Little World, Larger World (Plague, Day 55, April 28, 2020)

This morning, I wandered down to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Without the pressure to get Ian on his 7am school bus or to keep Steve company before his long commute into Manhattan, I was in the kitchen a full hour later than back in the old times.

I flipped on the news, noted the new death count on CNN, and then went for the morning walk to appreciate the first sunny day in a week and to listen to an episode of The Daily on the state of virus testing.

We had a tough weekend trying to help Ian get a handle of his OCD tics (if we say A, he says B in a really annoying way), and in the process made the situation worse. With the return of “school” and our new routines yesterday, he’s chilled out and tic-free. We’re thinking about adopting a kitten to help him manage stress better.

But Ian’s tics are the extent of the drama here. I’ve learned how to manage the massive food requirements of my family. (I made a truly awesome shepherds pie last night out of leftover mashed potatoes, leftover sausage and ham, cabbage, carrots, and peas.) We’ve learned how to shop, organize, and clean during our Friday trip to the supermarket. We’re venturing out for long driving trips on the weekend. College and jobs are chugging along just fine, and even Ian’s school is slowly working out.

It is truly amazing how the day-to-day lives of the entire planet changed over night.

It’s tempting to zip myself into the lovely tent of family harmony. Things are fine here, so why come out? Why bother looking at CNN, where the only news is the latest dumb thing that our president said? Numbed by numbered, even the death count has lost its sting.

But things aren’t so great out there. The unemployment rates are Great Depression levels. We could start to see food shortages at the supermarket soon. Parents with young children and jobs are exhausted. Some children are learning on zoom classes; others are not. And, yes, some people are still getting sick and dying, and it’s not a great way to check out.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have safe, warm tents, it’s really hard to unzip those canvas cocoons and check out the woods. Social distancing has lead to a certain kind of social and political isolation. How many people have stopped watching the news in the past couple of weeks?

If we had a different president, he could be helping us to see that big picture and build connections between the haves and the have-nots in this new world. He would be preparing us all for the sacrifices that will be necessary in the future.

Every evening, our president rambles on national television. It’s highly cringe-y watching him personally take credit for the old economy and blame everyone else for the virus, It would be nice if instead of making a “me, me, me” speech, he said something along the lines of “we, we, we.” It’s hard to imagine a worse president than the one we have right now.

17 thoughts on “Little World, Larger World (Plague, Day 55, April 28, 2020)

  1. Highly recommend adopting a cat. We did it a few weeks ago and it has helped all three of our children help manage stress and anxiety. I wouldn’t recommend adopting a kitten unless you are prepared to adopt two kittens. They are super high energy and need a friend to help them transition (many shelters around our area won’t let people adopt a single kitten unless there is already a cat in the house). We adopted an almost 4 year old cat. She is amazing, super cuddly, perfectly house trained and we didn’t need to endure training to not scratch furniture, etc. Also recommend girl cat…spraying is something to avoid.

    We are really lucky, we joke we actually adopted a ‘cat-dog’. She loves to play, brings us toys when she wants attention, and loves to cuddle and be brushed. The only way we know for sure she is a cat is that she answers to no name and feels more than free to ignore us when she is done, lol.


  2. “It would be nice if instead of making a “me, me, me” speech, he said something along the lines of “we, we, we.” It’s hard to imagine a worse president than the one we have right now.”

    Bill de Blasio? Ron Paul? Gov. Kemp? The Swedish Prime Minister? Everybody who thinks we already all have had COVID-19 and that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx should be fired?

    Things can always be worse and Trump could be way, way worse than he is–just as he could be way, way better than he is.


  3. Trump is honestly truly terrible and saying someone else might be more terrible (which is not worth arguing about) is not useful. He has undermined the scientific talent of the US that used to be the best. That is my personal horror and I wrote about how much more anxious I am because I see the CDC being suborned to Trump’s personal political purposes (which are entirely egotistical). I spent years sending people links to the CDC to explain my views on vaccines, flu, lice, . . . .

    I was at NIH when Fauci was working on the AIDS (which was also a difficult scientific problem). I remember thinking that nothing was going to be done and thinking that everyone who caught aids would die. I saw people change career paths to help, and I am still amazed at the miracle they devised, where AIDS is not a death sentence. That’s what I expect from America,


  4. The New Yorker had an article about Seattle’s response (Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not, It’s probably overly sympathetic to Seattle (in part to act as a foil against De Blasio & New York), but it does reflect my personal feeling that Seattle, the political leaders, the scientists, the health officials, and the business people have worked together.

    In one interaction, the article describes an interaction that includes, in a chain, the infectious disease specialist at EvergreenHealth (where the first COVID deaths occurred), the Seattle Flu Study, the public health physician for Seattle, the King County Executive, and the president of Microsoft. After hearing from the scientists and physicians, the King County Executive, Dow Constantine, calls the President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, on March 4th, and asks Microsoft if they can send their workers home. Microsoft is well set up to do it, and they say yes, and send their workers home. Brad smith is quoted, “King County has a strong reputation for excellent public-health experts, and the worst thing we could have done is substitute our judgment for the expertise of people who have devoted their lives to serving the public.”

    (The article is good — describes some of what people trained in the “Epidemic Intelligence Service” are taught about how to learn, investigate, and communicate in an infectious disease outbreak and how those principles were deployed in Seattle).


    1. bj said, “but it does reflect my personal feeling that Seattle, the political leaders, the scientists, the health officials, and the business people have worked together.”

      Beyond that, Seattle has a lot of structural advantages. It’s a smaller, less dense, less social area, with less transit, (I’m guessing) shorter transit commute distances, less poverty and a number of major tech employers who are work-from-home friendly. There are a lot fewer players in the Seattle area than in greater NYC–for one thing, greater NYC covers multiple states (and what sounds like a pretty dysfunctional governor-mayor rivalry), whereas greater Seattle is in just one state.

      On the one hand, I think that a lot of intra-regional comparisons are premature and unfair, but on the other hand, NYC’s last minute school closures and continuing dependence on a disgusting plague tube for transportation really were that bad.


      1. Oh yeah–the Pacific NW is a higher trust culture than NYC. That’s another structural advantage.


  5. Glad you are finding some structures and solutions for Ian and the rest of you are coping well (and, hopefully feeling a sense of accomplishment about those things that are getting done successfully).

    We are also in a comfortable tent, with a tent made more comfortable by a great degree of trust in the people making our local decisions.


  6. It’s hard to imagine a worse president than the one we have right now.

    I can imagine a worse president. Namely, every single person who is even thinking of voting for Trump right now clearly has worse judgement, more questionable temperament, and less civic virtue then even Trump does and would be an even worse choice for president.

    Trump is a malign force of nature. He is what he is. We all knew what he is and that he would completely fail the sort of test of leadership that we have now but, for whatever reason, an inconveniently situated minority of people inflicted him on us anyway. But that’s done. You can’t really blame Trump for wrecking things any more than you can blame the tornado that blows down your house. But his bleach drinking idiot supporters? What excuse do they have?


  7. Kittens are fun. Be prepared for it to get everywhere, counters, top of fridge, into cupboards and to bat stuff into the floor. Do not leave any food on the counter unattended. It will be the cat’s food. It’s still worth having a cat.

    My cat hangs out on top of the kitchen cupboards; sometimes jumping down to the counter to see what I’m making. (I didn’t need to buy disinfectant wipes at the start of COVID – I always have them). He opens bi-fold closet doors and can even open the bathroom door (round knob) when he really wants to, he also regularly destroys ear buds, and routinely terrorizes the dogs (cat is 11lbs, dogs are 70lbs and 85 lbs). Still worth it.


  8. “He opens bi-fold closet doors and can even open the bathroom door (round knob) when he really wants to”


    Someone started a cat thread on twitter, to counter the “cats are elite” themes in the Cat v Dog twitter and it was lovely, lots of “meet cute” stories of how a cat and their human companion found each other.


  9. Texas is opening up restaurants, malls, retail, theater, and churches, relying on 6 foot distances as a solution. Not hairdressers though — I’m guessing because there can’t be 6 foot distancing. I’m eager to see how it goes. We’ll get cell phone data on whether movement swings up in the states that are taking this route. I hope they are also keeping track of COVID & deaths.


    1. I wouldn’t be willing to do any of those things because I am concerned about airborne/droplet hazard.

      I am also deeply concerned of people having to work in unsafe workplaces (where neither physical distancing nor protective gear is provided).


    2. It looks like our local government is letting the TX state government take the wheel in terms of setting reopening rules.

      I’m looking at this:

      “First to open Friday: retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls. But they will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity. Museums and libraries will also be allowed to open at 25% capacity, but hands-on exhibits must remain closed.”

      So, no little kid stuff…

      “Abbott said a second phase of business reopenings could come as soon as May 18 — as long as the state sees “two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19.” That second phase would allow businesses to expand their occupancy to 50%, according to the governor.”

      It’s going to be tricky to calibrate 25%.


      1. More on TX reopening:

        “A Texas Restaurant Association survey of about 400 establishments indicated that about 43% intend to open, 47% don’t and the rest are unsure.”

        “Abbott’s order allows restaurants to seat up to 25% of their total listed occupancy. The cap does not apply to the staff, his office said. In counties with five or fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 that submit a form to the state verifying that status, restaurants can open up to 50% capacity.”

        “The governor’s office said the caps on occupancy are mandatory. Other minimum health standards outlined in the governor’s plan — such as keeping parties six feet apart, maintaining a hand sanitizing station at the door and using disposable menus — are “strong recommendations,” according to his office. Abbott’s plan does not require the use of face masks but recommends them.”

        There are concerns that restaurants cannot function economically with a 25% occupancy cap, so it’s not worthwhile to open.

        “The poll by the Texas Restaurant Association found about 20% of restaurants that don’t open up this Friday said they would reopen at 50% occupancy on May 18 if allowed.”


      2. There are venue-specific guidelines here:

        I’m not reading everything, but the PDF on reopening TX houses of worship is 3 pages long. Some notes:

        –encourage at-risk to watch remotely
        –have special at-risk seating or services
        –every other row of pews needs to be kept totally empty
        –members of the same household may sit together with six feet of separation between different household groups
        –two people from different households may sit together with six feet of separation from other groups
        –health guidelines for employees and volunteers
        –recommendation of face coverings
        –clean seats between services
        –have hand sanitizer available
        –provide individually packaged meals if meals are provided

        Just the alternate pew guideline alone is a lot of distancing–and it’s very easy to see if it’s being done.

        I don’t know how much of the guidelines will be followed in practice, but if a church did everything on the list, it would make a big difference.


  10. I tried using a wide double stick tape to keep the cat off the counters when he was a kitten. It didn’t seem to bother him. But, he once sat on it in the middle of the night and couldn’t get up. His yowling woke me. After I peeled him off the counter, I set him on the floor. And he promptly jumped back onto the counter.


  11. Husband and 9th grader went to Enchanted Rock (a major TX state park) yesterday. They had to get a reservation before going. About half of the people on the trail were wearing masks. Husband said that they only had trouble with social distancing in an area near a cave. A playground was roped off.

    Initially during reopening, TX state parks were requiring masks and capping group sizes at 5. It looks like masks are now just recommended and they’ve eased the group size cap for families and single households. You’re supposed to do six foot distancing in the park.


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