#COVIDIOTS

Marking Time

Another day,… Which day is it now? They’ve all run together as in a blur.

Today, Friday (I knew which day it was.), is the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. The V-E stands for Victory in Europe, this is the day that the Nazis surrendered on, after six and a half years of fighting and suffering in Europe, during World War II. We however, after only about six and a half weeks are ready to throw in the towel, get up off of the couch and return to the life that we all once knew. Quarantine be damned! Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Joking aside and comparing our “sacrifice” to those of the Greatest Generation, is laughable.

Still, some people are unable to even to do so little. The wimpiness being exhibited by these people is pathetic and no joke. With cries of live free or die, clueless of the irony of that statement, some “very fine people”, read gun toting thugs, Nazi sympathizers and generally deplorable, run around waving their Confederate flags and call themselves patriots and think that they are brave.

Of course El Stupido, the agitator-in-chief, has egged on these people, simply because he believes that their actions will help his reelection chances. His advocating the reopening of the country will not change the direction that our economy is heading. It’s going down, down, down. Today’s 20M+ jobless numbers for April, that gives us a 15% unemployment rate are not going to be reversed anytime soon. It is just magical thinking to believe this. You might as well be seeing unicorns. Through his bumbling inaction and mistakes we has wrecked the US economy and it won’t be put together again before November.

The worse part of his plan is that we will be squandering the efforts that we have already made. The virus will be again unleashed and all of the people who have died, will soon be joined by many more. It will get a whole lot worse than it has been, but the Donald may not be around long enough to see all of the damage that he has wrought. Yesterday, it was announced that his personal valet had tested positive and today a Pence staffer also tested positive. In a Whitehouse that doesn’t practice social distancing, how many more infections will there be?

I cannot believe that the President, such an epitome of physical fitness will fare well, when he gets infected. Of course there is plenty of bleach around. Watch his twitter feed over the next few weeks, if there is a halt to his telltale hateful tweets, then we’ll all know that he has gotten it. 

Stutter Steps

Panic Attack, Sherri Grob, 2013

When in danger or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout,
Panic, Panic!

I’ve posted this photo before, but I’m reposting it here because its graphics are reminiscent of the Coronavirus and what I am calling its antibodies. This image was taken from a quilt that was part of the 2013 Paducah quilt show, called Panic Attack, by the artist Sherri Grob. In light of the ongoing pandemic, Ms. Grob seems almost prescient with her artistry, if I do say so myself.

So, we’ve reached the end of month two of lockdown from this pandemic and many people are saying enough is enough. Or are they? That remains to be seen. Missouri, my state, is poised to lift many, but not all restrictions that have kept us sheltering in place. Some other states are doing this even more aggressively, while others are hanging back, watching and waiting.

Anne and I walked yesterday. It was cold, blustery and there was a wee bit of precipitation along the way. Not the warm eighty plus of the day before. We did our long neighborhood walk that took us through the De Mun neighborhood, where we had first lived, forty years ago. There is a small business district there that up until a couple of months ago was doing quite well. All of its store fronts are still occupied. When the lockdown was initiated some stores shutdown. Kaldi’s was one of these. Others plowed on. Apparently, laundromats are essential services. Most chose a middle road, by offering takeout, but as of yesterday, most of those places had also given up.

Next month the governor will relax statewide restrictions. Locally, Saint Louis city and county will maintain their closures, leaving the De Mun businesses still shuttered. Around 80% of all of Missouri’s COVID-19 cases have been in the Saint Louis metro area, with the county and the city being hit hardest. Metro East will still be closed under Illinois statewide ban, but the three Missouri counties that surround Saint Louis plan on relaxing their restrictions.

What will these relaxations really mean though? Pretend that the county had followed the governor’s lead and relaxed its restrictions, then those shops and restaurants could be open the next time we walked by them. The buildings that house these stores are all old, likely straddling the century mark. That means that my modern standards they are also quite small, with not a lot of room for social distancing. Seating patrons safely would severely limit the number of tables that could be run. Can a restaurant still make a go of it with only a fraction of their tables being usable? Most restaurants don’t have the margins to operate at these reduced capacities. It is cheaper for them to just shutdown. And what about their staff? Is it really worth the risk of working, for hourly wages? Then there is the liability issue. What if one of your employees gets sick? Reckless endangerment suits seem like a loss leader in this time of Corona.

Sure, some businesses will reopen. Their reopening will garner all kinds of press and be blown way out of proportion to their actual economic impact. Then a few weeks or months will pass and incidents of infection will rise again. Politicians are betting that they can manage this rise. These are the same politicians that have done such a great job so far at managing this crisis. (Testing anyone?) The problem is that what these politicians are betting are people’s lives. Is that a bet that you would be willing to take? I certainly would not. It is too soon.

10,000 Steps

Walking Mesquite Flats in Death Valley

We’ve been getting our steps in as of late. Striving to reach 10,000 steps each day. The weather has slowly been getting nicer, if only in fits and starts, gradually making this goal easier to attain. On Thursday, we walked in the park and yesterday, we did the long neighborhood walk. I first heard that 10,000 steps was a thing, while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s call-in doctor show, On Your Health, with Zorba Paster. He is still broadcasting, but his show no longer airs here in Saint Louis. He was a big fan of walking 10K steps a day. Later at work, Boeing initiated its Boeing on the Move fitness program. Over ten weeks, with the aid of a company supplied pedometer, employees would log their steps daily. The first year’s goal was 10,000 steps a day. In subsequent years this goal began to creep up, eventually hitting 14K steps. It was with these changes I came to realize that the 10,000 step figure was rather arbitrary. Only recently though did I learn its origin story. It turns out that in the sixties, a Japanese electronics manufacturer decided to make a pedometer and as a marketing strategy they called it the “10,000 Steps Meter”, because the Japanese character for 10,000 (一万) looks somewhat like a running man. The rest is history.

On Thursday, we drove to the edge of the park and then walked into it, across the golf course, around the art museum and then down to the base of the World’s Fair Pavilion. Once we had made it that far, we had exited the western half of the park that currently is shut to vehicle traffic. There were significantly more people there too. This is a phenomenon that we’ve noticed in the national parks, there are more people about, the closer you get to the parking lot. There were also three cop cars parked, I guess to enforce social distancing. We had to do some social distance dancing to get around Post Dispatch Lake and over to the Grand Basin, where the no-car quarantine zone reappeared. The highlight of that walk were two Canada geese, who were set upon by a big black dog. It came at them at a full tilt boogie and the pair only just got airborne in the nick of time. It was a sight to see, but it happened too quickly to photograph, the geese were still squawking about the confrontation long after we moved out of ear shot.  

Yesterday, was cold and rainy, so we just walked in the neighborhood. Once we got going though, we managed to stretch out our walk to the magic 10K. The poor weather limited the number of people about, such that even though I had my face mask on, I never had to pull it up over my face. Anne wore hers all the time though, because it helped to keep her face warmer. Today, looks like a nice day for another walk, or maybe even a bike ride. We’ll see, once it warms up. There was frost on the windshield this morning.

Pay Unto Caesar

Thirty Pieces of Silver

April 15th is tax day, except this year it isn’t. Because of the pandemic, this year the tax filing deadline has been delayed. I however filed my taxes way back in January and got my Federal refund shortly afterwards. It only took three years, but this year I finally got my state taxes settled to the point that I didn’t have to pay any penalty on them either. I still had to pay, but it was a mere pitance, thanks to finally getting my quarterly payments right. I didn’t have to, but yesterday, I went ahead and paid that pitance and because I was unsure as to whether today’s tax holiday extended to my quarterly payments for next year, I made that payment too. So, I’m good with Missouri now. It is probably just serendipity, but we got our stimulus checks today too. They were electronically and individually deposited, so I didn’t have to witness any signature from that person who shall-not-be-named. No, not Voldemort, but that other evil guy.

In other good news, I read an article today on how an Ohio couple has gone a long way in addressing our nation’s critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). A few weeks ago, the engineer husband and doctor wife were discussing this problem over the dinner table, when an idea hit them on how to clean used N95 face masks. With lightning speed, their eureka moment led to the development of a system do just that. Using a steel shipping container that has racks setup in it for hanging the masks, it is then filled with a hydrogen-peroxide gas that bathes and sanitizes the gear. A cycle takes about four hours, but by running it twenty-four hours, each unit can clean up to 80,000 masks a day. It is calculated that a mask can be cleaned in this way up to twenty times and still remain effective. Three units have already been deployed to the virus hotspots of NYC, Seattle and Boston. This week the Pentagon signed a contract for the deployment of sixty units. Plans are underway to see if these systems can be used to clean other types of PPE. An example of American ingenuity at work!

The Mail Must Go Through

The Old Post Office, Downtown Saint Louis

Last week, Anne mailed out some of her DIY masks to the family. The ones sent first were to her father and sister in Michigan. She also sent masks to the boys, in Boston and NYC, and to her nephew, in Nashville, and niece, who is also in NYC. She has been tracking them online daily since they were sent out and according to the USPS website they have all been delivered. Well except for Dave’s, which was delivered to his apartment, but not to where he is sheltering in place. He texted us today about their arrival and plans on picking them up.

They all took longer to arrive, except the Nashville one, than expected. In light of the Coronavirus epidemic, this is not all that surprising. New York, Detroit and Boston have all been hit hard by the disease. There were some of the usual vagaries with mail delivery, one of the NYC packages arrived days before the other one, even though they were mailed at the same time. The package to Michigan, the one with the longest delivery delay, seemed to ping-pong back-and-forth between Detroit and Pontiac. For some unknown reason, this went on for a few days, but as of writing they have all been delivered and hopefully in time to still do some good.

Yesterday, I got an inkling of what is going on within the postal service. Anne and I were out on our daily walk, when we encountered a conversation between two men. One of them was a handyman, out doing his job and the other was a postal worker, making his daily deliveries. They were speaking to each other from across the street, when we walked in-between them. The postman was complaining that he had not had a day off in two weeks. He claimed 20 hours of overtime last week. A grey-beard himself, he told the other man that it was the young people who were not coming into work. This surprised the handyman, who was also older and who asked the postman, what are they living on? Since by this time, we had already physically interjected ourselves into the middle of this conversation, I decided to go one step further and verbally intrude. Always the wag, I said, “They’re waiting for their stimulus checks.” This got a laugh.

In addition to the USPS, we are also relying on delivery men and women. We get our food delivered through Instacart and we receive most everything else from Amazon, who also relies heavily on the postal service. Where I can, I tip well, but I cannot thank these people enough for their service and I cannot but feel concern for them, as they daily risk their lives.

When this pandemic has passed, we need to make some significant structural changes in how workers are treated. In particular with gig workers. Universal healthcare, also-know-as Medicare-for-all, would be a good place to start. The US is the only first-world country not to offer this. If all of our peers can do it, then we can afford it too. It is not a matter of means, but simply a matter of will. We need to do the right thing now.

Any Functioning Adult

Any Functioning Adult – 2020

We got out yesterday, for a walk with a purpose. Anne had produce four of her DIY face masks. She packaged them with some of the newly rediscovered professional masks, dredged up from the depths of our dungeon. We trooped up to the post office, to mail her package. While, I waited outside, Anne ventured into its confines, all the while trying to maintain a safe social distance. Inside, she met an NYC medical school student, now home for the duration. He said that the school had just last night graduated its senior class, throwing those students into this developing firestorm. I hope that her meeting doesn’t come back to bite us?!? The poor postal worker was wearing a face mask and gloves, all the while complaining about her heart condition. Immediately afterwards, I doused Anne with hand sanitizer.

It was such a beautiful day that we decided to extend our walk. A neighbor and former colleague hailed us as he drove by, as he was coming home from work. He turned his truck around so that we could talk. I lamented to him about all of our travel plans that are now kaput, while he filled me in on the goings on at Boeing. Any employee who can work from home is now doing so. The classified nature of his work makes his working from home impossible.

Consequently, he has been dubbed an “essential” employee. A designation, which still allows him to work. There has been some illness about, but so far only in other buildings. There is a lot more tele-conferencing going on and meetings are now limited to ten people. He expects that this will all change, once the first case arrives in his area.

The mail had arrived, by the time that we had returned home. Among the junk, there were two items of note: Yet another glossy cruise catalog (Really?) and a postcard entitled, “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.” This was in all caps and in the largest font printed on the card. It was actually from the CDC, but that fact was relegated to the card’s lower right corner. The message on its back was a laundry list of personal health actions that have been oft repeated throughout this epidemic (You should know them all by now.) and have been contravened by many of Trump’s own public statements.

In this vein, news has come to me that Trump’s reelection committee has issued a cease and desist order, directed at a Democratic PAC’s advertisement (See below). In this ad Trump in his own words voices over a graph that shows the number of Coronavirus cases in America versus time. Including statements like, “This is their new hoax”, “We have it totally under control”, “It’s one person coming in from China”, “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” and “When you have 15 people and within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” It ends with his statement, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.”

The US will in two days¹ have more COVID-19 cases than either China or Italy.

  1. Today—Is this what Trump always meant by “America First?”