Corona-rama Diaries: Week 2

Friday, March 20: Trump Slump

The financial market “Trump Bump” is gone. The DJIA closed at 19,174 an implosion of 35% from its all-time high last month and erasing all the market gains since he took office. Yesterday I read that some economists expect a 12 percent decline Q2 (which would be the biggest quarterly contraction on record), yet today Goldman Sachs estimate a 24 percent drop in Q2. It’s becoming clear this will devastate the economy.

And even worse, the Trump Bump-on-a-Log is not gone. Yesterday he asked states not to report exact jobless claim figures since they are expected to be crushingly high. Goldman Sachs predicts unemployment filings to rise to 2.25 million next week. While the “Fake News” president tries to suppress the facts, no one will be able to hide from those if true.

Congress still is scrambling to cobble together a $1 trillion economic stabilization package. Already the federal aid is well over $2 trillion. By comparison, Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package was $787 billion ($948 billion in today’s dollars). Not a single Republican in the House voted for it and only three in the Senate. That’s not Fake News.

And it was the Republican’s reckless stewardship that led to the Great Recession. The Recovery Act then was major catalyst for the fiscally conservative (and socially nutty) Tea Party movement and the retaking of the House in 2010 after winning 63 Republican seats, the largest mid-term loss of any party since 1938. The 2020 election is right around the corner and right now it’s anybody’s guess how that will turn out but I’d be sweating if I were a Republican.

We started the day with 10,000 confirmed cases in the United States, and at bedtime it’s well over 19,000. Nearly doubled in a day. Today more states issued “stay at home” orders (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois) which affects about 1 in 4 Americans.

Meanwhile on the home front (i.e. my apartment), we’re settling into the routines of confinement. I doing YouTube yoga almost daily and most lunch hours I get outside for either a run or bike ride, which is not only allowed but encouraged.

Today I rode around Mount Soledad on the Rose Canyon bike path, through UC San Diego campus (pretty vacant) and along the La Jolla coast. 18 miles at nearly 18 m.p.h. I worked up a good sweat, cleared my mind and relished the outdoors. And absolutely beautiful weather with sunshine dancing upon the wavy Pacific Ocean.

I was surprised to see so many cars out on the roads since most of the stores and offices are closed; I suspect many are just tired of being cooped up at home and need to go for a drive. And a good number of cyclists and runners, too. We’re Southern Californians so fitness is part of our DNA. Yet everyone seems to be taking social distancing seriously with wide berth as we pass on sidewalks and fairly empty beaches.

It’s alarming how different it is in Florida with reports of large beach gatherings and packed bars for Spring Break. Paul’s mom Liz says that life has been normal all week — the pool is full of kids on break, her friends are playing cards daily, and yesterday 30 went to a restaurant for a “Ladies Luncheon”. Paul has been trying to talk serious sense into her and stay home unless absolutely necessary (she’s 84). He did the math and estimates that 75 people in her park could die from this based on current trends.

I’ve been trying to get a good night’s sleep but lately I’ve been more restless as this continues to weigh mentally. We’re eating healthfully, with lots of home-cooked meals, vegetables and natural snack foods. I’m definitely eating better than before the virus (I’m doing a weekly weigh-in to see how my weight trends during the pandemic). Yet our large dinner salads may end soon as it’s getting riskier to go out and buy fresh produce.

Gallo pinto con huevo y picante… que sabrosura!

At work we finished our week with a virtual happy hour — four of us on a video conference, beers, and no office talk. A poor substitute to actually being together in a bar but a start. It’s good we did this, and we’ll need to make more efforts in coming weeks.

Continue reading “Corona-rama Diaries: Week 2”

Corona-rama Diaries: Week 1

Friday, March 13: Putting it all together before it all falls apart…

Toilet paper aisle at Vons, prelude to a coronavirus kiss…

Friday the 13th, a contrary start to this new chapter in my work and social life. Due to the COVID-19 virus (aka “foreign virus” per our germophobic xenophobic fat orange president, as if disease has a passport), all workers at my company are to work from home for the next six weeks. As I end the day, the current global tally stands at 145,267 confirmed cases with, sadly, 5413 deaths (over half in China). The US currently stands at 2084 infected and 47 deaths. Curiously, the site reports 696 cases in the region of “Cruise Ship” which holds an impressive 16th place among most infected countries.

Paul and I did our stockpile shopping at local supermarkets, it was super busy. Checkout lines down the aisles. Most of the expected items sold out (pasta, toilet paper, frozen vegetables). Even Sprouts was completely out of bulk goods (beans, rice). But we managed to get most of what we think we need to survive 3 weeks.

We’re expecting an eventual lockdown: no leaving the house except for medical or food purposes (provided there are provisions in the markets). It’s already happening in Europe. We have a friend in Madrid; he reports you can’t go out except for food and there’s none in the stores anyway, and if you do the fine is €600,000. It’s a bit crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. Not sure what to expect here. San Diego has 8 cases – all confirmed today. But they’ve only tested 145 people so far. I fear it’s going to get far worse…

It’s not the virus so much I fear – most healthy people experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms and most casualties are the elderly and those with underlying conditions. There’s still a lot to learn about this virus, it’s clearly highly contagious and can live in the air for several minutes and on surfaces for three days. It’s not yet known if it fares worse in warmer climates (spring is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere) – but reports from Singapore and Australia are not encouraging. There is also some question whether it can reinfect, apparently some recovered patients in China have fallen ill again. All this will be known in time, of course.

But the social upheaval is enormous: stock market down 28% and yesterday the DJIA fell 2,352 points (nearly 10%) , the biggest one-day drop since Black Monday in 1987. All major events are cancelled (the NBA, Coachella, SXSW, Broadway…). Flights to/from Europe are stopped, cruise lines are cancelled for 60 days, mainline airline carriers in the USA are reducing domestic capacity by 40% – almost half! Yet Trump blames Obama for some vague “rule change” which his own administration and Republican congressional leaders can’t clarify – while his own administration eliminated the Pandemic Response Team charged with dealing with such a crisis that we now face. Today the pandemic was declared a national emergency. Yet Melania tweets the unveiling of the White House tennis pavilion. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

So last night in the rain (another oddity: southern California is in the middle of a 10-day rainy period – yes, 10 DAYS), I schlepped my two laptop monitors and docking station from the car to my apartment. Paul was still sleeping at 8:30 AM, which I think we need to address since my work day starts at 8:00 AM and I work from the bedroom (not many choices in a 749 ft2, 2-room apartment). But Paul eventually awoke, I brought him his tea, and promptly I set up work station. Our small desk doesn’t fit the larger monitor well and I spent the day trying to adjust the closeness. It’s not quite working out as comfortably as I expected.

Continue reading “Corona-rama Diaries: Week 1”