V Breaking Out of Outbreaks


As of today, Washington State has entered Phase 1 of The Opening. Jefferson County is one of 10 counties identified by Gov Inslee as ready to apply for a variance to enter Phase 2. Here we’ve had no new infections for 26 days! There’ve been 28 infections overall in the County and everyone has recovered without hospitalization despite some tough patches that health officials monitored carefully.

But here’s the rub. Of these ten rural, low-population counties, Jefferson alone is adjacent to the Puget Sound metropolis. Dr Locke, our beloved Public Health Officer, could authorize a the opening of hair salons in Phase 2. Most likely, he won’t because without fairly draconian enforcement, out local hair salons will be overrun by people from the city. So now the tension between economic and health risks is now a local issue.

May 5 – “Safe Start”

Gov. Inslee has extended Stay Home, Stay Safe through the end of the month while adding Safe Start, a phased approach to opening up the economy.  We’re  in Phase 1 now, but only a bit into it, with just a few things. Construction projects already underway. Fishing, hunting, golf, hiking with distancing, boating with your household and “drive in spiritual services.”  How lucky we are to have a drive in!

Decisions regarding the shape of the Phase 2 variance are difficult. A combined meeting of the County Board of Health and City Council went way over two hours. How do you stop all of Seattle coming over for their haircuts?

May 6 – Never been more clueless.

There’s so much I don’t know. I’m cut off from most people who have lost their jobs and businesses in my own town. Plus the  global infodemic. I didn’t know until today that Bill Gates has been seriously targeted by the right wing, not only for predicting a pandemic  but also accused of developing and releasing COVID-19 so he could profit from developing and releasing a vaccine to combat it.

People have lost their minds.

May 7 –  Wastewater-based Epidemiology

I’m fascinated and obsessed by his time-tested, anonymous tool to measure what’s in the bodies of the entire population whose toilet flushes gather at a given water water treatment plant.  Last year it told Clallam County about their problem of opiate use. In 2012 or so Isreal used it to detect polio infection and to screen and vaccinate so there was not a single case of paralysis.

Now it’s being used to track COVID-19. I’ve been working on PHLUSH annotated bibliography, which is going on 5 pages.  This morning I had a question about it for Port Townsend’s City Manager. He’s new last year and started out with a monthly 90 minute session in a different coffee shop every time. Now every Thursday he’s on on the radio for KPTZ’s Brewocracy: Coffee with John Mauro.  So I sent this to the show’s host.

Is the city considering use of wastewater-based epidemiology?  
There’s evidence it’s a quicker and better indicator than testing+tracing for “opening up.”  Oregon’s Clean Water Services is applying it locally at the neighborhood level, even for a retirement home.

I don’t know whether he’d heard of it but he was grateful to get a question that he could pass right on to the Director of Public Works.

May 8 – Motherhood Day

Selena made me a mother 42 years ago. I want to talk to her about her daughter hood. I wasn’t very attentive during her teen years. I’d love to hear from her about what worked and what didn’t during that period of “benign neglect”, exacerbated byJack’s crash when she was 15.  For me it worked but maybe not for her. Just don’t know.

May 9 – BioBlitz at Fort Worden

Today a whole new global community opened up to me. iNaturalist.  At the invitation of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, I downloaded the app on my phone and joined online.  I am hopeless at identification and now I have people to help me.

The highlight of the day was wandering over to the beach beyond the light house and encountering a number of Korean families gathering seaweed on a -2 ft tide.  The lady in the white hat gave me a quick lesson and several fronds to dry.  Wow!


I ended the day with a nice chat with Betsy Carlson, who leads Citizen Science at PTMSC.  She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti and then worked all over the world as a Peace Corps staffer in Environmental Education, even spending 6 years in Madagascar.  She must have mastered some weird varieties of French.

May 10 – A new infection

PDN reports a new infection in Jefferson County after four weeks without one and everyone else recovered.  A woman in her 90s. Community contagion. First COVID19 hospitalization.

The New York Times has a new interactive showing best and worst scenarios for vaccine availability.  Best case is August 2021 and highly unlikely because a whole bunch of unlikely happening would have to happen.

Worst case is 2036, when I’d be that woman in her nineties.

I’m not afraid of death but dying alone on a vent is the pits! I want one of those romantic 19th century tuberculosis deaths. I wonder if Death with Dignity regs will ease up.

A good day for such thoughts with full sun, a fresh $7 license from Washington Fish and Wildlife in my pocket and time for a bike ride out to the Fort to collect my first ten pounds of sea weed. Winged Kelp alaria marginata. A deeply satisfying experience. And unlike mushroom hunting, there are no seaweeds that are poisonous. When knew the top three collection areas in Washington are all within a short bike ride.  Fort Worden, Fort Flagler and someplace on Whidbey, I believe Fort Casey.

May 11 – My last newsletter

I get up to enjoy the sunrise and to put together my final newsletter for Local 20/20, pushing the work up against the deadline to avoid dithering and wasting time.  When I finally get the items written and laid out, it’s after 8 am with less than an hour before I have to hit send.  I’d hopeded to write a para to introduce the new editor and the committee, but opt to write a quick history of quarantines on the Olympic Peninsula. Lead photo is mine of a rainbow Point Hudson, built as a quarantine station in the mid-1930s.  I pull off the research and a short write up in 45 minutes. Quotes from the 19th and 20th centuries plus an early sepia- toned postcard  move the story quickly along.  It feels good to hit send and land it in mailboxes of 1200 subscribers in time for them to catch Dr. Locke’s calming COVID-19 updates.

It occurs to me that Maritime History must be full of quarantine stories, just as religion is replete with 40-day practices. Could be fun to explore.

I actually watched a whole movie tonight. My Mother Was Here filmed right here in Jefferson County and a Meaningful Movies selection. Very interesting. Of the 14 people gathered I knew Patrick from NAMI, Doris, and who else should be there but Susan Larson, a fellow board member at Northwest Documentary!

May 12 – Smart women, action-oriented activists

By mid morning, I’ve cleared the troubling clutter of Tuesday morning mail, which has left me feeling fragmented. So I join the Beyond Waste monthly meeting and for the company of four smart women – Laura, Lisa, Janet and the other Carol.  Their deep dive into recycling and composting technologies and the related policy issues continues. I say nothing, just soak it up.  Something homey about hanging out in one another’s kitchens and bedrooms. We glimpse Willy in the background and give a heart shout out to Janet and him for their work planting all those garry oak trees on Marrowstone Island. Garry Oak is Washington’s only native oak, documented on the isthmus between Indian and Marrowstone Islands by George Vancouver. Janet and Willy propagated the saplings from acorns and have another batch in pots at home.  Great article in The Leader.  And here’s info on how to raise oak trees.

While the Public Health Commission has yet to submit their recommendations for passage to Phase 2 “opening up” to the state, there’s quite a bit of reluctance.  When you see multi generational families from Seattle showing up or an out of state license, you take notice.

On my afternoon walk, I see this one.  Excuse me? While I Breathe, I Hope?  What does that mean, South Carolina? We know you’re sort of weird when it comes to science. Is this some secular rendition of prayer will save us?  As long as I am breathing, everything is okay?

Oh, okay. Thanks Wikipedia. I’m weak when it comes to the writings of Theocritus and Cicero. Dum spiro, spero sounds much better in Latin. I like that it’s the name of a Japanese metal band.  But come on, South Carolina. Don’t you have any Wikipedians who can improve this  article?

May 13 – The flush in the middle of a Supreme Court argument

Even the Supreme Court is sequestered at home and it seems that a toilet flush overlaid one of the arguments today. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is hanging on. Bless her.

May 14 – The new syndrome killing kids

A severe form of an inflammatory infection similar to Kawasaki disease has reared its ugly head.  Cases have been documented in Italy, Spain, Britain, France,  Switzerland, Belgium, New York, Louisiana, Mississippi and California. Maybe a hundred odd cases but with a  high death toll.  Just when people thought kids were at relatively low risk of COVID-19 infection, this complication is killing them.  Pediatricians are now watching carefully.  According to the New York TimesWhile Kawasaki disease can produce coronary aneurysms when left untreated, the new syndrome seems to mostly involve inflammation of coronary arteries and other blood vessels.

And though shock is a rare complication of Kawasaki disease, the new syndrome has sent many of the children into a kind of toxic shock with very low blood pressure and an inability of the blood to effectively circulate oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs

May 15 – Superb NAMI Workshop

Brian Richardson, the Director of the new Recovery Cafe, has teamed up with NAMI and sends out an invitation to a workshop on Mental Health Basics.Brian is a young  AmeriCorps Volunteer whose leadership skills impress me, so I email back to sign up.  It turns out to be an extraordinary session led by Val James, the singer whose holiday shows at the Cellar Door always enchant us, and Patrick, who led the interview with the filmmaker on Monday night. How cool to have regular citizens leading a science based workshop and contributing their own illnesses or those in their families. It’s smooth and professional and several times the leaders turn to Brian for the latest on specific terminologies and treatments.

May 16 – Why Are Women-Led Nations Doing Better With Covid-19?

Why?  Well, it seems that the presence of a female leader may be a signal that a country has more inclusive political institutions and values. Diversity, varied information sources, use of outside experts, care not to fall into group think. Unfortunately this gender difference does not show up in US states where political partisanship seems to overwhelm any differences. 

Jacinta Ardern has mastered the way to encourage compliance without causing alarm. The local down goes into effect on March 25. She puts her daughter to bed and then goes on Facebook live to have a nice chat with her fellow New Zealanders.   This becomes a regular feature of her modus operandi. Questions, comments and love flow in on the chat.  And while they aren’t elected leaders, similar approaches explain the success of Canada’s Teresa Tam and Bonnie Henry.

May 17 – Dems wear masks, Republicans don’t?

Well, all it takes is a Bad Boy President who rejects the recommendations of his public health officials.  What’s happened this week in the US, has set off hocking news of retail clerks and bus drivers being attacked for enforcing their firms mask protocols. The list of incidents is long.

This terrifying situation seems to make the case for enforcement of mask wearing at the city or county level.

May 18 – The Wall Street Journal calls!

I’m dutifully working on the COVID-19 annotated resource lists for PHLUSH, when I see a request flash into the upper right hand corner of my screen.  It from Harriet Torry, economics reporter at The Wall Street Journal who is “working on an article about how the widespread closures of public toilets due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a potential factor holding up efforts to reopen the economy.”  She wonders if anyone from PHLUSH can talk to her.  I reply immediately and we have a wide ranging  45 minute chat.  I follow up with links right on my desktop and get a nice thank you.  Let’s hope something comes of it.

May 19 – The energy of the working waterfront

I decide to work on the boat putting together a proposal for the handwashing project.  The energy around me does the trick. I pedal home at 6 pm, proud of concentration and productivity.

May 20 – Coronavirus is always with us

In many ways I could not be happier. I figured this would be a long haul and that opening up may make life for us a bit more difficult. The local governments have taken hundreds of public comments and are slowly deciding which part of the variance for the move to Phase 2 to embrace. There will be places to go and things to do. And it’s advisable that we continue to limit our exposure. The CDC reports today that people over 65 account for 8 in 10 deaths from COVID-19. And horrible deaths they are, unless people opt right away for palliative care.

Interesting and tragic situation in Singapore, where there are a total of 28,794 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. Thanks to the usual harsh measures to enforce compliance.  Now the daily toll of new cases is now down to 451 but 450 of them are migrant workers who are confined to crowded dormitories where the illness is raging. A resident American journalist explains:

Singapore is now, more than ever, divided into two cities, two populations: the foreign workers in dormitories, and the rest of us.

This sort of arrangement can be justified ethically only with a geographic bifurcation: The worker is earning money he could never dream of back home. We are not supposed to think about his life here; we are supposed to think about his life there. The cheerful certainty of money flowing into that other life makes all of this degradation excusable, even beneficial. But that’s a thought exercise. The virus works in flesh and blood, and it has destroyed the fantasy of a disconnected labor pool.

May 21 – Delays blamed for 36,000 of nearly 100,000 US. deaths

If interventions had come just a little sooner, lives could have been saved.  There’s evidence that the exponential growth of the disease in the nation’s large cities in April could have been reined in had authorities acted more quickly, says the New York Times:  New  Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show.

May 22 – Bummers

An hour before the first of four back to back online meetings, I got some questions from the grants committee and quickly penned the answers, feeling very sure of myself.  Then mid afternoon came the news.  No project.  Public health folks on the committee freaked out. Whaaaaaa?  Yep, about grey water disposal. Oh shit. This would not have happened in Oregon.

By evening I’m charged again. There is so much work to be done tracking current practice and developing guidelines for reopening restrooms.

May 23 – PHLUSH meeting

Up early as has been the case all week.  I’m still finishing my report to the Board, when they start jumping on and commenting. My references to the new website broken SEO gets attention in the meeting. We have lost tens of thousands of dollars in media just because reporters no longer know how to find us.  As soon as the meeting is over, Jack and I head for the Market. I tell Amanda I can help with restroom disinfection at the Community Center that she’s been doing by herself. That is if we’re not cruising: I promise to let her know if I can’t. Probably not the safest job but I want to see what it is like.

I download The Birds Way, which Jack has just finished. It’s wonderful. Keeps me puttering in the garden planting the starts for romaine, bib lettuce, and two more kinds of chard from Midori Farms.  And when the sun shifts to the front of the house I work on the weeds growing between the flagstones of the front walk.

May 24 – Long weekend day off

I am out of sorts. So I do the laundry. Then download Rodham, which Jack is also reading and lie down to listen. And I catch up on on this diary, transferring notes from the text doc on my desk top.  Lovely supper of chicken cutlets with panko and lemon and the divinely delicately purple and green salad from a new farm at yesterday’s market.


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