Yesterday – March 16th – Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the shutdown of places throughout the state where people congregate and the CDC released directives against gatherings of more than 50, (a number that would decrease to 10 within 24 hours). As we learn from the new Covid-19 epicenter in Europe, serious efforts to flatten the curve are underway across the United States. This post is a continuation of my line-a-day dairy for the first half of March 2020 – Practicing Self-Quarantine and Social Distancing. Now my passion is to understand why, how precisely, and for how long we the need to continue. This next fortnight as we move slowly up the curve, let’s stomp our metaphorical feet in a collective effort to flatten it!
March 16 – Dr. Locke, you rock!
This is a shout out to you, Dr. Thomas Locke, for your deep knowledge of epidemiology, for your compassion for our vulnerable neighbors, for your call to Millennials to help out in their neighborhoods, and for your unparalleled ability as an explainer. Any attempt to paraphrase, would be misguided; I just want to amplify your voice.
- Interview with Dr. Thomas Locke, Jefferson County Public Health Officer on KPTZ 91.9 FM on March 13th is here.
- Dr. Locke’s March 16th report to Jefferson County Commission. KPTZ podcast here or watch Commission Meeting video
- Dr. Locke’s updates on infections in Jefferson County. 3/17/2020
- Press releases and additional alerts are on the Jefferson County website here.
March 17 – Staying in Touch Online and in Community
In Jefferson County Washington where I live, the community radio station is collaborating with Public Health and Emergency Management. KPTZ’s Virus Watch Team is helping bring reliable, current information as well as continue broadcasting music and information, both entertainment and essential local resources. KPTZ broadcasts Local News at noon 6 days a week, and report is repeated most days at 5pm.
This recent article from TechRadar Pro entitled Best free video conferencing software at a glance has brief reviews of free software for 6 online conferencing options. It also covers paid option, some from the same companies. Note that Zoom , which offers numerous video tutorials is “experiencing longer wait times than normal due to increased demand.” Late at night before East Asia wakes up might be an optimal time to schedule meetings. Vox reports that Microsoft, Google, and Zoom are trying to keep up with demand for their now free work-from-home software.
Other recommended software has Help sites as well: CyberLink U Meeting ; Google Hangouts Meet ; BlueJeans ; and GoToMeeting , which offers free Emergency Remote Work Kits for Health Care Providers, Educational Institutions, Municipalities & Non-Profit organizations.
Vox reflects on daily living in the new normal: What are the rules of social distancing? Staying home will stem the coronavirus outbreak, but what if you’re healthy — and bored? Is it ethical to go to the gym, get your hair done, or order delivery? But this advice – issued just yesterday – already is out of date. That’s the rub.
March 18 – Riding the thermals
A dark shadow swipes across the bare rock face below the madrone. I raise my head to spot four great birds are circling. Lazy-Vs for vultures. Are they moving their wings at all as they ride the thermals? They rise vertically above the cliff and sail over the bay. a turkey vulture.
No wing movement? None visible. There a scraggly spruce that grows nearly horizontal over the water, an apt perch for one of the birds. After a short rest it gives a barely perceptible flick of the wing tips and is motionlessly airborne once again. The sun on its wide wings reveal the grey of the aft feathers. Its tremendous beak tapers into its pointy head.
We’ve neglected to bring our birding guides so turn to YouTube. A girl at the Cleveland Zoo introduces the charge perched on her outstretched forearm. “What’s interesting about turkey vultures are the three P’s,” she says. The first P is for pee. When turkey vultures are active they overheat and they pee into their leg feathers to cool down. The second P is for puke. Tearing apart their dead prey is hard work and they do it quickly, gorging themselves. The third P is for pick. If a competitor tries to steal their meal, the vulture will dispatch them with projectile vomiting. And that see through nose on the vultures head? Well it get clogged with food and needs to be cleared. So using the nail on its middle toe, the vulture picks its noes. Seems like appropriate personal hygiene for a bird with poor eyesight which can smell rotting food from miles away.
I’m jealous. My sense of smell is fading with the years.
March 19 – Healthcare workers beg for PPE
The morning grinds out more news of the twin catastrophes of Covid-19 and the wrecked economy.
Then there’s the lack of PPE – Personal Protective Equipment. A few examples in today’s New York Times: The Open Cities Community Health Center in St. Paul, Minn., is considering shutting down because it doesn’t have enough face masks. Doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis are performing invasive procedures on coronavirus patients with loose fitting surgical masks rather than the tight respirator masks recommended by health agencies. At a Los Angeles emergency room, doctors were given a box of expired masks, and when they tried to put them on, the elastic bands snapped.
Health care workers in Seattle area hospitals are mounting mask and glove drives, appealing to neighboring residents to deliver any stocks of ordinary masks or gloves they may have to the door of the hospital.
Three members of a New Jersey family die and three more hospitalized in critical care. Covid-19 cases in the US have risen to 2500. The virus has now taken 68 lives in Washington. New York has twice Washington’s infected with 2,383. Five hundred plus people have been hospitalized and many are under 65, though older folks are more likely to die. This comes with new pleas to Millennials to stop socializing in groups.
Work places are shut and the layoffs have started. Joanna has been crunching the numbers for her hotel. Occupancy is in the single digits. The large hotel chains are shutting down. The fed are sinking $1 trillion into a sinking economy.
There’s also good news: No new cases in Wuhan in 24 hours. And the first day of spring feels like it.
March 20 – Curves steepening everywhere but China
I confess to being a bit of a virus junkie. In winter, I track the flu statistics and exhort people to get flu shots (to the extent am noticed by the anti-vaxx camp and learn about the unfortunate early years of vaccines delivered in harmful solutions). This winter the flu deaths in Washington state are still a bit higher than Covid-19 deaths. The situation at Kirkland’s Life Care Center got out of hand because people were thinking influenza. The CDC’s preliminary flu estimates for the 2019-2020 are between 22 and 55 thousand deaths! For the precise figures through 2018, see CDC’s colorful mortality tracker for flu/pneumonia.
As for Covid-19, infection curves are steepening most everywhere but China.
With few new infections (and again none in Wuhan), this is what China’s curve looks like.
This is what infection rates look like as western nations fail to reign in rates infections. Relatively tiny Italy now has more Covid-19 deaths than huge China. (Images are from today’s New York Times.)
March 21 – WA flattens a bit; NY steepens
I’m soothed by the voice of Scott Simon as he delivers his essay at 4:15am on Weekend Edition Saturday over WNYC. He follows with bad sad news so I pull myself out of bed at 5am and make coffee. The Covid-19 epicenter has shifted to New York.
My intention is to be at our erstwhile 24-hour Safeway when it opens at 6am. I’m stressed to see so many cars in the lot, so many stocking carts in the aisles even though clerks have been stocking all night. I haven’t entered a store in two weeks. My fresh fruits and vegetables come straight out of the shipping boxes. I’m gloved but maskless. Given mask shortages, wearing one there is considered selfish and non civic, even though I have a nearly full package from a bad flu season a couple of years ago. But everyone is doing their best in the way of greetings and head nods among strangers. Outside of the clerks who are now local heroes, I see no one I know.
The sun comes out and I set to work at my desk, doing some research on the virus and disinfectants that kill it. Then a long very fast circular walk along the waterfront and up to the viewpoint near the highschool where you can see Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, and Mr. Constitution on Orcas Island and Vancouver Island beyond. I feel good.
The New York Times has posted a new graphic showing Covid-19 deaths by state. Washington has 85 and New York 54, but the doubling time is 8 days WA and for NY less than 2. I suspect Gov Cuomo has leashed his influence to achieve testing and the mortality sample is too low for conclusions.
Another scary wave breaks over me.
March 22 – Anniversary
26 years. Dinner was fine. Unlike anything one could plan ahead in any other disaster than this slow one.
On my slip in and out of the Safeway, I buy a pork shoulder roast. As in the paper ad, 99 cents a pound. I cut half into four individual 2-meal portions and roast the remainder bone-in with celery and underground vegetables. Delicious. Roasts are slow and easy. They tolerate distracted cooks. Just slide into the oven and let it be.
This is a situation where we have everything else: electricity, propane grill, car with full tank. All we need is a few, very low tech things: surgical masks, H95 masks, face shields, gowns, boots, and maybe a few respirators like everyone in the boatyard wears when working with stripping chemicals, paints, fiberglass, or poison purple heart sawdust. PPE. Personal Protective Equipment. Even the construction site stuff is being pulled into service.
My new stop time is 6pm. No email or Twitter. Today cooking is a pleasant break.. Now it’s my sleep time. I need to start early tomorrow.
The anniversary? 26 years since Jack’s bike crash. Years 2 and 3 were tough. Now Jack’s the most resilient person I know.
March 23 – My brief stint in journalism
Today I have to get a local newsletter out. I’m at my computer at 5am. By moving release time forward to 9am, readers can catch Health Officer Dr. Locke’s briefing to the Board of County Commissioners. How wonderful to be intensely focussed!
A month ago, the editor wanted to move on to another volunteer job and I was asked to step in. I’d started the newsletter shortly after moving to Port Townsend. After doing it for a couple of years, there were enough people around me with advice and ideas that I’d been able pass it on. So I say, sure, before sailing north mid-May, I can do it for ten weeks.The May 11th issue my last.
Our community is piss poor when it comes to news. The Leader, the proud Port Townsend paper of record founded in 1889, is now just a struggling weekly. The Peninsula Daily News is strong but suffers from ownership invested in the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta. Locals just don’t trust it so Facebook and NextDoor take over. Meanwhile, remarkable young shoe-leather journalists are filling the front page of the Port Townsend edition of the PDN with local stories.
Then the virus creeps onto the Olympic Peninsula. KPTZ, the community radio station tries to fill the gap ro serve the hyper-locals with time to listen despite – or maybe because of? – the global infoglut. The weekly newsletter of which I am now the editor is picking up subscribers every day, freaking me out. When the schools and restaurants close, there needs to be special issue! I beg off but get pulled in to edit and hit send on Friday afternoon. Now it’s time for a the regular Monday morning issue, as fresh COVID-19 statistics roll in.
I grab news of Jefferson County’s first critical case from an open source section the PDN has made available. At 8:58am, a notice of an online Q and A with fungi and psilocybin expert Paul Stammets comes in. I add that and Local 20/20 Weekly Announcements goes out at 9:08.
March 24 – Helen calls
Tuesday brings a sense of mid-week rhythm. I’m trying to lay down some time blocks. Meal times, bedtime, get out of bed time are always pretty fixed here. Early morning allows orientation to the day: the news, the laundry. A nine to noon morning block when I stay at my desk is gets me through emergency grants searching. Trying for Mon through Thursday on that. Friday can be Local 20/20 newsletter – nerve-racking to see in the upper right hand of my screen all those new subscriber notices flying in from MailChimp. I quit email during the morning block; now I have to figure out how to kill that notification.
Afternoons I do some PHLUSH, often after a nap. I’m letting the naps come. Same way with walks. When the sun is hot if possible. If not after dark. A good fast walk every day.
Yesterday as I was making a post-nap coffee, Helen called. She thinks critically, loves science, always has good questions she is working on, and is distressed at misguided assumptions and unsubstantiated beliefs. She sends an article that started in Oregon on Facebook and has jumped to Medium. It simply walks you through some basic math that illustrates the exponential growth of a typical epidemic and the rationale for “fattening the curve”.
The news brings assertions…
It has been an especially painful realization in major cities: The very thing that makes cities remarkable — the proximity of so many people to one another — is now making them susceptible in a pandemic. Density, suddenly, is bad for our health. And we are trying everything we can think of to dismantle it.
….and big questions
“It’s useful to adopt the cost-benefit frame, but the moment you do that, the outcomes are so overwhelming that you don’t need to fill in the details to know what to do,” said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan……
Government agencies calculate these trade-offs regularly. The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, has established a cost of about $9.5 million per life saved as a benchmark for determining whether to clean up a toxic waste site.
As I head out on my walk, Annie the poodle greets me as do Tom and Marie. Tom is pitching balls with one of those plastic things that makes it easier. Marie sends me a piece from Politco that their kids sent. It’s a series of reflections on how the virus will permanently change the world. Some excepts:
Tom Nichols America for several years has become a fundamentally unserious country. This is the luxury afforded us by peace, affluence and high levels of consumer technology. We didn’t have to think about the things that once focused our minds—nuclear war, oil shortages, high unemployment, skyrocketing interest rates….it may—one might hope—return Americans to a new seriousness, or at least move them back toward the idea that government is a matter for serious people.
Eric Klinenberg The coronavirus pandemic is going to cause immense pain and suffering. But it will force us to reconsider who we are and what we value, and, in the long run, it could help us rediscover the better version of ourselves.
Amy Sullivan…how do an Easter people observe their holiest day if they cannot rejoice together on Easter morning? How do Jews celebrate their deliverance from bondage when Passover Seders must take place on Zoom, with in-laws left to wonder whether Cousin Joey forgot the Four Questions or the internet connection merely froze? Can Muslim families celebrate Ramadan if they cannot visit local mosques for Tarawih prayers or gather with loved ones to break the fast?….All faiths have dealt with the challenge of keeping faith alive under the adverse conditions of war or diaspora or persecution—but never all faiths at the same time.
Katherine Mangu-Ward The resistance—led by teachers’ unions and the politicians beholden to them—to allowing partial homeschooling or online learning for K-12 kids has been swept away by necessity.
Sherry Turkle Cello master Yo-Yo Ma posts a daily live concert of a song that sustains him. Broadway diva Laura Benanti invites performers from high school musicals who are not going to put on those shows to send their performances to her….breaking open a medium with human generosity and empathy.
March 25 – Curves are “just a little less terrifying”
A Washington state public health spokesperson is asked if the numbers are encouraging. She says no, not really, “just a little less terrifying.”
This graph from the New York Times this afternoon shows steep curves for New York, Michigan, New Jersey and California because severe cases are doubling every two days.Not the easing of the Washington curve where the last doubling of cases was eight days ago.
Notice the steepness of the curves for the United States nationally, Spain, France, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Orange means cases have doubled in approximately two days. That the number of deaths in Italy has surpassed the total for huge China and other European countries are on a similar trajectory is troublesome.
March 26 – Another day of online work
I was searching online. Trolling service groups like Kiwanis, Soroptomists, and Rotary for local funding. Mostly old folks. Chapters die out. Until then, bunches of smart, feisty business-savvy do-gooders who love to breakfast and lunch together. They keep old time chicken fried steak places solvent and honest.
Then there are The Elks. They run an events venue that doubles as a local bar the rest of the time. All around their building – which is out in an industrial quarter – are RV spaces. I’ve only been there for the Wearable Art Show – before it outgrew the venue – and love The Elks’ service delivery combo – bar, restaurant, and low income housing cum recreational travel. Yep, service clubs, many a century old, continue maintain the social fabric of communities everywhere.
March 27 – A hurting week for a lot of folks
Jack loves his daily morning paper, which arrives about 5:30am. So all winter, I trudge out to the mailbox with a flashlight as soon as I plonk a mug of coffee on the table next to Jack’s recliner. He’s already read the New York Times, Bloomberg and is likely to be looking at stupid, disturbing videos of presidential briefings on his iPad.
But now I stall, thinking of the human hand that has just shot the paper into the orange tube nailed to the stake that holds the mailbox. These days, I hold off until daylight before heading out in gloves with cloth and disinfectant. I squirt the front page, which dries off while I give a quick swipe to finger pulls of all six mailboxes on the side of the street.
Today, I see the white pick at the neighborhood pump house under the horse chestnut tree. I walk over to ask the pair with the city sewer department if there’s any problem with my neighbors flushing “flushable wipes.” Don’t get me started on the neglected issue of wipes that corporate marketers tell people to flush. Sewer systems throughout the United States are clogging up. Like hospitals under the onslaught COVID-19, these systems are overwhelmed. All along the line, from home toilets needing plumbers to breakdowns of the expensive rolling screens at wastewater treatment plants.
There’s only one guy today – Mike. He’s kicked open the manhole cover and is checking the flow to the pumps in the little green shack. I ask him how it’s going, is everybody working, any layoffs? So far so good, he says. No more working with colleagues from one truck but fine because everyone gets time to be home during the day. And are my neighbors behaving? Oh, yes.
A hurting day for a lot of folks. Listened to last three Post Reports. Lukewarm about the paper as a whole, but the Martine Powers and her team really puts out great late afternoon podcasts. She gets the WashingtonPost’s best young shoe leather journalists on the phone and asks them great questions. Last three podcast not to be missed.
At the end of the day, I check the New York Times update. There are now 100,000 known coronavirus cases in the United States. More than 10,000 people in the United States have now been infected with the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, a grim milestone that comes on the same day the national death toll surpassed 1,500.
March 28 – Me? An extrovert?
As soon as I sit down with my pre-dawn coffee, Jack’s email with this article slides in a For Introverts, Quarantine Can Be a Liberation.
Well good for you, I tell him. But also good for me. And for us. What makes you think I’m an extrovert?
He shoots back. Well, like yesterday. You disappear for twenty minutes to go yak with the sewer guy.
It’s an ongoing conversation. Yes, I understand the differences.
Extroverts need other people and their chitchat to get energy. When they’re alone they soon feel deflated or isolated. Solitude easily becomes loneliness.
Introverts are the opposite. They’re drained by the random noise of small talk, fatigued by the fluid kinetics of a cocktail party, dazed by people speaking before they think in allegedly creative brainstorming sessions. To recharge their batteries, introverts need to be alone, or with a few people whom they know intimately. They like thinking, reading, tinkering or discussing something in depth. And good things can be found when going deep.
….I suspect that during these lockdowns across the world, there’s an introvert here and there who’s right now applying her undivided attention, creativity and productivity to composing a symphony, conceiving an algorithm, painting a canvas or writing a book. Or simply spending uninterrupted time with a child or spouse.
Well, sorry. I am more that latter than someone who when alone soon feels lonely, “deflated or isolated.” Carl Jung saw introversion and extraversion as a continuum and I sit somewhere in the middle. I may be ill-balanced in other traits but I’m pretty sure I’m okay here.
And, yes, I understand that this is a crisis for so many and for so many different reason. So I will continue to greet everyone I pass and shout into the wind to catch up with friends on walking on the beach or on the other side of the street.
After weeks of frustration trying to embed YouTubes into Tweets and MailChimp newsletters, I accidentally paste a simple URL and get this!!! WOW! I haven’t watched this but I’m so proud of myself that I’ll just leave it.
Oh wait. It’s working. Free WordPress. Who knew? Don’t tell anybody lest we end up with blog posts that are NOTHING BUT TIME-SUCKING YOUTUBES!
Dear readers, let me be a bit extroverted here. A single 4-min viewing of this video converts any one of us into an effective explainer of what we are doing (and what I trust you are doing) and why we have to keep doing it..
And how this is the only way to have enough beds and ventilators to ensure we do not spend hours struggling for small breaths before dying alone.
March 29 – Hard to resist the Sunday New York Times
I spend some time with the paper, starting with a pleasant read by Maureen Dowd on Andrew Cuomo.
There’s more and more on the urban-rural strain showing up as city residents with second homes flee to the countryside. Communities in Door County, Wisconsin, where the median age is 52, are appealing to people not to come. On our tiny isolated Quimper Peninsula there’s also fear of Seattlites coming to play whether secondary residents or not. Jefferson County, with a median age of 57+ is always in the top ten of the nation’s 4000+counties. (This we learned only after moving from Portland after years as part-time live aboards in Boat Haven, where hundreds of young people work in the marine trades.)
According to today’s Times,… in France — which has 3.4 million second homes And in France — which has 3.4 million second homes, far more than any of its neighbors — some urbanites arrived on the island of Noirmoutier and headed straight to the beach. They were seen picnicking, kite surfing, jogging and biking. In retribution, tires of about half a dozen cars with Paris plates were slashed.
“Their behavior was unacceptable,’’ said Frédéric Boucard, 47, an oyster farmer. “It’s as if they were on vacation.”
France is pretty hard core these days. You must have a reason to leave your house and this must be documented for authorities. A link in the NYT provides the required form.
I used to dig into the data. Now the New York Times one-para sit rep for 9:11 am PDT is enough. More than 2,100 people with the coronavirus have now died in the United States, according to a New York Times database, a figure that has doubled since Thursday and continues to rise sharply as deaths are reported by the dozens or hundreds in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan and elsewhere.
I glance at the statistics on COVID-19 Projections provided by IHME, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. I select Washington and see the curve is flattening a bit, pushing to April 14. I’m sickened by the projections for New York.
I pick myself up with this glance into the lives of a pair of radical New York women, 95 and 101 years old, their “fearlessness ably nurtured by misfortune.” They remind me of their contemporary Emma Goldman.
March 30 – Modern Pietàs without Marys
The first thing I read today is this: As of Monday afternoon, at least 156,391 people across the country had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 2,897 deaths are linked to it.
A shot essay by Jennifer Senior captures my attention The Psychological Trauma That Awaits Our Doctors and Nurses Don’t underestimate the moral anguish of deciding who gets a ventilator. Excerpt: This is the moment to pray for the psychological welfare of our health care professionals. In the months ahead, many will witness unimaginable scenes of suffering and death, modern Pietàs without Marys, in which victims are escorted into hospitals by their loved ones and left to die alone.
I get down to work adding a couple of notices to Local 20/20 Weekly Announcements and hit send at exactly 9am. I hope some folks, like me, will grab a cup of coffee and sit down to watch Dr. Locke update county commissioners on the virus. The meeting is virtual of course. patchwork of talking heads all intently focused on the epidemiologist who heads Public Health.
With no transcripts available, I jot down a few notes. The good doctor start right out with the need for” respiratory etiquette” since the surge is coming next month.
“In two ways, he says. Most people will require care at home. 80% And 15%-20% will require hospitalization with some on ventilators. Neighbors need to get to know one another and have a plan. You will need to rely on friends and family to help you through the emergency.”
“This week is key because the people who got sick before the strict social distancing will show up and need care at home or in the hospital.” No, don’t call 911 unless you need a trip to the hospital. “If it’s a respiratory issue possibly caused by COVID-19, please tell the dispatcher that so that EMS personnel can suit up appropriately.”
We are learning new things every day he explains.WHO on Friday concluded that there is not significant aerosol spread from coughing.. Three types of transmission. First the droplets that fall to the ground quickly. Second, contact with the virus on surfaces. Third, airborne transmission in special circumstances – this can happen in hospitals and dental offices. We don’t know if there is fecal-oral transmission. No evidence yet but it seems the virus sticks around in the gut.
“We have to learn a new way of going to grocery stories,” he says. .Avoid crowding. Wash hands before and after. Don’t handle fruit. “As soon as you touch anything in the store regard your hands as contaminated.” Anything you touch you should buy.
Takeout orders and delivery are encouraged – restaurant kitchens are cleaner than home kitchen – and the Farmers Market will open on Saturday with a more spacious layout for “social distancing”, or, more properly “physical distancing” The doctor is clear about eating fresh vegetables and preserving mental health. “All the things we associate with quality of life are shut down. Now is the time for anyone with income to support the arts…..This pandemic will likely play out like every other pandemic in history. 99% of those infected will recover.”
I play with a new interactive C-19 case tracker in the New York Times.. Seems out of date. Maybe updated only weekly? Some encouraging flattening in WA.
The day unfolds pretty nicely and when the sun beams through I go out to walk the docks -straight out to the end of all of them: The Maritime Center pier, City Pier, Union Wharf, and the Ferry dock. The Point Hudson South Jetty is closed. At low tide you can climb right into its derilictness, over snapped cables, rolling rocks and listing wooden pylons.
The last thing I read is this As Governors Plead for Tests, Trump Promises Ventilators to Europe. Maryland, Virginia and Arizona issued statewide stay-at-home orders, and the F.D.A. granted emergency approval for the use of two malaria drugs to treat some coronavirus patients. Will leave all that tomorrow.
March 31 – Our Beach
It crescents into a lighthouse that guides ships around Point Wilson. I love the way the waves force the stones on the beach into the holes of old growth drift logs lying high on the beach. Further on, a tiny museum of favorite stones. And two sure signs of spring: a barefoot wader and a garbage barge southbound from Alaska.
I walk carefully around the eel grass habitat of so many creatures.Giant acorn barnacles decked out int red and green seaweed face the waves. Are those heron tracks ? How do ebbing waves sculpt such fine patterns? And where are the worms that made those sand tubes?
What is certain is this: The zero tides will return in a fortnight and the beach will spread out to welcome all comers. Just when we are watching the curve of the surge.