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.

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