Eye of the Storm (Plague, Day 134, July 14, 2020)

Since extreme social distancing and vigilant mask-wearing worked, COVID rates are down around here. Restaurants, doctors, malls and businesses have opened up. Because I’m concerned that things will get bad again in the fall, I’m frantically trying to get in all our routine doctor’s appointments and other mundane chores before things shut down again. Yesterday, we had three doctor’s appointments.

The first up was an orthopedist appointment for myself. It took three weeks to get this appointment. In the first week of our shutdown, I managed to tear a tendon in my right arm, when moving heaving frozen meat around the freezer. Such a lame injury. It was a meat injury. It was a COVID-related injury, because I’ve never had such a full freezer of meat before. Pathetic. I need physical therapy, so I have to schedule that appointment later this morning.

On Sunday, Ian began complaining about extreme pain in his right ear. I took him to the Urgent Care center. The doctor couldn’t fix it, but said that he could see a big ball of gunk in there. He told us to get an emergency ENT appointment for Monday.

In the parking lot for the ENT, we followed the new safety protocols — sit in the car, wait for the staff to come out with forms, and then stay out there until we get a call to come in. Masks, air purifiers, hand sanitizer. Doctor Lee finally got in front of Ian’s right ear with a strong light and tweezers; he pulled out three balls of black gunk.

Ian has a fungal infection in his ear, which was probably caused by extreme use of ear buds. For entire days, he is either using them to hear his teachers on virtual school, to play video games, or to listen music. Then he wears ear plugs when he sleeps, so he’s had objects of questionable cleanliness in his ears 24/7 since March. Another COVID injury. Antibiotics for his ears and new listening devices for the kid.

The schedule was packed for the rest of day. We had a routine neurologist tele-visit, where we tinkered with Ian’s medication again. Another contractor came to the house to give us a quote on fixing the floor in the common area, after the Great Poop Disaster. An editor and I went back and forth on the final revisions of an article. I spent two hours making a huge pot of chili that will hopefully last for two dinners.

I am reaching burn-out levels of exhaustion. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the list of chores swimming through my mind. Wide awake, I began checking out floor tile at Home Depot at 3:00 am. I need to make some changes around here.

But we also need to prepare. And not just by getting mundane chores done, before things close again. What happens if the economy tanks this fall?

I’ve been talking with a lot of contractors this past month. In addition to the repairs on the ground floor, I was getting quotes on new siding for the house.

Contractors tell me that they’ve never been so busy before. I can’t get them to return my phone calls, because they’re making serious cash redoing the mansions. The stock market is still strong. And other people are spending big bucks on home repairs.

However, I don’t know how long this will last. Steve is worried. What happens when the stimulus money ends? What happens if schools don’t open? We might need liquid cash. So, even though parts of our house are falling off, we’re going to put off the major repairs on the exterior until the spring.

But I know that I have to pace myself. I need work-COVID-home life balance. So, I’m building in some me-time into the afternoon. With music blasting on my rubbing alcohol-dowsed ear buds, I will do some laps around the town duck pond this afternoon.

19 thoughts on “Eye of the Storm (Plague, Day 134, July 14, 2020)

  1. “Since extreme social distancing and vigilant mask-wearing worked, COVID rates are down around here. Restaurants, doctors, malls and businesses have opened up. Because I’m concerned that things will get bad again in the fall,”

    –Were the big mass protests “social distancing”?
    –I think it’s reasonable to think that seasonality has something to do with it, so add that to the list of reasons for lower current COVID rates in NJ/NY.
    –Do you remember back in March when we were all talking about “flattening the curve” and looking at graphs showing the flattened curve versus the steep curve? I know a bit less about NJ, but as various people have pointed out, Cuomo’s poster displays (and celebrates) the “bad” steep curve.


    –Some especially hard-hit neighborhoods and communities in NYC have discovered that up to 2/3 of residents or patients have already had COVID antibodies:



    In a sense, that “worked,” but let’s not kid ourselves with regard to the mechanism involved.


    1. With respect to the protests, so far the data shows no sign that they caused an increase in spread. This may be for several reasons. Outdoor spread seems much less common. Based on personal observation protests in NYC also had higher rates of mask wearing than any other group I’ve seen. Significantly higher than the rate of mask wearing in parks for example. So as to whether mass protests were social distances, the evidence seems to be that yes, they were enough at least.


      1. What is the “data” to which you refer. It certainly isn’t nationwide COVID cases, which are up dramatically over the past month, i.e., since the demonstrations. Of course, a more granular analysis might refute the superficial conclusion that the demonstrations had anything to do with the subsequent increase. Do you have any citations for careful, disinterested analyses of that type?


      2. Same here in Denver. Even at the ongoing protests and vigils at the nearby ICE facility where the smaller number of attendees means people are 10 feet apart, mask wearing is consistently at or nearly 100%.


    2. I think this is the kind of question we don’t have completely clear answers to until much later, but all the analysis I’ve read aren’t seeing evidence supporting links to protests. So maybe we can be hopeful that masking and marching and being outside limits the risk of the large scale gatherings.


    3. As I keep saying, we had protests in Canada as well, in big cities, and with our numbers so much lower it’s likely they would have shown up. They did not. I personally believe this is related more to outdoors and a small amount of distancing than to mask compliance but who knows. I also believe (emphasis on belief) that it’s not an accident that a lot of spikes are happening in areas where air conditioning is almost as required in summer as heat is in the fall in a cold climate.

      We’ll find out here in the fall.


  2. This week has been particularly hard for me; I think it’s because I am finally coming to terms with the fact that our K-12 schools are likely going to be online again in the fall. I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to pull off any face to face learning safely. I’m so sad for these kids because we f*’ed it up so badly. This sadness is manifesting itself in burning rage for people who are idiots – which seems to be most of my FB feed. I can’t tell you how many pictures I am seeing of people (including those who seemed to be pretty good during the full quarantine) who are going out with, hugging, etc. all sorts of other people they are not living with or related to. It’s maddening.


    1. Emily Oster tweeted “I’m demoralized about schools. . . . I’m struggling to see a way for many places to safely open.” Her tweet is a turning point for me, since she’s been a strong advocate of reasonable risk assessment.

      Still think there’s potential in the Northeast, if the (relative) control on the virus continues, but LA and San Diego and Atlanta announced plans to be remote. And, California shut down restaurants, theaters, and other indoor venues.


    2. I also find myself experiencing head exploding rage (in addition to sadness). But my rage is against the machine, not against particular individuals (maybe because my personal network is careful so I don’t see much in the way of egregious behavior, only potentially choices not mine.


  3. If Trump loses, I’m assuming a lame duck administration that’s openly talked about how much it hates a large part of America isn’t going to do the kinds of economic aid needed between November and January just to spite the next president.


    1. It is way down my list of grievances against Republicans, but the habit of running up huge debts during booms and blocking borrowing during a crisis is just horrible.


  4. OK, so not only have you traumatized me with the Great Poop Disaster, but now I am learning about massive balls of black ear fungus?

    (PS: Don’t stop posting about it. I kind of revel in the grossed-out feeling.)


  5. Sometimes it feels like all the plagues. I hope Ian gets some cool headphones. Kiddo recently got himself some Beats with birthday money.


    1. I have a USB headset for work calls that has the old fashioned foam headphones (like the old Walkman) and I’ve found that it’s really nice for listening to audio on my laptop (podcasts, Netflix). It’s nice to not have something stuck in my ears and the sound feels warmer.


  6. Ian wants something that won’t totally block out outside noise. He wants to listen to music, but also hear me, for example, when I call up the stairs to tell him that’s it dinner-time. I have no idea why this is important to him, but it is. Those old fashioned foam headphones might work the best. Thanks. I had no idea that they still made them.


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