So how many ventilators can the American health care system provide a country of 330 million people many of whom have moved into self-quarantine?   Just take a flying guess. I’m the Mom of a kid who spend 7 months on a ventilator in her first year of life. And there were a bunch of kids around her also on vents.  So go ahead, guess.

And how about attended hospital beds. How many of them?  Let’s see….lots of elective surgeries, continued slaughter of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on our roads, and an increasing cylindrical age pyramid – tons of old folks!  Maybe a hospital bed of some kind for every 330 people?

No way.  Today the Washington Post manages to count a total of 924,100 hospital beds throughout the nations!  That’s 2.8 per 1000 folks.  Compare that with 12 and 3.1 per thousand in Korea and Italy respectively.

Ventilators?  The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security crunched the number last month and came up with a total of a hundred and sixty thousand ventilators currently in use. Not all are of the same functionality. All require high level human intervention in the form of respiratory therapists to monitor the machines and anesthesiologists to intubate patients.  In addition to ventilators in use, the CDC Strategic National Stockpile appears to have another 8,900 units that hopefully are now being deployed.

So the Trump administration quits funding for the 5-person federal pandemic response. Did they calculate that other nations would send teams?  Medicines sans Frontières showing up?  Like those off-season Australian firefighters?

National Emergency declared.  As of today in Washington state, 568 cases, 37 deaths, and over a million kids out of school until April 24.

Today’s graphics look at what we need to do and why.

Flatten the curve

The classic, from Vox and reporter-to-follow Brian Resnick nearly a week ago.

And a tweet just in from the ever-reliable @Atul_Gawande.

The quicker you start practicing self-quarantine and social distancing. the better!

Thank you, Gentlemen!   And Friends, enjoy doing your part in the new normal

March 14 – We pass our Boater Education test!

Pre-dawn New York Times brings the daily Canada Report. Justin Trudeau stands solitary in front of his very modest residence, keeping the press corps at a distance. His wife is infected and he’s in quarantine. The article is chock-a-block with fascinating links.  I learn about the Quarantine Act that Canada has had in place since 2005, initially to address SARS.  Another link takes me to an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof and Stuart A. Thompson: How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts . The charts are interactive; you move a vertical slider that indicates the date when public health action is finally taken and it shows how lagging intervention leads to a peak of 9 million US infections that leave a million dead. But what’s really impressive is the comments section. Kristof must have been up all night replying to many of the 623 comments there at 6am Pacific Time.  I marvel at the work some journalists are doing.

Journalists are right up there with health workers in my esteem.  The New York Times, the Washington Post and so many others are making their coronavirus reporting free to combat the official disinformation that is just as dangerous as federal level inaction.

Shout out to KUOW radio journalistsLet’s support everyone one the front lines, including those who risk their lives to slice through the noise to bring us the stories in the comfort of our homes. Upon learning that the news director at Seattle’s KUOW put together a how-to guide for reporters in other cities,  I tweeted a shoutout for their show-leather journalism that been appreciated by a number of the team at this local NPR station

The day is dawning and Jack and I are breaking self-quarantine again. It occurs to us that getting a Washington State Boat Operator Card might be a very good idea. Technically, we’re exempt owing to age, but there’s reciprocity with British Columbia.  While we’ve never been asked for this extra documentation, we want to make sure we can get cross into Canada and its welcoming wilderness without incident.

I drive down to the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building for the second day of the course and learn how to trailer a boat, the allowable decibels for jet skis and the increasing distances we must put between ourselves and our decreasing numbers of Southern Resident Orcas. Unless they are all around, in which case kill the engine and wait it out after putting the boat in gear to reduce the risk of animals getting cut on the propeller. During the lunch break I fetch Jack, who’s studied on his own. We pass the test!

March 15 – The joy of gardening

2020 will go down as the year we catch up with the garden.  We live on a corner lot with a path behind it, and have wildly growing things that need to be taken care of all around.  Monica comes to weed garden – she says I don’t know what’s a weed and what isn’t – while  I spend another morning “pruning” one convoluted thicket. Get to only about a quarter of the way done with a single bush whose amputations fill Monica’s truck to the limit. So far this pandemic is a boon to yard work.

It takes me well into mid afternoon to nap off the toil of sawing and lopping off branches over my head. Then I work on the Local 20/20 weekly event announcements; most everything has gone virtual – except work parties to remove Scotch broom and English ivy.

Even though it’s Sunday I check the day’s news and find the Fed has brought interest rates down to nearly zero and the CDC is updating directives. Confusing! Is this the thinking of exhausted CDC officials or the prose of harried New York Times reporters?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that no gatherings with 50 people or more — including weddings, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events or conferences — be held in the United States for the next eight weeks in one of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The C.D.C. said that its recommendation, which would drastically change life in the United States for the next two months, does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses” and added that it was not intended to supersede the advice of local health officials.

“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities,” it said, “and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.”

I check the numbers. About as many cases and deaths in the rest of the world now as in China. Unspeakable tragedies in Italy, where triage leaves old folks unlikely to recover to die. And Italy has more per capital hospital beds  than the U.S!  Here Washington State leads the death count with 42, while New York State leads in the number of cases, but has only 6 deaths.

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