Mask Up

Sharing a story. Yeah, anecdotal, about a bus driver, a coughing passenger, and a COVID-19 death. The bus driver is the death in this tale. He was fifty years old.

Wear masks, people. Wear masks. They can save you. I was out yesterday, had to make a supply run. While I was masked and gloved and practiced social distancing. We’d ordered online, and the purchases were delivered to the car’s trunk. While sitting there, I watched the scene. First, I was dismayed by how many were out, looking as if it’s business as usual. Social distancing? What’s that? Counted twenty-seven people as I sat there, awaiting my delivery. Counted five with masks. One with gloves and masks.

When a twentyish employee brought the order out, she wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves. Her arms were bare. I cringed with speculation about her condition.

Oregon — my state (yes, I bought it a number of years ago, so it’s my state — still have the warranty) has over eight hundred cases. Jackson County, where my experience took place, has almost thirty.

First case in Oregon was announced Feb. 29. My wife and I took measures after the possibility of the first case emerged in our area, March 14. Since then, more evidence of the value of masks has emerged as data has rolled in, showing how poorly people are responding to social distancing. My county got a C. I could see why when I was on my supply run yesterday.

Lot of folks were out. Not as heavy as a normal day, no. But less people would’ve been out if Oregon U. were playing a football game.

Yes, I know, some are essential. Thank you to all of them. To the rest, think about why you’re out. Sometimes, we have a need. But if you’re out, take precautions, for your sake, my sake, all of our sake.

The groceries are in the car’s trunk (boot, if you need a translation). There’s nothing perishable. They’ll stay in the trunk for three days. After that, I’ll fetch and clean them, and clean the car. We bought them for the long term, deciding to stock up now rather than waiting for when there are more cases in our area.

Changed clothes in the garage when I returned home, too. Yeah, given all the vectors possible for transmitting something to us (my wife and me), we’ll probably contract it, if we haven’t already. We’re trying to buy time for the world to come up with the resources and vaccines to combat this thing. We’re also trying to keep from spreading the thing.

Hope you’re all doing well at there. Take care. Wear masks. That is all.

FIFO

We’ve begun our third week of isolation. Our state, Oregon, has done well on containment. As of today, we stand at 538 confirmed cases and 8 fatalities. No fatalities have been reported in my city, Ashland. Nineteen cases are reported for Ashland. Our city hospital been set up as a COVID-19 county treatment center for mild to moderate cases.

The first two weeks of being sequestered at home, we cleaned, inventorying supplies on hand and reviewing recipe and meal ideas.

(Okay, when I say, ‘we’, I’m using the couple we. My wife has done 99.9% of this. My input has been almost negligible.)

My wife suggested first in, first out eating practices. The oldest stuff should be consumed first, if we agree it seems edible.

I countered: we want to use our fresh produce so that it doesn’t go to waste.

A compromise was agreed: FIFO would be employed one day, and a fresh meal the next. Whenever we do a FIFO meal, we’d add fresh produce, if it made sense. Smoothies would be consumed each day.

It’s been going well. We were well-supplied with staples. My partner baked. A can of old pumpkin was sacrificed (along with old cream cheese and an extra sweet potato) to make a pumpkin roll and pumpkin muffins. A quarter was consumed; the rest were frozen for future eating.

She slices and freezes bananas that become overly ripe (they’re used in smoothies). But when we’d had a large supply of them established, she made us banana-pecan muffins. Again, a few were consumed, but most were frozen.

Vegan split-pea soup followed, then roasted vegetable soup. Each lasted us several days.

Along the way, we’d been eating salads, which is our long-established habit. As COVID-19 practices and projections took shape, we began thinking in longer terms. While grocery stores have taken precautions and special hours set aside for people like us (over sixty years old), they also report supply chain issues. My wife has RA and is considered vulnerable. She didn’t want us going out if we could avoid it. But more supplies were needed.

Enter Instacart.

I created an Instacart account and explored it. Instacart supports four chains in our area: Safeway, Albertson’s, Fred Meyers, and Costco.

Costco! That’s our go-to place.

First I logged into Costo.com to check supplies. Out. Out. Out. Out.

I figured that resupplies would eventually arrive. I made it a daily practice to check. Finally, on Friday, bingo, several items that we wanted were now available. We also wanted fresh produce, for example, romaine, blueberries, bananas, celery, potatoes. Ah, that was available, but only if we shifted the order to Instacart.

Prices were compared. One, shopping groceries online with Costco is more expensive than shopping at the warehouse. Kind of expected, and they weren’t gouging us. Two, prices with Instacart were just a little more. Three, you tip your Instacart shopper.

Okay. We discussed it. Seeing that our supplies were going down, that cases in Ashland were going up, that the whole situation was unstable and uncertain, we put an Instacart order in last Friday.

The process itself was simple and well-organized. In fact, I consider it one of the better online shopping experiences that I’ve gone through. I was never confused about what was happening. They would tell us immediately if an item wasn’t available in our zip code. With some items, such as eggs, they warned us that they were in short supply, and brought up options. Cool.

Next were delivery instructions. Well, we didn’t want to break them directly into the house. We couldn’t leave them outside, either. I came up with an option: move one of the cars out of the garage and set up a table in there. When they were in route, we’d open the garage. They’d put the stuff in there.

The garage usually runs 48 – 52 degrees F at this time of year. We were only ordering one frozen item and a few refrigerated items. We’d put ice on those things and let everything stay out there overnight. Then, we’d clean it off and put it away.

Once the plan was established, we entered those instructions into our order and selected a delivery time. Delivery times were two hour windows on Saturday. They began at 2 PM. Well, we weren’t going anywhere… We selected two to four PM.

The order was received and processed within minutes. The system told us that we could change it, removing or adding things, until shopping was underway. After considering it overnight, we decided some of the stuff we’d ordered was too much, and removed them.

Next came our first ‘issue’, and it as small one. Our delivery window was moved to Sunday morning, 11 AM. Bummer. We were looking forward to it coming on Saturday. With little else to do, we were sort of focused on that happening. Oh, well, though.

Time passed. On a whim, I checked on the order.

Gadzooks! It was on the way. According to the email, it’d be arriving in about ten minutes.

Scramble, scramble, scramble! We were dressed, but had to follow up on our receiving plan. That done, a few minutes later, the delivery arrived.

Alicia P was our shopper and delivery person. She had an assistant with her (he was driving, citing the changing weather conditions as his reason for being). Everything went off without a hitch. Only one item didn’t make it: pasta. We have some pasta. I’ll do another order for Albertson’s via Instacart this week to see if that can be ordered.

Instacart recommended a five percent tip, which worked out to just under nine dollars. I upped it to fifteen. I figured Alicia P deserved it, and it was cheap at that. I acknowledge, yeah, we’re lucky. We have the financial wherewithal to do this, a Costco is in range, and people like Alicia P are willing to work for Instagram under these conditions. And, yes, part of my reason for pushing my wife to do an order on Friday night was that Instacart drivers were talking about striking on Monday, 3/30. The other reason was that stuff was at Costco, but how much longer would it be there?

So, we’re set again.

I slipped outside for a few minutes, taking out the recycle and getting the mail. We decided we’d pick up the mail every Sunday morning.

It was balmy and drizzly, a lovely day for a walk, except for the hidden killer that could be lurking in the air. Sadly, I returned to the house via the garage and followed sanitizing precautions.

Hope you’re all doing well out there in webland. Good luck, and stay well.

Cheers

Victory Is Coming

The birds were plentiful and noisy. Several noticed, “Hey, where are the humans?”

It seemed true, the birds agreed. They didn’t see as many humans as usual. Odd, up here in the northern latitudes, where winter was rolling over into spring. That’s when the humans usually became more active.

Word went from bird to bird, flock to flock, pecking for confirmation: were less humans out? Fewer cars, trucks, and motorcycles? Were all noticing this or was it a local anomaly?

“Yes.” Verification flew through the flocks. Except for a few pockets, less humans were present outdoors. The birds were winning the war. 

Orders were issued. “Increase your efforts. Be vigilant. Keep shitting on them, shit on every human you see. Our strategy s working. Victory is coming.”

Measures Learned

We’ve been in coro self-isolation for a week. Not really isolation, but coupling. (Yeah, it’s not as sexual as that sounds; we’ve been married over forty something years.) I’ve gone out for walks; my wife and I shopped together twice in that period (keeping six feet away from others, not touching our faces, wiping down the shopping cart handle, wearing gloves), replenishing products and adding new items as we map out a longer term strategy and sort what we have. Some small matters have been learned.

I struggle to write fiction at home. I’m married to my walking-coffee shop-writing process. Like an old married couple, I feel it when the other isn’t present. A vacuum ensues.

I need to bridge it, and I’m working on that. Interruptions are the issue (which I’ve always known): cats visiting, wanting attention (sure, just shut the door, right? Ha, ha!), and the spouse speaking to me to share news or ask questions. Besides that, I developed the WCW process, deliberately training myself to shift to the writing mode.

I’m muddling through, sorting energies and times, trying to make my writing side work. I’ve wondered, though, if the muses haven’t also gone into self-isolation.

Beyond the writing issues, things are working out well. Our place isn’t gigantic, but it’s big enough for a couple and four cats (three residents and a perpetual visitor) that we’re not always on top of one another. We also have the yard, and can escape to it.

In many ways, we’re enjoying ourselves. The coro has united us in focus and intentions, providing structure. We’re working on a jigsaw puzzle together (it’s a good one) and have fun with that. We were doing that before coro struck, though.

I reflect on how our isolation is different from other times. I’ve gone through typhoons, where we stocked up but had a general idea that it would last only a week. Tornadoes were shorter and much more intense. We prepared for earthquakes (we have a disaster kit for fleeing) and wildfires (have N95 masks on hand) (and wish we could donate them to the med professionals because of the mask shortage, but they’ve been in our home for at least a year). We went through several years of drought here where we cut water use, and stayed inside (or went out for limited periods, wearing a mask) because of wild fire smoke. We lived through water rationing on Okinawa, and gasoline rationing in America.

This period, in fact, reminds me of our early married years. I was a young, low-ranked enlisted person. With little money, we were on a strict budget. We never ate out and saved money for treats (HoHo’s could be purchased for one hundred pennies in those days). We didn’t have a television (or a telephone) in the first few months. VCRs (and DVDs, etc) and the net, with its streaming options, didn’t exist. It was just us (with one cat) in the house, entertaining one another with card games, eating simple, inexpensive meals, and reading books.

So, this situation is somewhat better, if you discount the threat of getting sick and dying. We have the net. We have a phone, and several televisions (yeah, way too many, but when you buy one, getting rid of the previous is difficult; I’ve given away many working televisions…but anyway), and streaming options.

And we have money! And an extra freezer! And rooms! And toilet paper! And coffee! (And some wine, beer, brandy, and a few other things.)

We’re damned fortunate to have these things. (Yeah, nice not being poor and having a decent cash cushion.) (Sorry, not gloating just stating facts.) We have the net to entertain us (like reading others’ posts) (and writing my own) and a multitude of news sources (and entertaining animal videos). I love the humor I can find on FB and in posts (like MyDangBlog and “Signs of the Apocalypse”.) People’s comments on my posts, especially about Floofinition and floof rock, divert and amuse me. I love that they address these matters with the same tongue-in-gravity that I apply to them, building on the ideas and adding new material.

Although, alas, there’s not much good stuff to stream right now. Going from source to source last night (Prime, with access to HBO, Showtime, STARZ, etc), Freeform, Hulu, Acorn, and Netflix), it struck me that most streaming services are just like the old cable system that we fled. Lots of old reruns and syndicated old television shows on, and not much new (that we we enjoy) (yeah, we’re picky).

We also have a phone, and email. Jokes fly on email. So does good info. We hear from our extroverted friends and relatives, trapped in their homes, looking for an outlet. My wife handles those calls, except for my family.

Not bad, so far. Yeah, it’s early days, innit it? Hunker down, children. Fingers crossed.

Cheers

 

 

The Big Board

I checked the coronavirus big board this morning. I used to check sports or the stock market. The former is on pause and the latter is a shitstorm that I’m avoiding until the age of coro is done.

The U.S. had reached number five last night, but Iran overtook them overnight. China’s flattened growth continues to give us hope.

South Korea provides more hope, though. They took swift action and held strong after a terrible start. Meanwhile, Japan has it together.

And Russia? Their numbers astonish.

Russia

Italy’s numbers are painful (and shocking and dismaying) to view, with reports of almost eight hundred more dead overnight. I feel them.

Italy

After that, I get more granular with the U.S, looking at the state and county shots. A friend put this one together.

The red continues taking over; no state is spared. West Virginia (who has a very vulnerable population) was last to report on a case. After reading about someone who sought testing (a grim comedy), I suspect that it existed there, but incompetence (or politics) (or fear) kept the numbers from showing up.

Here’s an excerpt of the grim comedy that Carolyn Vigil endured in WV to get her husband tested.

We went to the ER, and I left James in the car. He was really sick: his fever had been as high as 104°F; he had a cough, terrible headaches, body aches. He has asthma, which can lead to more serious disease. I had no symptoms at that point, but I was trying to keep my distance from people at the hospital, because I thought I could be a carrier. A staff member met me at the door. She was very kind, but she said, ‘I don’t think we’re equipped to do this.’ A nurse came out to the car with a sticky note and the number for a hotline—which I had already tried to call, only to find that the number didn’t work—and told me I had to leave and just call that number, or drive to Morgantown, two and a half hours away. I told her, ‘I’m going to remain calm, but I’m not leaving unless he is at least screened.’ The head nurse came out and saw James, and she could tell he was sick. James and I waited in the car until they took him to a room where they could do the exam without risking others in the hospital. Once he got back there, they were very compassionate. They gave him very good care.

They first tried to rule out all other respiratory illnesses. Those tests came back negative, so they decided to go ahead and do the COVID-19 test. But we had to wait until Tuesday to get the result back. Then Tuesday came and nobody contacted us. We called the ER. The ER told us to call the state health lab. The state health lab told James to call the county health department. The county health department said, ‘We have no record of you ever being tested.’ It was bizarre.

h/t to Time.com Check the whole story. Interesting read.

Beyond it all, we’re still waiting for large pieces of information regarding duration, or an unpleasant second wind from COVID-19, waiting to see if social distancing will successfully flatten the curve and buy us time for a vaccine and more resources. Meanwhile, practice safe living out there.

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

Patient 46

He cited Elon Musk. “Elon Musk thinks the threat from the coronavirus is overblown. He’s a smart guy, and I agree with him.” Nodding, his friends came in closer to hear him. “Musk said that you’re more likely to be killed in a car accident going home from work than from the corollavirus.”

He purposefully misspoke, mocking the term, making his friends snort and scoff. “Just like President Trump said, this is a hoax. Yeah, sure, there’s a disease out there, but it’s not that big a deal. It’s not even as bad as the swine flu. We survived it, and we’ll survive this, too.”

“Fuckin’ a,” “Damn straight,” and “Preach it brother,” friends replied as others nodded agreement and encouragement.

Patient 46 continued, “The media is exploiting the news and the gullible sheeple because they don’t like Trump. They want this virus to succeed. They want people to die. It’s just like Trish Regan said, it’s an impeachment scam. They couldn’t legally impeach Trump, so now they’re trying to do this. You know she was right, because they shut her up straightaway, took her right off the air. Why else would they do that, if she wasn’t right?”

The rest agreed. A newcomer arrived. Greetings were bellowed.

Patient 46 turned away. It felt hot as hell in the bar. Sweat peppered his forehead. He took another long swallow of cold Bud to drown his fever. Nausea swarmed him. He mopped his face with a sleeve and then wiped his palm across his face. “Damn, it’s hot in this place,” he said loudly, but the televisions and jukebox drowned his words.

A grinning friend leaned in close. “Hey, man, don’t you know that you’re not supposed to be touching your face?”

The two laughed and slapped their palms together in a high-five salute. Each then made a show of touching their faces. Then, shrieking with greater laughter, his friend said, “No one said that I can’t touch your face.”

“Right on, scratch my nose for me,” Patient 46 said. His friend obliged as the two snorted and giggled.

It was the last thing that Patient 46 remembered before he awoke alone in the hospital. Lit machines were beeping, sighing, and humming. Tubes snaked to and from his body.

Such bullshit, he thought, such bullshit, what an over-reaction. Closing his eyes, he fought to breathe. Someone poisoned him, he thought. Trying to shut him up and make an example out of him. Probably the CIA or FBI. They were arms of the shadow government that Obama and Killary were running. Everyone knew it.

He’d show them. He would survive this fucking assassination attempt, and then share his story as a precautionary tale about the measures the libtards would take to shut people like him up.

Patient 46 died a few days later. His story remained untold. His services were sparsely attended.

Everyone was too sick to attend, but all agreed, it was a damn shame that such a smart guy, a real man like him, should die in a hospital bed like that.

Yes, a damn shame.

Monday’s Theme Music

Read a WSJ/NBC poll results. Posted today, the poll was conducted during 11 – 13 March 2019. It was about the coronavirus. The surprising results weren’t about support for the POTUS (not much changed there). No, more surprising was that most polled, particularly Republicans, didn’t think COVID-19 would have a major impact on their lives.

The poll was conducted as the NBA was shuttering the season for a while. The POTUS mad a speech that Wednesday and the stock exchanges showed a brief rebound. Since then…well, the news speaks for itself about what’s been shut down. It’s easier to list what isn’t shut down or impacted by the coronavirus. I guess it isn’t a surprise, then, as the POTUS has previously denounced COVID-19 as a hoax, or overblown as fake news by the media. Fox News happily supported those points for a while.

I then read another commentary on Italy’s situation (over twenty-five thousand cases now, and twenty-one hundred deaths). Then came an article that the U.S. (with over four thousand cases today) is where Italy was two weeks ago.

Finally, I read about Patient 31. She’s a woman in South Korea who carried on life as usual, attending church, eating at a lunch buffet, and working through a fever, a carrier who didn’t go and get tested, a woman now identified with a spike in South Korea’s coronavirus cases, a woman now considered a super-carrier.

Then I thought back to all the Americans who plan to continue business as usual, just as Patient 31 did.

From that came an old Bob Seger melody, “American Storm” (1986). Seger’s song was about a different epidemic, the increasing use of cocaine. But all the warning signs were ignored, and it spread. Feels like another song, about another storm, is due.

 

Measures

The coronavirus is creeping into our area (Ashland, southern Oregon). A case was confirmed in the county a few days ago. Friends forwarded information to us early Friday morning. Medical professionals, they’re sharing stories from the hospitals.

“…saw 6 cases of bilateral pneumonia in folks 60-80. All had to be
admitted…have NEVER seen 6 cases in one shift.
Absolutely no way to test them for Covid-19. All negative for regular flu.
One woman 60 yr. on Methotrexate. Very sick. (Asante ER)”

Testing kits aren’t available. We’re over sixty years old. My wife suffers RA. She decided to self-isolate and skipped her exercise class at the Family Y. With the chain as it is, that requires me to self-isolate with her.

We’re people who generally stay stocked up on supplies. We have a freezer chest to support our approach, and a pantry. A case of bottled water is kept on hand. We don’t use bottled water; this is for emergencies.

Portions of our philosophy can be ascribed to our parents’ attitudes, but we also went through typhoons and lived in earthquake-prone areas, and now live in a wildfire area. We want to always be prepared. Besides those factors, I’m a guy that always thinks that you should never run out of staples. You know you use it, you see your use rate, buy more before it’s gone, if you have the means and it’s available. Just common sense to me.

An inventory was conducted. Have thirty-six rolls of toilet paper on hand. There are two of us. Don’t need more, thanks. Several boxes of tissues, and cough drops. Enough coffee for about six weeks (yeah, we’re Costco shoppers).

We have personal hygiene products, and no need for more. Cleaning supplies are aplenty. Cheese. Tortillas. Guacamole. Romaine lettuce, onion, carrots, and celery. We also have frozen pizzas with cauliflower crusts on hand from Costco. Frozen blueberries and mangoes. So far, so good.

Lots of pasta (could use some sauce), rice, soup, wine and beer (a few bottles of each), black beans, lentils, bread (several loaves frozen as reserves), peanut butter (three extra large jars on hand), potatoes, jelly, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cane sugar.

I ended up buying more fresh fruits and veggies (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, bananas, pears, spinach, grapes), doughnuts (comfort food) (just a small pack), more frozen fruits for smoothies (my wife makes them for us several times a week), cat food, and eggs. (Seems like we can never have enough cat food on hand.)

Entertainment shouldn’t be an issue. We have the ‘net, broadcast and streaming TV, books, and jigsaw puzzles. We also bought painting supplies for a new project, and have yard work to do.

I can go for walks for exercise, we agreed, as long as I don’t contact others and clean up when I arrive back home.

The stores weren’t bad. I was worried as the parking lot was full. Cars were parked anywhere that was possible. As a man finished putting everything in his car, I made a deal with him; I’ll take his cart back for him, since I required one, and I’ll take his parking space. Yeah, wiped down his cart handles.

Inside the store (local place, Shop n’ Kart) everything was well-stocked. Not many shoppers. I did my thing without issue. All check-out islands were open. A cashier was immediately available. She was using disinfectant on everything.

She told me that I’d just missed the rush. When she’d come into work for the eight AM shift, it’d been a madhouse. My timing was golden.

Back home, we settled down to read the news and talk about new developments.

Here we go, life in the time of COVID-19. Be safe out there.

 

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