March – Cancel EVERYTHING

A COVID-19 Diary (Of Sorts)

March 31

And … it’s Tuesday. Just in case you needed a reminder of the day of the week. The days DO tend to blur a bit.

There seems to be a widespread consensus that the president yesterday struck a very different tone. I’m glad, though, I no longer listen to the briefings, preferring to get the details later. The briefings have become less and less about the details of the pandemic fight and more about promoting the president, offering excuses or just flat out misrepresenting what has been done, and attacking those (journalists or other elected leaders) who question the rosy assertions.

So, I’ll be grateful for the more realistic tone, and I’ll look for details where I can find them, but I’m not able to sit through 60-90 minutes of the president carrying on.

It’s hard, though, not to look to the WH as a source of leadership and information because that’s what we’ve grown up with. It just isn’t the case these days, in my opinion, I hasten to add. There are those who will see it very differently. And that’s fine. For me, however, I’ll look elsewhere.

The story that caught my eye in particular yesterday and today is the resistance of Florida Governor DeSantis to allow the Holland America ship to dock. There have been four deaths on board … more who are ill. Most are American and Canadian and most are elderly.

I get it that Florida, like most states, is facing some real challenges. I get it that they aren’t thrilled about adding to the cases in Florida or the pressures that the health care system in southern Florida is facing. But Florida’s cases are rising fast in any event — in part because DeSantis has been indecisive and slow to act on many levels.

This is one of those times where we have to look into our hearts and ask what is the right thing to do. If we are, indeed, all in this together, this is a moment when we step up and offer help and hope. The answer is not to turn our backs on those on the ship … let them wander the seas while more fall ill and more die. They need help. Where should they go? Where in our nation aren’t there challenges waiting to be confronted? The values we espouse, the “christian values” that so many in our country ascribe to, and common decency all should compel us to say … let them dock. Let’s provide support. Offer care. Offer compassion. But DeSantis wants to let them drift.

I get his concerns … but I bet that other governors would make a different decision. These are the tests of leadership that our nation is facing and will face even more in the days ahead. Are we prepared to accept that we abandon some of the most ill to die because we aren’t prepared enough….because there’s not enough equipment…because we didn’t act in time.

It’s a crisis and a time to come together. But we should also feel outrage and dismay and we should ask both how can we help and how do we keep this from happening again. What kind of leadership do we recognize and applaud and what do we reject. We are going to confront more tragedies in the days ahead and we won’t be able to forestall them all. But that doesn’t mean we should accept them.

These are days that will take our measure, I think. I’m not sure what that means. Not sure what my personal role or responsibility is within this broader picture beyond chronicling daily observations. How can I set an example? How can I help?

Food for thought on this gloomy Tuesday in Virginia.

March 30

The month is winding down. We’ve been social distancing since the 7th of March. It is starting to feel “long.” It’s not that it’s that hard. Nor was our social calendar so very busy before this hit. But the mundane things. Stopping at the dry cleaner. Running to the store. Getting a haircut. Going to the post office. All the little things that were part of your day and that kept you engaged with others. I’m missing some of that.

Virtual cocktails yesterday were fun via Zoom with a few friends. Catching up with old friends. Later, I wondered why we didn’t do this when we were not social distancing. One answer was that we are normally caught up in our own lives … in the day to day that fills our hours. Now we’re slowing down and we have the time to do such things. Maybe that’s good.

We’re waiting for an announcement from the governor of Virginia that is coming at 2 pm. We anticipate it will be a lockdown notice. Maryland just announced theirs. It’s no longer a suggestion that folks stay home … it’s an order. And we have to do this. And, of course, Trump decided that Easter was no longer a sensible goal…it never was of course … and has extended federal “guidelines” through the end of April now.

Even the government is acknowledging that we’re going to see many more deaths than they were willing to talk about earlier. Now it’s at least 100,000-200,000. No more comparisons to the flu. Trump says that we’ll have done a really good job if only 100,000 die. We would have done a really good job if we had taken this far more seriously weeks ago as so many urged. This isn’t a question of hindsight being 20-20. Many saw this coming and pleaded for more action. It didn’t happen. And the response still isn’t “enough.”

I worry that we’re going to exceed 200,000. It depends on how serious we become on shutting this down and keeping it in place long enough to break the cycle of spread. And I’d be amused hearing the President assert now that his Easter timeline was just “aspirational,” if it wan’t so serious. His earlier messages offered a far different tone and sent, as I’ve said before, all the wrong signals. They further confused the picture and just continued to give a tacit blessing to those who wanted to behave as if life is unchanged. It was not helpful. Some of those who were trying to limit the damage of his words suggested that his comment about packing churches and putting us back to work by Easter were meant to give hope. They didn’t. They only put more lives at risk.

I’d love to sound a positive note at this point but I’m not writing this as a cheerleader — just as an observer, and as one member of a global community caught up in something that we are all struggling with. And like so many others, I’m just trying to make sense of the unknown.

It is our youngest grandson’s birthday tomorrow. Perhaps, before lockdown orders are issued we’ll drop his presents on their front porch and watch from the front yard as he opens them. Pretty sad.

Today we’re creeping up on 150,000 cases. Yikes. And over 2,500 deaths. We’ve got a long way to go with all of this.

So, to offer a smile to some … I’ll share a picture that I scanned today (yes, I’m still working on that project with tons to go.) This one is from 1977. It was a very different time. *Smile*

Happy Monday. Stay safe. Stay well.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, beard and indoor

March 29

“We will need to find our purpose in the minor things, I tell my daughter. The moments. Moment by moment. We will need to become more like dogs, giddily hopping into the car when we have no idea where it’s heading. And in those long, vacant hours, free of clutter and busyness and traditional validation, we will have to learn how to sit with ourselves and discover the glory and meaning in that stillness. Or, at the very least, accept that tomorrow was never promised. In some ways it’s no different than it always was, I explain, we just have fewer distractions to hide behind.”

That paragraph comes from an essay on CNN this morning. https://www.cnn.com/…/coronavirus-grandparents-g…/index.html. It resonated for me. Maybe it will for you.

This is a time for reflection. Perhaps for growth. For resetting … or at least thinking about … our priorities. About what matters in our lives.

I think few of us will emerge from this experience unchanged. Our society will change. The world will change. How we work. How we socialize. How we do most everything.

Tonight we are having Zoom cocktails with friends. That matters. As we keep hearing, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. And we should take that to heart. Let’s find ways to be there for each other.

This IS, a 50-state disaster. Washington (the state), New York, New Jersey, California, Louisiana…these aren’t the outliers. They are where we all are heading, I fear. I want so much to be wrong, but that’s not what the evidence seems to suggest.

Sitting in our home, or strolling through our neighborhood, life seems relatively unchanged. We don’t see the bedlam in the hospitals. We don’t know the paralyzing fear that health care workers without PPE are feeling. But just because we don’t see it, doesn’t make it less real. It’s not about “lame stream media” making up these reports. It’s a crisis and we just don’t know how it will end.

So, for now, we strive to “keep calm, and carry on.” We take a deep breath … cultivate an aura of zen-like tranquility … and are grateful for the chance, every day, to tell those we care about that we love them.

Enjoy your Sunday and, as always, stay safe and stay healthy.

March 28th

I want to take a break today but I know that there is a discipline to writing. Even if it’s just a few words, I need to put something down for myself if nothing else.

I spent the morning cleaning my office. There comes a point where you need to create the right environment to write … and mine was degrading. LOL. It’s better now. I even did my filing … a task I hate … but it needed to be done. It does create a sense of normalcy.

We need that. Because the virus isn’t slowing down. The surgeon general acknowledges new hot spots appearing in the midwest and the south, and in rural areas that have been less affected and that are certainly less prepared to deal with this challenge.

We’re up over 116,000 cases. And we’re racing, it seems towards 2,000 deaths. The fatality rate, using the number of known cases, has gone up from 1.2% to 1.6%. That may seem a small increase but it’s huge in terms of the number of deaths of our fellow citizens if projections that we could see over 100,000,000 infected are realized.

And it’s even more troubling when we look at Europe. In Italy, the fatality rate is exceeding 10%. In Spain and France it’s 5-6%. We can only hope our numbers don’t rise to those levels. There’s no reason to assume that they will … but perhaps there’s not a reason to assume that they won’t. It’s not something I’ve heard much discussion of. A step at a time. But the image this morning of an Italian priest walking between multiple rows of coffins offering blessings … it’s sobering.

I just listened to the mayor of Seattle. She’s just one voice but, as I’ve said before, this is as though we are looking at a collage of thousands of photos. Each is a snapshot …a moment in time. So, instead of a big picture that I can’t comprehend, I focused on her remarks this afternoon.

She pleaded that we have to come together as communities and the only way we can do it is through social distancing. We can’t stop right now. We have to stay the course.

Strikingly, one thing she said, “We still have almost no testing in the Seattle area. We are running blind.” Seattle was the original epicenter. How can it be that there is STILL almost no testing. I can’t understand that. It troubles me.

She also said we have to have a nationwide system. “We can’t win if we have the Hunger Games … state vs state, city vs city. We have to come together as a country, and the nation has to lead.”

Of course, she’s not the only one saying that. It’s been a consistent message for days from so many on the front lines. But that national vision still isn’t there.

The President last night was still attacking the governor of Washington. The governor of Michigan. They aren’t being “nice” enough to him. He has said several times that these governors need to be nice. He advised the VP that if they aren’t don’t bother to call them.

Some may agree with the President, but I just don’t think that’s how it is supposed to be. The federal government is funded by the taxes we all pay and it has a responsibility to respond to the needs of all our states irrespective of whether they are red or blue and irrespective of whether the governors bend the knee and sing praises to the administration. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

We are stumbling through this. And it’s troubling. The Global Health Security Index and others had assumed that the US would be the most well-prepared of all nations to respond to exactly this sort of crisis which has long been expected. We aren’t.

I know this is hard and there are some who are providing excellent leadership and who deserve our respect. And our medical professionals and first. responders are indeed heroes stepping up at this difficult time and we’d be lost without them. And even if everyone did everything right, there are many who will still fall ill and many who will die.

But if we are honest we have to admit that there are so many areas where we could have done better and that our reactions to changing and frightening realities are far too slow and indecisive at the national level.

The President says it’s not his fault. That the system was broken. The warehouses were empty. The rules were bad. Everything he inherited was a disaster. Not only Obama, but Bush and others all had it wrong and let everything fall apart. Hmm. What do you think?

And … even IF all the above was true … he’s been in office three years. The warnings have been there. But what was done? Even as we first learned of this in December/January what did we do? The objective assessment has to be that whatever it was, it was not enough.

It isn’t about assigning blame, but it is … or at least it should be … about recognizing the need to rethink direction and approaches. We’ll see if that happens.

I’m going to go make a curried vegetable stew and maybe some vegan mac and cheese. Comfort food is called for. And I just may have another piece of that vegan “milk” cake that Leija made last night. It’s pretty darned tasty.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. Happy Saturday.

March 27

Another Friday in social isolation. The days blur somewhat, don’t they? If not for a bit of teleworking there’d be very little to distinguish a workday from a weekend.

As I’ve said all along, this is a personal undertaking. I share it, yes. But I think I need to say again that I am not an expert. There are personal views and perspectives and we all have to come to our own conclusions.

And, if you disagree with anything I have to say, it is, of course, perfectly fine. Feel free to keep and share you own journal and share your perspective as well. The marketplace of ideas and the chance to review competing viewpoints is part of our legacy as Americans and one I hope we will preserve.

So today the chant of “We’re number one!” would be correct, but sadly so. We are now the epicenter of the coronavirus and have more cases than any other nation in the world. We surpassed China yesterday.

A week ago we had around 8800 diagnosed cases and 149 deaths. Today we have surpassed — as of this writing — 95,000 cases and 1400 deaths. Before the day is out that will mark more than a ten-fold increase in a week and we may surpass 100,000 cases.

New hot spots are emerging. Not only Louisiana but now Chicago and Detroit. Florida is getting worse and yesterday we saw 24 states reporting at least 100 new cases in one day. That does not bode well for the days to come.

Meanwhile, not a single medical expert I’ve heard believes we have come close to catching up on the testing that needs to be done to make the sorts of decisions that the President wants about reopening the nation at least in selected areas. He keeps saying that, but I’ve not heard any medical professional yet who believes we can make that judgment. He keeps saying we can. But not if we base our decisions on science and on facts.

History is a good teacher and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is instructive. And it was clear that in cases where they lifted restrictions too early it lead to an even more deadly second peak. I heard multiple epidemiologists this morning all who shared a common concern: there is no national plan and efforts to lift restrictions too early (rather than making them more rigorous) is “reckless.”

The President says that people keep telling him that they “want to go back to work.” Given his casual relationship with the truth, I have to take that with a grain of salt.

There are those in the business community who make the case that we have to restart the economy. Many are also among the most affluent in our society. They are entitled to their perspectives but not all share that view.

I certainly don’t detect a national groundswell for prioritizing the economy over public health. And as infections continue to grow exponentially, I have to think that the President is listening to the wrong people … if he is listening to anyone at all.

The President also told Fox News yesterday that he doesn’t think that the governors will really need all the equipment that they are asking for as he listed all the great things he has done so far to make supplies available even while downplaying the need. He may not think we need all the ventilators being asked for but those in the ICU units might disagree … and that number grows every day. The governors of New York, New Jersey, California, Michigan, Louisiana, Illinois, and others would all disagree.

I think they’d also disagree with his statements about the fatality rate not being so bad. Currently the rate of fatalities as a percentage of diagnosed cases is 1.5%. The seasonal flu’s fatality rate is .01 percent. That’s a big difference. The modeling many experts cite say that 40% of the national population could ultimately be infected. That would be around 128 million.

Even if the fatality rate is 1% (assuming that there are a lot of undiagnosed cases adding to the total number of infected) that would still be 1,280,000 deaths. I find that inconceivable. I don’t want to believe that. Let’s hope not. But to be telling our nation that the fatality rate isn’t so bad? I’ll just say this doesn’t fit my own understanding of “not so bad.”

Countless health care professionals risking their own health to serve in overwhelmed hospitals disagree. We’ve all heard their plea for help, for equipment, for PPE. The disconnect between what we hear from the front lines and from the experts and what we hear from the White House is staggering.

As has been true for the past few weeks, we still are in a situation where our states are competing with each other to source equipment, PPE, and resources. This serves no one’s interest. That is why epidemiologists, and health care administrators and governors alike are calling for national leadership and direction.

People appropriately remind us that we are all in this together and that is so very true. And this is why we all need to pay attention. Why young people need to be as concerned as the elderly. Why we need consistent messaging and a common, shared vision around which we can all rally.

Instead, we are getting conflicting narratives and competing visions for what makes sense and what the future holds. And when there is seemingly a growing gulf between the President’s views and those of the governors and the medical and scientific community, that does not bode well for the days ahead.

People will hear what they want to hear. They will pick the message that they like … not necessarily the one that makes sense. Governors can order folks to stay home but if the President says it’s OK to go back to work how does the average person know what’s right?

We’re all in it together. We’re all at risk. And we will all need to be part of the solution. We need a coherent, shared vision that we can all get behind. We haven’t found it. I hope we will.

Yesterday it was yard work that let me focus on other things. Cleaning bird feeders and refilling them. It was a busy afternoon. This afternoon it may be cleaning the garage. Another long-neglected project.

Stay busy, be productive, and please stay healthy and safe.

March 26

The news is good and the news is bad. It’s all over the place. In other words, it’s more of the same.

A massive stimulus bill has been passed in the Senate and now moves to the house. And although many will quibble about various provisions in this 2 trillion dollar behemoth, all agree (I think) that it is needed. This morning the reports are that over 3 million filed for unemployment last week. Staggering numbers and some estimate that the number of new filers could ultimately pass 14 million. Restaurant workers, hotel workers, and other service industries lead the way but the economic impact is pervasive.

At the same time, other voices tell us that this is just a glitch. A short term problem from shutting down the economy to fight the virus but that the underlying conditions are strong. We’ll bounce right back. Who’s right? Will we bounce right back or is this pandemic also exposing some fundamental problems with our economy and the distribution of economic resources in our nation that we will have to confront at last?

And on the health front. Some say the curve is rising steeply still. Others say that there are signs social distance is working. Some suggest that this may indeed be seasonal … with a possible round two to come again in the fall. They point to the fact that it is just taking hold in parts of Africa. But is that seasonal? In equatorial Africa there isn’t much seasonal variation … is this a natural spread of the disease or is it because of where we are on the calendar? I don’t think we know enough to be sure, but the speculation continues … and it confuses.

And the President is reverting to type. He’d rather accuse democrats and the press of wanting our country to suffer than provide thoughtful leadership that comforts all Americans irrespective of their political party. It is … as it so often is … all about him. I find it hard to maintain a balanced and objective voice at times like this, especially when the President seems so readily inclined to go the other way and condone those who do.

I wonder, for example, whether he will publicly speak out and push back on his Rev. Ralph Drollinger who leads a weekly bible study group for members of the President’s cabinet. In his post in Capitol Ministries Blog he suggests that we are now experiencing God’s judgment and that environmentalists, members of the LGBT community and those of us with depraved minds have incurred God’s wrath. Attendees at Drollinger’s Wednesday morning Bible lessons include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Health Secretary Alex Azar, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force.

I actually looked at the blog post … not just the article I saw on NBC online. I couldn’t make sense of it to be honest. But if this is what our leaders believe and they are making the decisions that affect all our citizens, we are in serious trouble. To be fair, let me be clear in saying that the President apparently doesn’t attend these sessions and a White House spokesman was clear in rejecting these ideas. Good. And I don’t want to judge or make assumptions about the beliefs of Cabinet members or assume that this is the content they receive in their bible study sessions. But you have to ask the question and wonder.

At a time when we need science and facts to govern, it is troubling if political conspiracy theory, political self-interest, or the idea that this is about divine judgment rather than germs and microbes drive our leaders’ thinking and response. Tony Fauci says the virus will determine the timeline for easing restrictions and the facts and science have to form the basis for those choices. The President says he has a “feeling” that we can ease them in large areas of the country. Which approach gives you the most comfort? But more importantly, which approach will we follow?

It is a troubling time. We had 226 deaths yesterday. We are now over 1,000 total. Fifteen days ago the number was 0. Fifteen days ago we talked about around 1,000 cases. We weren’t sure because we weren’t testing effectively. By the time I post this we will likely be over 75,000.

Hospitals by all accounts seem to be in crisis in the nation’s hotspots and in the places soon to be hotspots. We are still talking about ventilators — about using CPAP machines as makeshift substitutes. We are still talking about health care providers at risk We are trying to figure our why young people are increasingly being admitted to ICU beds due to the severity of their illness.

I want to avoid being an alarmist. I’m just trying to contextualize all that I’m hearing and I find it hard to do so. My bottom line is that it’s a mess. We’re seeing a collage of thousands of snapshots of a worldwide crisis … snapshots taken at a moment in time. And tomorrow there will be thousands more. Over time, it will become clearer — for better (we hope) or worse (we fear).

So, I’m going to go do some yard work. That’s real. It’s something I can get my hands around. Something I can control. And that will feel good. I’d ask you to join me — the help would be good — but social distancing rules will continue to apply in this corner of Haymarket, Virginia. That too is something I can control. It seems a good idea.

Happy Thursday.

March 25

I’m at a loss to know what to say this morning.  I’m still trying to make sense of the seeming inexplicable assertion by the President that we can move to “reopen” the country by Easter.  I listened to him talk about churches full of people on Easter Sunday across the country.  He, and the renowned epidemiologist Larry Kudlow (no…wait…he’s an economic expert…no…wait….he’s a Fox TV economic pundit…but…what the heck) assured us that it should be ok.  Of course, Kudlow told us a month ago that the virus was “under control.”  The President told us much the same.  

You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I am reluctant to take medical advice from either or that I have much confidence that their obsession with getting the economy back on track is translating into thoughtful public health policy at a time of national crisis.

We all know that we cannot keep the economy shut down forever.  We need to get it back on track— but not by sacrificing the health of tens of thousands.  We have experts now starting to think about stratification — about how we might take measured approaches to this issue.  Approaches based on science, evidence, and facts.  Not on a “feeling” that Easter would be “… a beautiful time. A beautiful timeline.”

It’s irresponsible.  But it’s hard to know the answer.  Everything keeps changing.  The rate at which the number of cases admitted to hospitals  in NYC seems to be slowing.  That’s good.  But there was a drop in Italy too and now it’s surging again.  

Men die more than women.  But no one is sure why.  The fatality rate in Germany is far lower than global rates.  No one is sure why.  There are an awful lot of questions with this novel virus for which the response, so far, is “no one is sure why.”  It’s frustrating for all of us.  

And, although the President points to areas of the country with lower rates of infection and argues that this means they could be opened for business … that social distancing need not apply perhaps.  Others say that they are just on a different timeline but by Easter they could be the new hotspots.  

So what to do?  Evidence.  Facts.  Experts.  Science.  How’s that for a plan?  We have to have a basis for proceeding.  Donald Trump, Larry Kudlow, the Texas Lt. Governor … and countless others who opine on this … don’t seem to worry about those pesky details.  But we need them.  Really.  We do.

Yesterday was the worst day yet for deaths in the U.S.  We’ll pass the 1,000 mark by tomorrow if not tonight.  The curve is getting steeper … not flattening.   

Yesterday, I said I hoped that today would mark a return to common sense.  The jury is still out.  I think that there are a lot of folks who are thoughtful and who are looking at the evidence and making rational choices and I think that there are leaders across the country who are making smart decisions — or at least the best decisions that they can. 

Meanwhile, although we are eager to have this end, hoping doesn’t make it so.  All the evidence suggests we still have many days … likely many weeks … of this ahead of us.  

So we’ll stay the course.  We’ll stay home.  We’ll be smart, we’ll be safe, and we’ll hope for the best.

March 24

So … if you’re not in the mood for a bit of a rant … please, read something else today.

I woke up cranky. And I still am. I have always prided myself on having patience and being willing to try and understand others’ positions (I was a diplomat, after all).

Underneath it all, however, I’ve always had very limited tolerance of stupidity that isn’t a function of IQ but of willful disregard of facts and common sense. And there’s far too much of that at the moment.

With all that is happening today, how can a Louisiana pastor willfully host more than 1,800 people at its Sunday morning service, going against state and federal guidelines for social distancing.

Pastor Tony Spell says the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, believes in the “healing hand of Jesus,” even through an aggressive global pandemic. Throughout the service, parishioners were seen touching each other and closely gathering, with very few of them wearing masks or gloves.

Twenty-six buses were used to pick people up from around the Baton Rouge area to take them to church.

Spell said if anyone in his congregation is infected with the virus, he will “heal them through God.”

I try to be respectful of other people’s faith beliefs. But this is irresponsible, threatening not only to the participants, but to all of Louisiana’s citizens. It is wrong. It is stupid. And in my humble opinion, it is not “Christian” in any sense of the word. It is the willful arrogance of one man who believes … well, who knows what he believes. It’s insane.

Nor do I have patience when the Florida governor refuses to enact a shelter-in-place order in one of the nation’s hardest hit states. He won’t act because not “every corner of the state has been hit.” He will ban travelers … keep those dangerous New Yorkers at bay … but despite the advice of countless experts he won’t give his own citizens a better chance of getting this disease under control.

And please, don’t get me started on the Lt. Governor of Texas who told Fox News last night that he and other grandparents would be willing to risk their health and even lives in order for the United States to “get back to work” amid the coronavirus.
“Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.” Patrick said.

I don’t think he asked a whole lot of other grandparents. This one disagrees, especially when the fundamental notion that our economy will somehow jump back to normal if we all go back to “business as usual” is so horribly flawed.

Even Lindsey Graham, with whom I agree on very little, has suggested that an unchecked virus will be far worse for the economy than the pain created by putting it “into a coma” for a period of time until we get the virus under control.

There’s no question that the virus is going to cause severe economic problems no matter what. The idiocy is the idea that we should compound them by adding to the death toll and the strains on our medical system.

Of course, these ideas are gaining traction because the President seems more inclined to listen to clueless economic advisors taken from the world of TV punditry than to medical experts like Dr. Fauci. It is not certain that the President will ease guidelines on social distancing, but his suggestions that he might only help to fuel the types of actions we are seeing.

The President isn’t a doctor. Larry Kudlow isn’t a doctor. Neither of them are public health experts. And the fact that they so casually offer off-hand comments and suggestions that confuse the public and that could put us all at great risk is frightening to me.

Even IF the president ultimately listens to his medical experts, he is doing damage with this sort of talk.

I get that there is a challenge here in protecting public health and trying to preserve our economy at the same time. Both are at risk. It’s a tough situation. And I’m neither a public health expert nor an economist. But all of us are able to read, to think, and to assess. All of us are able to use common sense.

And, based on all I have seen and heard and read, I struggle to believe that the answer for either our public health or for the economy will be found in walking away from the guidelines that the President, sadly, has only half-heartedly endorsed all along.

Some reports say he is frustrated at seeing kids on the beaches in Florida and asks “what good are these guidelines anyway if no one pays attention.”

Well, if he had been stronger in voicing his concerns; if he had put stronger restrictions in place in the first place; if he was calling governors and mayors and pressing them to take stricter measures maybe it would have been different. If he was a leader, maybe we’d see less of all the nonsense. But that’s not what he has done.

Instead we are faced with uncertainty and even greater risk, in no small part because of his vacillating views and lack of commitment to facts and science. So yes … I’m frustrated, cranky, and kind of pissed off. I think all of us are entitled to be that way, today.

The number of cases is now close to 47,000 in the U.S. The number of deaths is nearing 600. Yesterday we saw the first day in which we had more than 100 deaths in one day. You can read the statistics and reports for yourselves.

Dr. Birx, who is leading the coronavirus taskforce estimates that 40-60% of us may contract the virus. That’s not comforting.

I know that only a small percentage will die …but if 150,000,000 Americans contract it, we could, at present rates, see 1.5 million die. This isn’t a game. It isn’t about our politics. It’s about each of us. About those we love. Our families, friends, and colleagues.

This site is particularly revealing. Take a look. https://covidactnow.org/

As I said at the start of today’s entry, my threshold for stupidity based on willful disregard of facts and common sense is low. And there are too many whose actions and words are causing it to drop even lower, even as they raise my blood pressure.

So I’ll turn off the news. Take a deep breath. Pet the dogs. Go for a walk. It won’t make the idiocy stop. But it will turn down the noise inside my head for a bit.

Let’s hope Wednesday will be a day when common sense comes roaring back. We could use a day like that.

March 23

As I write this I am listening to Mitch McConnel and Chuck Schumer pointing fingers at each other about the reasons for the failure to act on legislation to respond to the economic crisis that is moving in parallel with the health crisis our nation faces. The two are inextricably linked and both need to be addressed with urgency.

It seems, from the vantage point of my desk here at home, that the Democrats are trying to work with the Treasury Secretary and he with them. That’s good — because it seems that the initial Republican created measure was — unsurprisingly unacceptable to Democrats who had been excluded from the discussions.

It only brings home the point that both parties should have been doing this together from the outset. Instead, McConnell insisted on a Republicans first measure and now blaming Democrats for delays. And then they respond in turn. Not the finest moment for any of them. Nor for our nation. Something needs to be done. Now.

Even with unprecedented intervention by the Fed, the market is down another 3% as I sit here. Like so many retirees, I’ve seen my retirement account lose close to 40% of it’s value in the past few weeks. It is what it is. But the longer we screw around the worst it gets. We can only hope that this is short term and that we will see things recover, little by little, in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, we seem to be debating the same issues every day. But the debate isn’t leading to action. We seem to be drifting. I commented the other day that for all the talk of this being a “war” it doesn’t feel like we’re fighting the fight. We’re hearing governors on the front line of the battle calling for reinforcement from the federal government. We need leadership … we need a clear and consistent vision based on science, facts.

We’ve talked about the challenges of procuring PPE and essential equipment. It hasn’t gotten better. Governors are complaining that it’s the “Wild West out there” — that they’re competing with each other — and with other customers from across the world — for the same gear.

Prices are being driven up dramatically by the unprecedented demand and the limited supply. Governor’s like New York’s Andrew Cuomo are calling for the federal government to use the Defense Production Act to not only compel production but to control prices and to direct flows of production where it is needed. He continues to decline to do so.

He has touted the benefits of the voluntary cooperation of industry but even if they are producing needed items this doesn’t control prices (or profiteering) and it doesn’t solve the problem of California and New York and Illinois and every other state and medical system being trapped in a vicious cycle of competition with each other.

Some reports suggest that the President has delayed exerting control because the businesses were upset at the idea. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know, but my bottom line is that I just don’t understand why we’re not acting. It doesn’t make sense. And if we’re letting business call the shots, rather than prioritizing what is best for the nation and our citizens, it is deeply troubling.

It’s a rainy Monday here and maybe that adds to a somewhat darker mood. We know that this is not going to resolve overnight but I’m worried that we already have folks who seem to be trying to jump the gun. The president is reportedly getting antsy about social distancing’s impact on the economy and may want to ease guidance when his 15 day effort expires. Other’s are taking his cue and we’re starting to see similar messaging. The cure, they argue, his worse than the disease.

They don’t seem to want to learn the lessons that suggest that rigid enforcement of distancing is the key to stopping the virus. Easing restrictions risks opening the door to a faster and broader spread of the disease, I fear, and the impact of THAT on the economy will be even more devastating. It’s hard to stay the course. And there are some experts who are trying to find the right formula for getting a balance on who should distance and when. But, for now, I think that the evidence suggests that rigorous enforcement of shutdowns is about the only thing that has been shown to work.

The mixed messages aren’t good. This is what I mean about the sense of aimlessness … of drifting. And all this comes as 10 states have now issues orders for people to stay home, as the number of cases in the U.S. exceeds 40,000 (it was 27,000 yesterday), and as the head of the Fed in St. Louis is talking about the possibility of unemployment rates reaching 30%.

As the debate goes on, I can only say that I tell those I love to stay home, stay strong, and stay safe. I hope all of you will too.

March 22

Good morning.  It’s Sunday.  I don’t intend to write much today.  But then, I never intend to write a lot — but my posts end up pretty lengthy in any event.

The thing is, there’s so much that we can talk about.  I couldn’t help but do a quick survey of newspaper websites this morning.  I wanted to see what folks were saying in different parts of the country.  New York Times, Washington Post, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Idaho Statesman, The Casper Star Tribune and others.  The Statesman had the fewest front page stories about the virus (though they had a link in a banner at the top of the page to their virus coverage). The others though, more than made up for it.  Even in Casper, Wyoming, it seems, the virus is dominating peoples’ days.  

As I write, I’m listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  Reports on everything from continued testing challenges — and why that makes it so difficult for us to tackle the virus effectively— to stories about communities coming together.  NPR commentators always sound so mellow.  Calming.  It’s good for the blood pressure. 

NPR also had a story, however, that was disheartening.  It’s one that we’ve all seen, I imagine.  It was about millennials, and the challenge of getting them to take this seriously.  I hate to offer this up as a commentary on a certain generational group and I’m not really sure where the line is.  Our son, Tony, is a millennial and he and many of his generational cohort not only get this but are being smart and they will help to lead the recovery and the shaping of policies for the future.

But there are others, perhaps the younger segment of the millennial generation and the leading edge of generation Z, who seem determined to ignore the warnings about this disease.   I listened to a few of them this morning.  “I’m going to live for the moment,” said one.  Then there was a young woman who said “I just turned 21 and I’m going to keep partying;” and the guy who said “If I get corona, I get corona — I’m going to keep having fun.”  

And folks are apparently still hooking up via Tinder or other social connection apps in big numbers.  That’s not a huge surprise.  In a competition between the power of hormonal urges vs fear of a virus — that most assume won’t kill them — the odds might indeed favor hormones. But, of course, it’s not just about these young folks…they are part of a larger society and have responsibilities too.  At least, that’s what we want to tell them. I’m not sure that they are wired to listen, however, at this time in their lives.   

I wonder if there’s a certain hedonistic element to their response to all this.  Live while we can in the face of an ominous uncertainty.  

Whatever it is, it seems like the behavior continues even as we shut down beaches and bars and coffee shops.  We can shake our heads and scold them, telling them that they are a threat to us all, but I doubt that lecturing is going to change their attitudes or actions.  I wonder what will.  

Then I look at our grandkids.  They’re too young for that type of irresponsible behavior.  All they know is that things are different.  School is cancelled.  They can’t see friends.  Their world has narrowed to the walls of their home. The challenge for parents in guiding their kids, easing their fears, and helping them to make sense of all of this is daunting.  

And I have to wonder how this experience shapes their view of the world as they grow older.  It’s too early to say, I guess.  It may depend on how long this lasts.  How serious it is.  How many family members are lost.  How life changes in the face of economic challenges.  The world is going to be different…a point that I’ve talked about with our kids and others.  I’ll post below in the comments the link to an article that Leija saw and shared yesterday.  

————

I glanced at the numbers this morning.  I’m trying not to obsess on them but they are a measure of what we’re dealing with — perhaps the only one we have at the moment.  There are, of course, constraints that still limit testing even though we’re doing better. The numbers almost certainly don’t capture the full scope of the rate of infection but they do give us at least a sense of the trajectory of the disease.  On the 19th we had over 9000 cases confirmed.  Today, we have over 27,000.  By any measure, that’s not a comforting picture.  Where will be three days from now?  Stay tuned.

————-

Shifting gears… it’s a beautiful morning in Virginia.  Another dog walk lies ahead.  We have groceries to pickup curbside at Wegmans around noon. And there’s plenty to keep us busy again today.  For those who are wondering, the Chickpea Rosemary Pasta casserole was wonderful.  So was the Tomato-Red Lentil Bisque.  And the vegan cottage cheese was incredibly tasty — and easy.  The lemon pound cake was ok…but needs work.  Today, maybe, it will be homemade pizza.

I was kidding our daughter yesterday that we’d invite her and the family to a virtual dinner party.  They could, I said, watch us eat via FaceTime or Zoom.  But then today I saw an article in the NYT that talked about families and friends actually doing virtual dinner parties.  At some, they would all cook the same recipe and compare notes.  Others would just use technology to sit and eat “together.” Family time in the age of coronavirus.  May have to try that.

Time to get on with the day.  Happy Sunday to all.

March 21

Happy Saturday.This is the 11th day since I started to keep this daily journal. It was two weeks ago (yesterday) that we canceled our trip to Iceland. At the time, what we’re seeing today was only theoretical — and I wouldn’t have guessed it would reach this point so quickly. But we worried that it was coming nonetheless and I’m so glad we pulled the plug when we did. Glad we were ahead of the curve in trying to flatten the curve. It also has been two weeks since I decided I’d only work remotely and since we opted to take extra steps required to give ourselves a better chance of stay healthy.

Meanwhile, the news today is more of the same. We’re up over 6000 cases from yesterday to over 21,000. Deaths continue to rise. We’re seeing new reports about men being more vulnerable than women, about young people being more vulnerable than expected, and — perhaps particularly troubling — that, even though 80% of those infected may not get sick enough to be hospitalized, at least half of those folks will nonetheless have moderately severe pneumonia, which can take weeks or longer to recover from.

The White House briefing has yet to begin. I cringe at the thought of watching it if the President is going to lead again. I have to believe he’s going to get extremely defensive…and thus aggressive…when asked about the reports that he had intel briefings in early January warning him about the virus and that his aides struggled to get him to understand that this was a real problem that he had to take seriously. I’ll listen to the news reports later, I think.

Mario Cuomo did his briefing too. In contrast to much of what we’ve seen from the President, he was solid, thoughtful, pragmatic. Not underselling the enormity of the threat but offering a sense of being very much in control. His command of the issues is striking…and reassuring. The Los Angeles mayor was also on the news. He was compassionate and empathetic and he sought to comfort those who are scared and feeling lost. Another striking contrast to what we are hearing from the White House.

I won’t belabor the points about the shortage of protective gear that I discussed yesterday. It just seems that, despite assurances form Deb Birx and the Coronavirus Task Force, so far there is little sign that there is progress on the ground. It’s troubling.SO…it’s Saturday. It’s a “day off” so to speak. But I’m “retired” so you might think that every day is a day off. But I have to say, we are constantly shocked by how busy we are and how critical time management has become. Even more than when I working, It think. And, even in these days of social distancing, we’re always busy — and that’s a good thing.

This morning began with outreach to Engage Nepal’s partners in Nepal to ask about planning and preparedness for COVID 19 there. I’m exploring how we can help and how this will affect our ability to engage and support the most vulnerable there. That took a bit of time by itself. Then we walked the pups…an almost daily occurrence…and after lots of sniffing, peeing and pooping (by the dogs, to be clear). That filled another hour of the day. (Leija was masked as we walked…not from fear of COVID 19 but to minimize tree pollens that can spark an asthma response…something we’d like avoid these days).

Now I’m writing the blog…that takes time too but it’s now part of my routine.

Next I’ll be in the kitchen. I have cooking to do…Lemon Rosemary Chickpea Pasta Casserole, Red Lentil Bisque, and Lemon Pound Cake. Also going to make some vegan cottage cheese.

Then I have to answer my weekly Storyworth question. And I’m working on scanning countless old photos and organizing our online collection.

Then there are the several songs I’m trying to learn on piano.

I want to expand the genealogical research I’m doing (following Leija’s example).

I have tons of books to read, movies to watch, and a house to help clean. Spring is here so there’s work in the garden soon.

Then there are balls to throw for Gyptse Jane and Gracie — who will race after them for as long as I can toss them.

The point is, on any given day, there is so much we can do to not just fill our days but to fill them with meaningful things. We can enrich our lives, we can learn, we can be part of something bigger, we can reach out to friends who might be thrilled to have that human contact. There’s no time for boredom. There’s way too much to do.I won’t get it all done today. It seems I never do. And that’s OK. In fact, I kind of hope that it will always be that way

March 20

There’s so much that is unfolding at such a fast rate — but, in many ways, it is just more of the same. With more testing, and with the contagion spreading, it’s not surprising that the numbers are growing yet it is striking that today we are now over 15,900 confirmed cases in the US. A week ago it was 1600.

In California, Governor Newsom has essentially locked down the state, ordering all 40 million citizens to stay at home. In New York, we’ve seen Governor Cuomo over the past few days go from ordering workplaces to restrict attendance to 50%, then 75% and now, today, ordering ALL non-essential workers to stay home. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says that the hospitals there will run out of supplies in 2-3 weeks and he again called for federal help before people, who could otherwise be saved, start to die.

As of yesterday, however, the president was still resisting actually ordering emergency production of needed items under the Defense Production Act and he told governors in a conference call that the federal government was “not a shipping clerk.” In California Governor Newsom projects that 56% of Californians will be infected within 8 weeks. That’s 22.4 million people. If even 15% require hospitalization, that’s 3.3 million people. If 1 percent die from the disease that’s 224,000 people. In California alone. This doesn’t mean it will happen….but that’s what the planning horizon has to look like. And these may be lowball estimates.

Today, however, when asked by a reporter what he would say to Americans who are scared and worried the president said only “That’s a nasty question….” and then proceeded to berate the journalist. And as states confront these challenges, he told governors yesterday that states should figure out on their own how to get what they need. That’s the “guidance” from Washington….such as it is.

I will admit it. I’m glad I’m not an Ambassador today. I remember what it was like to have responsibility for the welfare of a team of colleagues and their spouses and their children and even their pets. I remember the worries over war, and disease, and earthquakes. And I remember my own worries that I might not get it right…might not have the answers that would best serve those who looked to me for leadership. Our Ambassadors across the world are facing daunting tasks and I don’t envy them. And our leaders here at home…Governor Cuomo, Governor Newsom, Governor DeWine, Mayor de Blasio, Mayor Bowser, and so many more. I don’t envy them either. But they are leading. They, and countless others, are making hard decisions and offering calm and decisive leadership in the face of impossible choices.

Others in leadership roles aren’t doing as well. Partisanship still seems to be delaying action in Congress at a time when our nation desperately needs action. And the President’s leadership….well, I’ll let you judge for youself.

It would be easy to let this become a channel to vent frustration and anger. It would be easy to list endlessly the failures, the misrepresentations, the self-serving, actions and statements that lead so many of us to despair. I don’t know what is to be gained by that, however. I’ll only say that leaders don’t blame others, they don’t shirk responsibility in times of crisis, and they don’t diminish others, sow division, or put themselves and their own interests first. They offer honest assessments, they help to ease fears, and they offer a vision of the path ahead…however, hard that path may be. The questions we all have aren’t “nasty.” They’re honest, they’re understandable, and they deserve answers.We have plenty of examples of good leadership right now, however, and we count on them to get us through this with the support that we all can offer them. Today, I’ll be grateful for them and all that they do. I hope you will be too.

March 19


I started writing this daily Covid 19 journal as a way to keep myself focused and to try and keep perspective during this very unusual time in all our lives. And I think that perspective is more important than ever. So I keep writing.

So where to start today? I just turned off the midday briefing from the White House. The President was= busy congratulating himself and predicting an economic resurgence when this ultimately resolves. I couldn’t listen. I didn’t like the focus or the tone. There’ are so many more things that we need to talk about and, more importantly, to do. We need vision, courage, and leadership…none of those are immediately apparent.

The big news of the day — aside from the continuing rise in the numbers (now over 11,000) — is the continued shortage of personal protective equipment. We have known for months this virus could threaten us …at least anyone who was paying attention would have known. How is it that we didn’t act sooner? That we didn’t ask what we would need? That we didn’t ramp up production in January rather than deciding in mid-March that it might be a good idea to do so?

I’ve heard doctors talking about being told to buy their own protective gear. To save and reuse their masks…with all the infection control issues associated with THAT approach. The CDC has apparently suggested that “In settings where face masks are not available, [health-care providers] might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.” They add that “Caution should be exercised when considering this option.” No kidding.

Articles abound about the shortages of protective gear and, more troubling, what doctors and nurses should do if they are exposed to the virus. There are legitimate concerns that if they all self-quarantine for two weeks the strains on our health care system could bring it to a breaking point. But there are equally very real concerns about medical first responders who themselves may have COVID-19 treating patients. I’ve heard unclear messages today about the guidance that the CDC is giving on this issue but no matter how you slice it, the system is under strain.

I heard Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, talking today about the importance of acting based on facts, not on fear. He’s spot-on — but we all face the challenge of knowing what the facts are. The situation is changing too quickly for analysis and assessment to keep up ,and the guidance seems to be outdated as soon as it is issued. At least that’s the way it feels.
There’s an awful lot for us to adapt to. And it’s harder when our fundamental understanding of the workings of our nations are under assault.

Over the years I have traveled to and worked in countries with failing health care systems and I always took comfort in believing that OUR system was different. I’d heard the debates in our country in the past few years about access to care.. But, like many of our citizens who have insurance and who have resources, it was not something I had to experience.
Now, it’s real. .It could be that if we need care it may not be there. There may not be the beds, the respirators, or even the providers. This is no joke. The assumption that we can count on health care to be there when we need is no longer certain. And that is something we need to remember as we move beyond this crisis and think about the future.

Our assumptions about our economic security are equally subject to challenge. Growing up I read about the great depression like so many of us did. My folks lived through it but they were relatively young at the time. I don’t recall them really talking about it.

But the soup kitchens, the bread lines, the destitute men and women — hopeless about their futures –were all real. But we never thought it would be part of OUR reality. Our economy was strong. Enduring. Or so we thought. The past few weeks, however, paint a picture of a far more fragile system.

I don’t want to overreact. And I admit that I’m not an economist or an expert on all this. God knows, I hope that we’ll recover soon. But I’m not comforted by the president’s rather off-hand assurances that the economy will“boom back” and “be bigger than we’ve ever seen.”
It rings pretty hollow, and seems meaningless blather, I imagine, for those of our citizens who were already struggling and for whom the future now looks even more frightening. How we respond as a nation will be a true test of who we are and what we value.

I can’t predict how these events will change our politics, our priorities, or our lives, but I have to believe that they will have an impact that extends far beyond the next six months, or year, or year and half, that will be required for this pandemic to run it’s course.
For our younger citizens in particular, who will have experienced two recessions (and this one may be major) in the first years of their working lives, the impact on their views of policy and governance will likely be huge. Things will, no doubt, be different. Let’s hope they will also be better.

Meanwhile, life goes on — but not as we might like.

Today we shopped during the “senior hour” at Whole Foods. We got there at 7 AM. We picked up a few things for our daughter and her family that we dropped at their door. Our youngest grandson, Luca, wanted Nana and Papa to come over to his house…he had to settle instead for us waving at him from the other side of the porch door.

He doesn’t fully understand — but then, neither do we.

Welcome to the “new normal.

March 18

Another day. The news yesterday was dominated by the measures to respond to the economic impact of the virus. I recognize that will be important. The idea of 20% unemployment is deeply troubling. A recession seems a foregone conclusion. This is not going to be good.

And today, the market is plunging even again. There’s a lot to worry about, and it’s true that we need to take steps to buffer the most vulnerable from the worst of the economic shocks. But there are a lot of questions about how we will do so. Will we focus too much on the big corporations and influencing the market and not enough on the individuals who are losing jobs and who have no safety net? We’ll see how our leaders respond.

And, with the emphasis on the economic response, it seemed as though the focus on health concerns took a bit of a back seat yesterday. That’s unfortunate, because the spreading virus has to be our most immediate worry and, if we can’t get it under control, the economic impact of this crisis will only get worse.

It doesn’t help that so many of our citizens continue to put us all at greater risk by their casual disregard of the realities of this crisis. Too many people in too many places are still out shopping, eating, traveling. In Florida, young people are flooding the beaches for spring break. Primaries were held last night in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona.
All of these things raise concerns that efforts to “flatten the curve” may just fall flat. Yes, people want to get out of the house. Yes people want to exercise their right to vote. But we need to recognize this is real and it is a crisis. It’s frustrating

The pressures, meanwhile, continue to build on the hospitals and health care providers. We’re seeing the shortages of masks, gowns, goggles, and gloves putting doctors and nurses at risk. The stories and articles written by ER docs and epidemiologists are gut wrenching. Their fears are palpable and their words of warning are compelling. They are scared. We should be too. And now there are more reports that young people may be more vulnerable to the disease than earlier thought. That’s scary too.

The President is invoking the Defense Production Act. Its an important step…but you have to ask why it wasn’t done sooner. The military is making masks available to hospitals. Great. But why wasn’t it done sooner? The President keeps saying “who could have foreseen this…” the answer is …a whole bunch of people. We were slow to engage, slow to act and slow to lead. And we’re paying a price for it. Now we’re starting to move but it still feels disjointed and ad hoc. Some states — Ohio is an example — are jumping ahead of the curve while others, like Virginia, still are offering no meaningful guidance. The President says he feels like a “war president” but nothing about this feels like a wartime response. France and Spain are in lockdown. Violators are fined. We seem a long way from taking steps that are even close to these actions.

This morning there are reports that a government assessment warns that the pandemic could run for 18 months in successive waves. The President denied it that there was such an assessment — but the report comes from multiple sources. If we do have to live with this for the next year or more what will social distancing guidance look like? When do we get to see our children and grandkids? When can seniors go back to work safely? There are a thousand questions and we have to live, for now, with continued ambiguity. It is stressful and troubling but that’s the new normal, isn’t it. Time will tell — as with so many things.

For today let’s take the steps we can to protect ourselves, let’s be there for each other, and we’ll let tomorrow’s worries wait until tomorrow.

March 17

I think anyone who listened yesterday would agree that the President’s tone was strikingly different. More sober, more realistic. That’s good. It is needed. No matter how you may feel about the President, he is the leader of our nation and we need him to lead effectively in this crisis and to listen with an open mind to the experts who advise him. And today he, and the government team. sounded much more focused — and they seem to be starting to get traction in their efforts. Again, that’s good too.

But all the news seems to suggest that the virus is is getting traction too. 1500 more cases today than yesterday. Deaths have jumped from 65 to 97. Doctors and nurses are falling ill. Hospitals are already starting to feel the strain, and the shortage of masks and gloves and gowns is a problem starting to be felt in real time.

Recognizing the growing crisis, the President offered new federal guidelines yesterday for how we should conduct ourselves. They were needed — urgently — and I’m glad he finally said something. They are only guidelines, however and I wonder if we won’t need more stringent measures.

There are a lot of reasons, of course, why leaders at the national, state, and local levels are being cautious about going too far, too fast, but folks like Dr. Fauci are suggesting that the disease is presently running ahead of our response. We need to take steps to reverse that order.

Such steps we will be disruptive — they already are in places where curfews and shutdowns are in place. But, when we consider how disruptive an unchecked spread of Covid 19 will be, I think that pro-active steps should be applauded. And the failure to act, (I have to question, for example, why the governor of Virginia hasn’t take steps to close restaurants or bars or gyms or the like) has to be questioned.

Even worse than the lack of decision action, however, is the blatant irresponsibility were seeing in tweets like those of the Governor of Oklahoma or statements like those of Devin Nunes telling folks it’s fine to go out to dinner or to the local pub.

Inexplicable doesn’t describe these remarks. Dangerous and reckless might be better words. And they just reinforce the beliefs of many people who are still asserting that it’s all overblown, that it’s just like a cold, or that it’s just the media or liberal politicians trying to scare everyone.

Is it ignorance? Arrogance? Selfishness? I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Especially when it comes from people in leadership roles. All I know is that I believe we all have an obligation to look out for each other at times like this…it’s part of our social compact. It’s about personal responsibility…and if too many of us fail to do our part, it has implications beyond public health. I hope that this will bring out the best of us…not the worst.

Today there are an abundance of interviews on the news with mental health professionals. Their guidance is worth heeding. Set a routine. Don’t “catastrophize” — don’t obsess over the news. Take care of yourself. Reach out to friends — personal contact and engagement matters.

This is just beginning. So think about how we can use the time. There are so many online resources these days…learn a language, watch an opera, read a new book, make music, clean the closet, work out, try new recipes. The list is endless. We can’t change this but we can shape our response. We can and will get through this. Together.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day….please, stay safe, stay well.

March 16

Another day. More to be concerned about. Let me be clear…I’m not writing this to chronicle every unfolding event. There’s more than enough news out there…CNN has it’s coronavirus blog/timeline. So do many other news sites. There’s no need to try and keep up with them.

But writing is something that focuses my thinking, and keeping focus and perspective is important. So I keep on writing.

This morning we went out briefly. I was struck by how little I wanted to do it but we were low on Tylenol and if, god forbid, we did get sick, having something to help manage fever seemed a good idea. Fortunately, at 8:15 this morning the nearby Target was quiet. We were able to keep our distance and execute a highly effective infiltration and exfiltration avoiding almost all human contact and keeping our distance. We touched almost nothing except the Tylenol and the toilet paper (lol…yes we bought TP but are NOT hoarding it) and then sanitized hands thoroughly as we jumped back into the car.

Meanwhile, things kept changing at an incredible pace as the morning unfolded. The concerns about capacity — hospital beds, respirators and more — remain a constant drumbeat. New York has asked for the help of the military. So far, however, there’s no sense that action is being taken. And, as I write, the stock market is in free fall despite the Fed’s intervention yesterday. It’s going to be another rough day overall, I fear.

The White House has delayed it’s daily briefing. Pressure is building for them to offer clearer guidance. But, whether they act or not, decisions are being made. In the absence of leadership someone will fill the vacuum and that is what is happening on many fronts. Unfortunately, the lack of uniform guidance can bu unhelpful.

New Jersey has imposed a statewide curfew, New York, Illinois, and other states have ordered restaurants closed. But DC still is allowing bars and restaurants with capacity of up to 250 to function and In Virginia there’s no guidance at all. Clearly, mixed messages don’t help folks to know the right course to follow.

I think that All the efforts to get people to take social distancing seriously are on target but, especially with these mixed messages, I wonder a) if enough people are taking it seriously and b) even if they do, has it come too late to keep us from “becoming Italy?”

I don’t know. I wonder if the decisions to impose curfews and require closures reflects a concern that folks weren’t acting robustly enough on their own to make social distancing work. And I worry that the Surgeon General’s and others increasingly urgent tone about the need to make this work suggests that they believe that “Italy” may indeed be our future. As always, I hope that I’m wrong but this is what’s on my mind.

They just announced on the news that the first patient has received a vaccine trial. It’s amazing how quickly they have been able to act — reporters are crediting new vaccine technology — but it will still be 12 to 18 months at least before it is available. By then we could be dealing with a new crisis. I hope that this isn’t the new normal but who knows.

March 15

Today things are getting worse. Of course we knew that they would. Germany is closing major borders and its numbers continue to rise. Spain is imposing a curfew. Italy is still in chaos. Travel restrictions have been imposed on the UK and Ireland too now. Those restrictions might indeed make sense but they won’t solve the problem. The virus is here and it’s going to spread.

The VP just now said– again– that most Americans, if infected, aren’t going to be at risk. That’s true, based on what we’ve seen so far. But the evidence also suggests that 15-20% of those infected will have a more serious form of the disease. And, if we have millions infected, that 15-20% nonetheless becomes a huge number. And the worry about hospital beds not being available, the worry about respirators not being available, the worry about protective gear for medical professionals being not being available — all those are very real. Testing still is not available the way it should be but the VP keeps telling us how much progress is made or will be made. THey said that 2000 high speed labs will be online tomorrow. I’m hard pressed to feel confident especially when the President also just claimed that we have “tremendous control” over the virus. We all want to believe these things to be true — but I think few of us do.

Meanwhile, the chaos at the airports as people returned from Europe and elsewhere was shocking. How could we not have anticipated the bottlenecks and ask ourselves how much more this would expose our citizens to greater risk? How could we not have at least made some efforts to mitigate the delays. If they did, they sure weren’t apparent. They say that they have fixed it now….we’ll see….but the fact that we didn’t foresee this probable speaks to the leadership challenges we seem to be having at every level.

I don’t envy anyone who is having to deal with this challenge and make the hard call. I have served in leadership positions and have had to face challenges driven by forces outside our control (though of course nothing on this scale). So in fairness to everyone “in charge” we have to acknowledge that these are hugely difficult issues for which there are no easy answers. But I also am pretty sure that half-measures aren’t going to be enough and leaders need to lead– and that includes making the hard and unpopular decisions that have to be made.

We called China’s actions draconian. We said the same of Italy. That has a negative connotation but in these circumstances it shouldn’t. Draconian may be exactly what will be required to get things under control. The longer we take to make these decisions, the more this will spread in the interim.

As American we balk at these restrictions and it is even harder to envision them being imposed when some folks to dismiss the concerns and even willfully disregard the best public health advice. (That’s another conversation!).

Although there’s an old saying that God protects drunkards, fools and babies, I wouldn’t count on that to save those who risk infection through idiocy. Meanwhile, some leaders at the state and local level, in the absence of concerted and coordinated policy guidance from Washington, have started to make some of these hard decisions. Illinois has ordered bars and restaurants to close. Hoboken has done the same, imposing a curfew from 10 pm until 5 AM.

It seems crazy to see this happening but it is not a surprise. It’s just folks facing the reality of hard choices.

More hard choices lie ahead. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

March 14

Today we barely watched the news. Not because it has paled already but because we’re in the for the long haul and there needs to be balance. So much of today was about self-care.

Yes….POTUS got tested and there’s much speculation. It will still be there tomorrow. Spain and France are shutting down their economies. Signs of things to come? The number of cases is over 2500….death toll has kicked up too with the first in Virginia. You can get LOTS of news in a few minutes.

There was a good article here that Leija flagged this AM.

There are tons of good articles though. You can spend your whole day reading them. That–probably–should be avoided.

BUT…the bulk of the day really was about us. We walked the dogs…a mile and three quarters maybe. It was a nice day for it. When we got back I groomed Lo Khyi for a while — he’s shedding his winter coat and there’s a LOT of it. I listened to an audiobook as I groomed him and enjoyed the spring-like feel in the air. Fully distanced from all. It was nice.

Then I cooked. Another good think to do on a lazy afternoon. We gotta eat, right? Tonight it was potato leek soup and a vegan quiche. Nice. Last night it was Turkish Kebabs with a garlic mayo. The former were great…the latter far too harsh. That part of the recipe was not a keeper. But cooking is good for one’s sanity..or at least for mine.

This evening we watched Predator…we finally made the time to do so. It has subtitles you know. You can’t readily multitask and watch at the same time. This was a night where I could take the time to….take the time. No rush. No need to multitask. Just an evening for us.

Self care in times of stress is critical. Pick your battles. Find time NOT to worry about what tomorrow may bring. It will be here soon enough.

March 14….addendum

Dr. Kerry Reynolds from Mass General who I know and respect deeply for her knowledge, vision and compassion, wrote this tonight for family and friends in Missouri. She was pleading with them to pay attention. I hope you will.

——————————————————————————————————————————————We have been preparing since January to do our best in this fight we truly need help from everyone.

Here are the answers to your questions:
Do you take that trip? NO, you cancel
Do you go to swim lessons? NO, you cancel
Do you go to a playdate? NO, you cancel
Do you do anything with other people? NO

We are unfortunately experiencing way more cases here in Boston than you are in MO so you still have time to really STOP the spread (hopefully we do too which is why schools are closed, all non-medical personnel are pretty much working from home, and all major events are cancelled). Another physician put the actual numbers on paper. The average number of people each individual person infects is 3. Here is the math:

1 – YOU
3 – Those you infect
9 – Those they infect
27 – Those they infect
81 – Those they infect
243 – Those they infect
729 – Those they infect
2,187 – Those they infect
6,561 – Those they infect
19,683 – Those they infect
59,046 – Those they infect
177,147 – Those they infect
531,441 – Those they infect
1,594,323 – Those they infect
4,782,969 – Those they infect
14,348,907 – Those they infect

The testing has been so limited that Boston is probably at step 10 or so already without knowing it, and each week we will escalate. The issue is that 15% get hospitalized (over 2 million people in the case above), 5% need intensive care (over 700,000 in the case above), and 1-2% die (140,000-280,000). My heart breaks because our cancer patients die at a MUCH higher rate as do those older than 60. I should mention that we only have 100,000 ICU beds across the country and it is expected that the actual rate of individuals affected with be way over 100,000,000. We are in this for weeks to months.
We have to hope that those ICU level patients come in slowly over time or we will not be able to care for them.

YOU have a chance to save lives and help us while we risk ours. We are in this for the LONG HAUL – yes, definitely into late April. Our only hope is slowing it down. NO QUESTION what you should do! Please, I implore you, stay home

March 13

The COVID 19 virus is already starting to feel like an old friend.  It’s everywhere.  We think about it all day.  Talk about it.  It has become part of our life.  How quickly it has insinuated its way into our present and our future.  How quickly it has reminded us that even strong economies can become fragile.  How quickly it focused our attention on the boomers…my generation — a population at risk. The odds are in our favor, of course, but being reminded hourly that those of us over 60 are most vulnerable, most at risk of serious illness, and most likely to die is daunting.  Most of us will be fine but…still.  It makes you think.   

Meanwhile….there’s now a state of emergency in Virginia.  And this afternoon the president declared an emergency on a national level. It’s hard, at the this juncture, to believe the reassurances about how they’ve got the handle on testing.  It’s a song we’ve heard before.  I want to believe we’re getting our act together and I do respect Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx with whom I worked on the PEPFAR program.  But I worry that, for all we have come to “know” the coronavirus, we may not know it at all.  What surprises lie ahead that will derail even the best of plans (and it’s not yet clear that we’re not the best of plans)?  You have to wonder.

Today we also saw the market recover quite a bit from yesterday’s disaster. But where will it be tomorrow. And I worry that as we focus so much on the “market” we forget to look at the human dimension. The market matters of course…just ask folks depending on their 401k accounts — but a rise there doesn’t help the school janitor furloughed for a couple of months, the waiter who doesn’t work because the restaurant is empty, the dog sitter whose clients stay home, or the Uber driver waiting for a rider but finds that they’re all staying home.

We’re going to see folks who already strapped with debt fall further behind. Even if it’s “only” a month or two, these are economic hits that are real and will have a huge impact on people’s lives and our consumer driven economy as a whole. And in the aftermath we’ll be debating even more vigorously the issues of the systemic inequalities in our economic structure. They are more than just political talking points….and they are concerns the current crisis will only compound. There are many issues we’ll have to rethink when this settles down…this is certainly one of them.

What else happened today?  The number of coronavirus cases has tripled in the US…we’ve got over 2400 “confirmed” now we assume that there are thousands more that are undiagnosed. On another front, Congress seems to be on the verge of passing legislation to provide economic assistance to the vulnerable and to accelerate testing. That’s good. And right after declaring an emergency, the president went around the Rose Garden shaking hands.  Not so good.

And so goes another day in the wonderful world of Covid 19. 

The article of the day? Maybe this one — because it hits close to home.  Happy Friday.  

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/13/opinions/boomers-boronavirus-millennials-pariser/index.html

March 12

It was another shocking day. The President spoke last night. He made mistakes. He added to the problems. And the market tanked another 2300 points today. The economic reverberations are beyond assessing now but it’s going to be ugly…and people…so many people…will suffer.

Equally frightening are the health threats. The numbers are going up…the risks are growing…it’s scary and sad. Ohio, Maryland and Kentucky have all closed schools. New York is limiting gatherings to under 500. Broadway is closed. Things are not good. Not good on any front. And it will get worse. It will get scarier. For me it feels a bit like the days after 9/11. As then, I hope….so much…that it will all come out right. But it won’t ever be the same. The world will be different. But it won’t end.

We will go on. But I have to think that the days ahead will be defining for a generation. That they will transform how we think about health care, about the economy, the nature of work, and so much more. These days will be part of their frame of reference. How they see the world will change. It will be fascinating to see….once the dust settles.

For now, though, we have to manage. We have keep calm and carry on. We need to cultivate our aura of zen-like tranquility. We need to breathe.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Meanwhile, here’s a piece written by our son Tony today about Keeping Local Economies Healthy in the face of Covid 19. We need more thinking of this sort…new approaches…new concepts.

March 11

What dominates the news, though, is the trauma and heartbreak in Italy where the virus continues to spread in a frightening way. Chancellor Angela Merkle in Germany cautions that 70% of the nation could become infected. The WHO has declared a pandemic. Not a surprise but still …. it kicks things up to a new level.

Here in the U.S. there are worries that numbers could reach 100,000,000. It’s inconceivable. Even if it was 10 million…or one million…it would be shocking and frightening. Tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands or even a million or more could die. Doesn’t mean that they will…but it’s a grim prospect.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable and — according to the demographic measures — that includes those of us in our 60s.  

This is the third day I’ve worked from home.  Day three of social distancing.  Of being conscious of hands near face.  Being conscious of hand washing…of being careful ….knowing that there are not enough tests, not enough respirators, not enough protective gear…not enough leadership.  South Korea, China, Japan, Italy, the UK — all are doing more testing and taking more proactive steps.   We lag far behind.  At our peril. Some of the best advice may be found in one of the links below…Cancel EVERYTHING. I fear we will do too little and take too long before we act. By then, the damage will be done.

  The news reports a bit over 1000 cases — but, without testing, we really have no clue at all.  Every guess is that the number is far higher and we’ll see an exponential spread in the coming days.  

And, as conservative pundits and news outlets offer a narrative that suits some political agendas but does nothing to serve the public interest, we see their listeners scoffing at guidance that pleads for caution. They think they know all the answers and, flaunting the arrogance of their willful ignorance, they act with reckless defiance — putting us all at risk in the process

  Where could this lead?  I am not sure I want to consider this tonight.   Breath deeply.  Keep Calm.  Carry on.  And love those who matter in your life.

———————————————————————

  “So be patient, you can’t go to the theatre, museums or the gym.  Try to have pity on the myriad of old people you could exterminate.”

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/italy-doctor-coronavirus-message_n_5e68186cc5b60557280d28dd?fbclid=IwAR14nKjNy330YE_3EQuNETw53MiSuBElhYGDlkWOrasg1FqKsx5Yt7heTaw

—————————————————————————

  “Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus.  We must start immediately.  Cancel Everthing”

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-cancel-everything/607675/?fbclid=IwAR3ZCpQQ0-PYJ-9EBynFVcrEM0NMEYMyRRDkjqB3ykZzMBd_Z6v84fQtwy