Cancel EVERYTHING – April

A COVID-19 Diary (Of Sorts)

April 30

It’s already Thursday but, even more, the month is gone. Just how DID that happen? It’s a soggy day here in Virginia. An inch of rain has already fallen. Hope it invigorates but doesn’t drown the various ground cover seedlings that went into the hillside out back yesterday. Time will tell.

Let’s start with the hopeful news. The drug Remdesivir has been found in a clinical trial by NIH to be helpful in shortening the recovery time from COVID-19. The shortened time (11 days vs 15) is noteworthy and promising if for no other reason than that if this drug helps to block the workings of the virus it may offer clues as to what can be done to develop even more effective drugs.

Dr. Fauci has cautioned that this is “not the total answer but an important first step” and we can take some hope from that. But the WHO is a bit more cautious. A clinical study in China showed Remdesivir had little/no impact on the course of the disease. And even the NIH study showed only a marginal benefit in the death rate (8 percent on the drug versus 11 percent on the placebo) and is not intended for use in the majority of patients, estimated to be 80 percent or more, who are infected with the novel coronavirus but do not require hospitalization

As Fauci also said, it’s not a “knockout”… but it’s a start and we can be glad of that.

Meanwhile, as we look at our own disjointed response across the nation, I thought it was interesting to see today’s reports from Europe where Sweden, which has imposed virtually no meaningful curbs on daily activity, has a death rate that is six times that of neighbors Norway and Finland. One government official asserted that in the long run Sweden will be better off for this. Time will tell… but at first blush it seems a high price to pay to develop herd immunity for now when, if the gods are kind, we may have a vaccine 7-12 months from now.

The end of April also marks the “expiration” of national social distancing guidelines. They are “fading” as the President said yesterday and the VP said now the focus is on how to reopen safely. Strikingly, recent polls suggest that overwhelming numbers of Americans are uncomfortable with moving as quickly as some seem to want to.

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There’s so much we’re going to have to think about. I just listened to the governor and mayor of New York talking about shutting down the subway system every night to disinfect the trains daily. A huge undertaking. But they believe it necessary if they are going to reopen. Essential workers who have to move about to go to work in hours of shutdown will be transported by private car hires, if needed, at transportation authority expense.

Some folks say schools should reopen but keep desks six feet apart. How does THAT work? Kids should eat lunch in their classrooms and not in cafeterias. Hmmm. There are SO many questions… but not a lot of answers yet.

This is a time of opportunity amid the challenges. A time for new vision and redefining ourselves amid the fears and the threats. We can, and will, reinvent what education and work and recreation all look like, I wager. This is a transformational event and time. And we should probably be grateful, despite the uncertainty and worries and challenges, that this pandemic, as contagious and consistently dangerous as it has been, was not an even more lethal variety. It could have been.

So we’ll see what the great experiment of reopening looks like. Will we be just fine and reemerge in a position of strength or is this an exercise where we are going to sacrifice lives that could be saved to protect the economic interests of the elites, as some argue? There are moral imperatives that underlie this debate that are not being discussed clearly enough. There are questions about our priorities, and our values, as a nation… about the essence of the governance and who it should serve.

Here’s a link to a review/conversation with Chris Hedges who wrote a book called “America, the Farewell Tour.”

It predated the virus but apparently captures (I haven’t read it… yet) many of the issues we are facing now about fault lines that have been long ignored in our society. This intro, though, poses some interesting questions and challenges to our assumptions about who we are and how our society works. We don’t have to agree with all of these assertions, but we shouldn’t let the fact that a coldly critical perspective makes us uncomfortable keep us from thinking about the criticisms and concerns.

It’s akin to this piece that several friends shared recently. Again, it can be hard to read but we should at least consider how we’re being seen by others. The full version requires an Irish Times subscription to read but here’s a link to the text I borrowed from a friend’s facebook page.

Agree or not. But we need to be willing to look at ourselves and our nation critically and ask what we need to change. Now may be our chance to shift course… if it is not too late.

Tomorrow’s Friday. The sun will shine, I’m told on Saturday. Can’t wait.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 29

There’s so much that has changed. I am, for example, writing this while wearing my nitrite gloves, sitting in the car, and waiting for a Walgreens to open (we arrived too early — their COVID hours, we learned, are different). As I wait, my kitenge cloth mask is at the ready and we’re planning our entry like a precision operation. And it all seems normal. That in itself also seems, well, strange.

Yesterday, we went to Whole Foods — needed to do a grocery run. Folks who were not masked stood out like Mike Pence at the Mayo Clinic (he toured it without a mask yesterday). I realized that one possible plus is that we were spared the anxiety of choice in multiple cases, happily taking what was available because that’s all that they had — even if it’s not what we would normally have selected.

And, there’s no handshaking of course. No hugging. Only going out when absolutely required. Not even up close and personal visits with the grandkids at the moment.

At the same time, we’re resetting priorities as our world has contracted around us in some ways and expanded in others. We are redirecting our energy and focus to use our “new time” productively. Leija is making masks, sanitizing packages and mail (an essential task), baking cookies, making sure grandkids’ birthdays are recognized and more. I’m writing, cooking, playing piano, and trying to work out a bit at home when we aren’t out walking dogs. Life has a different pace. And, until there’s a vaccine, we’ll continue to see this new normal guiding the course of our lives. The acceptable will continue to evolve, but there’s no going back. Even after a vaccine comes along, our world will be forever changed. (A firm handshake may in the future be more of a threat than a demonstration of our friendly intent).

Meanwhile, as there is every day, there is a mixed bag of news. In the good news category, it really does appear that the efforts we have made to date have flattened the curve. The bad news is that the level at which it has plateaued is higher than the experts had hoped. We continue to have 1,000-2,000 deaths a day (yesterday was 2000+) and the plateau is persisting. And, of course, there is the persistent worry that the curve could head up again if the reopening plans in the various states are not matched by plans for extensive and repeated testing and contact tracing when cases are detected to allow for containment.

That’s a tall order. We have tested to date only about 1.7 percent of the US population far behind other nations (no matter what the White House claims) that have tested from 4 to 13 percents of their populations. I think we are the lowest, or among the lowest, of all the “advanced” nations in this regard. Every day the debate about testing and expansion and increased numbers goes on. Perhaps we’ll get there… almost certainly we will… but it still boggles my mind that we are struggling so much to even agree on what our capacity is and what is needed over two months into this.

And as we debate this, we see a hodgepodge of responses… 50 in fact… to the issues of reopening and the wisest course of action. Of course, the 50 states are independent actors… but we are also united and what one state does can have impact far beyond its borders. This is where we need to strike that right balance between federal authority and guidance and states’ actions and implementation. A strong, clear vision, buttressed by science and backed by the resources and authority of the federal government in a time of national emergency would be not only reassuring but might help to harmonize disjointed efforts into a more coherent response that protects our citizens even as we restart the economy.

That vision is what is still lacking. That definition of the role of the federal government is still lacking. That clarity of direction is still lacking. And so we sit and hope that ad hoc responses across the nation will be enough.

It’s time to stop. Last night I saw the quarter moon in the sky. It gave a hint of promise for the day and today did dawn sunny. Clouds are coming in but we’re going to be in the high 70s (warmest day in weeks) and no rain until we get a deluge tomorrow. So its out to the garden I’ll go. I have flowering thyme, periwinkles, and dragon blood sedum seedlings to go into the ground and hope to have a wonderful carpet of pink, blue and red flowers to provide ground cover on our hill out back in lieu of the mulch that washes downhill in every good thunderstorm.

Gardening is good for the soul and that may be just what I need this afternoon.

Happy Hump Day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 28

A month ago, we had just crossed the 100,000 cases threshold and 2,000 deaths. Today we stand on the cusp of 1 million cases in the US and deaths will soon pass 57,000. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metric Evaluation has revised the projected death toll back up. It’s now estimated at 74,000 deaths through early August… but that presumes compliance with social distancing, active containment, etc. That’s not going to happen. It just isn’t.

We’re seeing the rush to reopen and it shows no sign that public health realities or science are going to get in the way of the economic concerns — or the political ones — that are fueling these choices. And so, more will die than need to, and you have to ask whether any short term economic benefit… and it may be marginal… will not be offset by greater long term losses fueled by a resurgence of viral spread. It seems very possible… but perhaps I’m wrong.

What does seem clear is that we’re not ready to reopen no matter how much some wish we were. Not only are the numbers of new cases not at the level every public health expert says they should be at to proceed with containment vs social distancing but we are still woefully behind the curve when it comes to testing capacity.

The government can try to spin it any way that they want, but in the most technologically and medically advanced nation in the world with the strongest global economy, we have been flat footed, unfocussed, and dangerously inept in terms of our response. Some states have done well — others (mostly led by conservative Republican governors taking their cues from the President) have been slow to act, and have been half-hearted in their responses when they did.

We are better than this. Or we should have been. And it is sad that we are increasingly seen as a nation to be pitied rather than admired or emulated.

This takes nothing away from the countless heroes who are making a difference every day. But the governmental failures are shameful.

As we look ahead, every public health expert I’ve seen commenting says we need to be testing at least 500,000 to a million people a day to make containment a realistic strategy that would allow us to reopen safely. That’s between one-sixth of one percent and one-third of one percent of the population tested across the nation. That’s an average of 10,000 – 20,000 per state. We are struggling to do 125,000 a day countrywide.

We have to know where the virus is to contain it. We have to contact trace those who test positive — that too is a capacity we lack. We don’t have the testing, the tracking, or a plan. We don’t have national leadership or a national vision for this and Trump says the federal government should be the last resort on testing… that it’s up to the states.

There has been such a vacuum, such an abdication of responsibility for leadership and direction at the national level It is shocking and undermines our belief that the federal government is actually the glue that holds us together. That it leads in times of crisis. Some of it may be systemic, but most of it, I believe, has to rest with the leadership.

In this strange world we live in, the President was able to stand up yesterday and, despite his now infamous comments about injecting disinfectants, says he has “no idea” why since then there was a surge in people doing or exploring this option and he takes “no responsibility” (a common position for him) for the surge. The cause and effect are clear. We could urge him to just acknowledge that you shouldn’t have said it… that you didn’t think before speaking. We could beg him to correct himself. Tell people to just say no to bleach. But that will never happen will it? He’ll never admit to error. Never admit to fault. Never show the strength of character the real leadership requires.

Germany is seeing a surge in cases now that they started to reopen and they are getting nervous about their course. What will happen here. Every expert tells us … stay the course. Wait. Get infections down. Get testing up. Get the number of infections in the community down to a really low level, and then testing and contact tracing and isolation can work. That’s what they tell us. But Trump is urging governors to reopen schools and reopen businesses — seemingly without reference to the medical facts on the ground.

So, if I were to use emojis in this blog, mine would be the angry face. Followed by the sad face, the scream face, and a scared face (is there a scared face emoji?). And maybe by a string of WTFs.

We’ll stay home. We’ll continue to social distance. We’ll stay as safe as we can and we’ll urge those we love to do the same. And we’ll wish good luck to all. We’ll need it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 27

Happy Monday. I won’t offer any discourse today on the nature of Mondays… I did that a few weeks ago in any event. But today definitely “feels” like a Monday. I logged in to telework, and clearly, it was Monday. I looked at the news. Yup… Monday. I looked out the door and although there’s no rain at the moment (we’re having our share of April showers) the cloud cover pronounced unequivocally… Monday.

It’s not that things are unusually bad or particularly different. But I’ve got one of those Monday kind of feelings that is compounded by a lot of uncertainty — a term that sounds better than stupidity but that may mean much the same.

I’m struck today by how many states are in a rush to start reopening. It’s like Georgia opened the floodgates. No one wants to be left behind and the White House apparently is going to shift it’s messaging towards “reopening” too, with Drs. Fauci and Birx being pushed to the background.

We do, of course, have to reopen at some point. I know. But just days ago everyone talked about the need to still follow the guidelines. To wait until the infection ratio dropped and until there was adequate testing and tracking to address the increase in infections that will come with easing the guidelines. But that’s not what is happening.

New cases continue to appear at a steady rate… in some places they have plateaued but not dropped. In other places they are still rising. The IHME projections used by the White House haven’t changed in assessing that no state should be easing social distancing yet and that only three states would be ready, assuming that they keep all protections in place, to begin moving from social distancing to containment by May 4th. That’s still a week away.

That also presupposes that we have enough testing capacity (and the ability to process them) to monitor and contain infection hot spots that follow reopening. We don’t. At least not yet. But many states are waiting neither for the numbers to drop (IHME projects that Georgia SHOULD wait until June) nor for testing to catch up to the demand.

This could… that doesn’t mean it will…. cause the number of deaths projected to jump from 67,000 to over 120,000. That’s today. It changes all the time. These are just projections. Maybe it will all be fine. But given what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to be confident.

This is, as one report put it, a “ferociously capricious virus… that can be maddeningly unpredictable.” And despite the very real and legitimate economic concerns that drive the push to reopen an even worse second wave of infections in the next few weeks could be even more economically consequential. It could happen. Maybe it won’t. That’s what “maddeningly unpredictable” is all about. But do we want to roll the dice?

We don’t even know — according to the WHO — if having the disease once grants us immunity. Dr. Birx and others concur that we just don’t understand this enough. And if we develop immunity, how long does it last? We don’t know. And if we try to use antibodies from those who had the disease to fight it in others, will that solve the problem? We don’t know. (Detecting a theme here?)

Now doctors worry that if we attempt to bolster antibodies to fight the disease we may target the wrong ones and fuel those antibodies that cause the immune system to go into overdrive, triggering cytokine storms that are believed to be one reason some people experience a far more severe form of the disease than others. But we don’t know which antibodies might do that yet. More to learn. More uncertainty.

So… yes. It feels like Monday. But I just looked up and saw a patch of blue… brilliant and clear amidst the clouds. I’ll take whatever good signs I find right now. And I’ll go refill the bird feeders… we’ve been seeing beautiful cardinals, mockingbirds, doves, white-throated sparrows, black-capped chickadees, carolina wrens, and more, including our first bluebirds of the season. It all reminds me that life goes on… virus or not… and there’s plenty that is good around us.

Take care and please:

Stay strong, stay safe and stay healthy.

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April 26

Sunday morning. Watched a few of the news shows. Leija made a great vegan scramble with vegan sausage and hash browns and toast — with my homemade tomato preserves. Now we’re sipping coffee and thinking about the day ahead. Despite the drizzly weather outside there are lots of birds singing and exploring the feeders that still have food (refilling them is a task for tomorrow). It is a nice way to start the day.

In a few days we’ll hit 1,000,000 known infections and deaths will likely hit 60,000. A week or two ago the models said it would be August 4 before we hit 60,000. So, as has been the case for a while, we’re just not sure what to expect.

We know that infections are still rising near us in Virginia and the same is true in many other parts of the country. People are relieved that the sense of crisis has eased in New York, but they had at least 1,000 new cases identified just yesterday. In Massachusetts it’s getting worse. I worry about what we will see in the areas that are so eager to reopen.

Meanwhile, there was no task force briefing yesterday. The first time in weeks without one. There’s a suggestion from Trump that maybe they aren’t worth the time. He complained on Twitter that all he gets are “nasty” questions from the “lame stream media.”

There is no time in my life when I have ever seen anything like this. Hiding behind his inadequacies by attacking the press in a way we’ve never seen in other administrations, and that, in my view, is wildly inappropriate.

The job of the press, whether Trump likes it or not, is to ask hard questions. It is to challenge. Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Trump seems to believe that the kitchen should only produce mush — the most bland and tasteless mush possible. And journalists should ask only softball questions that show him as a hero. Their stories should be about rainbows and unicorns and the hell with putting issues on the table. But, Mr. President, that’s not how it works.

I think we all recognize that the media has become more partisan —following in part the divisions that have emerged in our society. It is a different world from the days of Winchell and Cronkite. It’s different from the 60s and 70s. But journalists still play an essential role. They investigate, they analyze, and they ask the tough questions. And some, at least, strive to be fair, even while being honest about their own perspective and biases.

I’ve listened to the questions at the COVID-19 briefings. Some are tough. Others are just an effort to clarify confusion — to understand better the issues before us. That is what we should expect of them. They deserve to be answered. We, as citizens, deserve the answer.

When the president scolds, attacks, insults and demeans the journalists — when he calls them third rate hacks — when he tells women reporters to calm down and keep their voices down — I’m not just upset — I’m disgusted. It’s wrong. It’s ugly. And it’s a dodge and we get no answers. That’s wrong, too.

The media is “not the enemy of the people.” They are a bulwark against falsehood, stupidity, and showmen who believe that bombast and bullshit are the same as thoughtful leadership and policymaking. And, if we let the President continue to demean the media and make it his whipping boy and scapegoat, we put the fundamental of our democracy at risk.

We should not be gulled. Many of his supporters are. They have allowed Trump to shape a narrative that has nothing to do with the issues of the day.

The President’s comment and questions about injecting or ingesting disinfectants is NOT a phony story and it’s not about the media taking a poor, misunderstood president out of context. THAT is what Trump would have us believe. But his own words tell the tale. But, of course, his own words are exactly what he wants to hide from. He wants to shift the blame, refocus our attention, rewrite the story or… if that fails… just not show up.

Canceling the briefings, however, is not the right answer. We are facing a major crisis… a heath crisis and an economic crisis. We face it here and globally. We need the media to have access to the experts who are making the decisions that will affect our lives. We need them to seek answers to the questions that we all have.

That may not matter to Trump, however. His administration has never been about accountability or transparency and it has not held the daily press briefings — that were a forum for accountability for administration’s since Nixon’s — for over a year. In a time of crisis, however, having the COVID-19 briefing matters and we need access to information and we need thoughtful national-level leadership and guidance.

If Trump doesn’t want to attend, that’s fine. We could even do without the VP. Although Pence has done a credible job trying to address many of the tough issues we face, his obsequiousness is so egregious that it makes it hard for me to listen to him.

Hearing him and other administration officials offering their obeisance to Trump: “at the direction of the President … thanks to the President’s great leadership… the President decided… the President chose… the President’s remarkable vision.” Ugh.

This too is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in American politics. It is certainly nothing I saw in the previous four administrations in which I served. This shameless toadying… the demoralizing pandering to the ego of the “Great Leader” is unfathomable.

It sounds like Stalinist Russia, or China, or North Korea. It’s a cult of personality and it repulses me. It could be worse, I know — we aren’t a totalitarian state, we don’t have gulags, we don’t have re-education camps. Thank god. But make no mistake. There is much that has happened over the past few years to undermine our institutions, undercut the separation of powers, and to threaten fundamental norms that have given life to our democracy.

So… on that cheery note, I’ll stop. Hang in there. There are so many dimensions to this story and I’m willing to bet it will be as much of a wild ride next week as it has been this week. Rest up!

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup, possible text that says '"When the speech condemns a free press, you are hearing the words of a tyrant." -Thomas Jefferson'

April 25

It’s a Saturday today.  It can be hard to tell the difference, but I know, in part, because I don’t log in to telework for a few hours.  The dogs often get walked earlier in the day (we just did a mile and half walk-about with them).  I have plans for the kitchen today… a Cauliflower, Carrot, Coconut soup; Tofu 65 (a spicy and tasty alternative to Chicken 65 from southern India); and perhaps some vegan egg or chicken salad.  Might fry up some peppers and onions as well to go with pasta tomorrow.  (Andrew Cuomo’s reminiscences of Sunday pasta with the family growing up struck a chord!)

As for the COVID-19 saga, what can I say?  We’re closing in on a million diagnosed cases — though we know the number is much higher — and with over 52,000 deaths we have more than a quarter of the identified global fatalities from this disease.  And there’s still a long way to go.  

I am still avoiding the temptation to dwell overly-much on the President’s unfortunate statements about ultraviolet light and disinfectants and then his even more troubling attempts to rewrite a reality that we all could see with our own eyes.  I’ll let the late night comics have their fun with this… god knows there’s plenty of grist for the mill, here. 

I’ll just say again that words matter and leaders need to use discretion… they need to filter their thoughts… lest they lead folks astray.  How many reports were there yesterday from poison control about folks calling about exposure to cleaners and disinfectants… there are stories from Maryland and Kentucky and Iowa and Michigan.  

There was an uptick across the nation.  In New York City, in the 18 hours after the President’s remarks the city poison center got 30 exposure calls — 9 specifically about Lysol, ten about bleach and 11 about other household cleaners.  That’s crazy.  I’ll say again… words matter.  Presidents should know that.  

There’s a lot of stupidity out there.  We saw with the Spanish Flu the horrible costs of not listening to experts and reopening things too soon.  But some seem incapable or unwilling to learn these lessons and so we rush to reopen in a dozen or more states.  Maybe it will all be OK.  Maybe history need not guide us on this.  Time will tell.  But it’s a horribly risky gamble with people’s lives.  

As hard as it is… as much as the stay-home and shut down orders are straining folks’ resources… the prospect of causing new and greater waves of infection and death that can spread beyond state borders is real and the choices these governors are making are, in my view, dangerous and irresponsible even if the dice they’ve rolled come up in their favor.  

Meanwhile, on a more positive note, Alicia Keys premiered a new song during the CNN COVID-19 Town Hall on Thursday night.  It was entitled “Good Job.”  It was written before this epidemic hit but it is incredibly on point in addition to being beautiful and powerful.  It was a tribute to her mother and to all those in her life who persevered.  Who carried on.  Those who did what needed to be done even when it would have been easier to give up.  

From the truck drivers, to the folks stocking the grocery shelves to the front line health care workers, this song is for them.  And it’s for all those parents who are making it work.  For all who are staying at home.  For those who send a donation to a food bank. To the farmer who sent his spare N-95 mask to Governor Cuomo so he could give it to a doctor or nurse.  It is for every one who cares.  Good Job. 

https://www.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2020/04/24/alicia-keys-visual-premiere-good-job-coronavirus-town-hall-vpx.cnn

https://www.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2020/04/24/alicia-keys-visual-premiere-good-job-coronavirus-town-hall-vpx.cnn

It made me misty-eyed.  Reminded me of all the men and women we served with over the years who sacrificed and who served with courage and commitment. I miss those days.  But I know that even now we can all make a difference in our own way… including by writing blogs, sharing our views, standing for our values.  We can care — care for each other and the planet we share.  

That’s what I’ll take away for today.

Good Job.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 24


What a challenging time.  Conflicting policies and views are the order of the day, I guess. And on this day when we’ve hit a new and very sad milestone – 50,000 deaths, let me review just a few of the disconnects we’re all trying to make sense of. For example:

Some of Georgia’s businesses have reopened with the blessing of the governor.  But stay home at orders remain in place in Georgia.  How does THAT work?  


The governor takes one position but mayors in major cities, including in Atlanta, voice outrage over them and tell their citizens a dramatically different message.


In Washington, the administration keeps touting its increased testing capacity.  But Dr. Fauci says he is not confident that we are where we need to be on testing.  Governors complain we’re not either.


The White House offers a new study that suggests sunlight, humidity and higher temperatures can kill the virus faster on non-porous surface.  Dr. Fauci says warmer weather will not fix the problem.  

The CDC Director says the next wave this winter could be even more difficult. The President said he was “totally misquoted.”  Minutes laster, with the President looking on, the Director said he WAS accurately quoted. Go figure.Fake news or fake spin?

The President says of a second wave “..it might not come back at all … and if it does come back, it’s not going to come back and I’ve spoken to 10 different people…not gonna be like it was. Also, we have much better containment now. Before nobody knew about it. Nobody knew anything about it. Now if we have pockets, little pocket, we are going to put it out. It’s gonna go out and it’s gonna go out fast. We are all going to be watching for it. But it is also possible it doesn’t come back at all.…we may not have any — no recurrence in the fall.

Dr. Fauci on a second wave:  “We will have Coronavirus in the fall.  I’m convinced of that.”

This may be what life looks like through the looking glass. If I see a hookah smoking caterpillar it will all make sense.

As for the news of the days…the idea the President voiced of injecting disinfectant or putting ultraviolet light into the body… don’t get me started.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  It’s as though the President opens his mouth and waits to see what will come out.  It’s actually pretty scary.

There’s so much we don’t know.  We don’t even know if we develop immunity or not once infected.  We hope that is the case, but we don’t know yet. But today, instead of focusing on the really important stuff, we’ll spend time and energy telling people not to inject Lysol (which really ISN’T a good idea) because the President was careless in his public remarks — again.

In the past few days we’ve learned that the virus was here weeks earlier than we ever knew and was far more widespread.  If we had known, maybe we could have acted differently.  Hindsight is 20/20 of course.   

I don’t blame the administration for not realizing what no one really knew then, or for the bad choices (as seen in retrospect) regarding testing and preparation based on misplaced assumptions.  That could have happened to any administration.  But now we desperately need to get this figured out — and politicizing the response (and we all have seen the evidence that that is a legitimate concern) serves no one.  

There’s so much for us to think about, isn’t there?  Food lines.  Unemployment numbers skyrocketing.  Businesses at risk. It’s all worrisome.

But one thing we don’t talk about much, even though it is playing out before us, goes to the fundamental nature of the governance in this nation.  From our founding, the challenge has always been to get relations between state and federal authorities right.  It’s a delicate balance.

Who’s in charge of what?  

How do states and the federal government partner?  

How do states deal with each other if decisions in one state put citizens in another at risk?  

Does the federal government have a broader role to play?  Should it?  

Or what about deciding — as the Congress is considering now — how much the federal government should be directing revenues back to the states in the form of budgetary assistance in the face of this crisis?  

On that last question, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has one view (states should, perhaps, file for bankruptcy rather than look for bailouts from Washington).  

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has a very different view, reminding the Senator that New York, unlike McConnell’s Kentucky, puts far more INTO the federal treasury than it takes out.  If anyone is being bailed out, he says, it is Kentucky… and New York’s economic success overall helps make that possible.  

Battle lines are being drawn on this and other issues.  And they are sharp ones.  These are issues that are at the heart of our nation’s founding and that have fueled debates ever since, but I’m not sure we’ve seen them play out in such sharp relief against the backdrop of such a compelling and complex set of issues.  

Oh yes… every day there are new questions.  New challenges.  New debates.  They all intrigue me… keep me thinking.  And that’s healthy for an old mind like mine, in any case.

I think it’s important that we understand these issues… that we have viewpoints, and we share them.  Not because we, as individuals, are going to solve the challenges but, if we’re willing to listen, to learn, and to engage in constructive discussion, maybe we can find our way together and create a degree of consensus — something I fear we’re a long way from at present.

I’m glad it’s Friday.  Enjoy it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.  

April 23

We’re just back from a dog walk.

Usually, I try to do my teleworking first and then write the blog and then the afternoon is free for all the other things I want to do including walking the pups. But today the rain clouds are looming and we wanted to get a walk in before the weather prevented us.

We got no argument from the dogs. They love to walk and they seem to relish going as a “pack.” I always wonder what it is they are experiencing as they gather round an innocuous patch of grass and sniff with an intensity and concentration that borders on a religious experience.

In any event, it was a good walk. Cleared my head a bit before sitting down to write in this journal. Unfortunately, it did not clear it enough for me to say that I have some new insight into this ongoing saga.

I’m bemused that today the President is saying the governor of Georgia is going too far too soon with his reopening plans when, on Tuesday night he and the VP were telling him they were pleased with the choice to reopen.

And somehow the President thinks now (or again) that beauty shops bring people into too close a proximity but reopening gyms remains in his phase one list of businesses to reopen. (There’s some interesting reporting on just how THAT came about, if you’re interested.)

How many days in a row can I write about inconsistent messaging and
leadership? About confusion and seeming chaos? The lack of cohesion in messaging and action makes me crazy.

Although the President says that he doesn’t want to tell Georgia’s governor what to do (despite now disagreeing), he had no problem attacking Larry Hogan of Maryland for buying testing kits from South Korea (even though he told governors that the federal government isn’t a “supply clerk” and that they should find kits and PPE and ventilators themselves).

He says he doesn’t want to tell governors what to do… but he calls for the “liberation” of Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, saying that those governors have gone too far with stay at home orders — even though they’re mirroring what his own task force calls for.

Such contradictory, confusing, and often politicized messaging only makes it harder for us to find our path as a nation. And we need to find it.
If you want to see what confused and bewildering messaging looks like you only need to watch a 25 minute interview that Anderson Cooper did with the mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman. Like all of us, she was concerned about the human toll the economic dimension of this crisis is taking.

But reopening Vegas — conventions, casinos, theaters, shows and more — without provisions for testing, surveillance, and contact tracing seems the height of irresponsibility. Her arguments were all over the board… confused, inconsistent, and potentially dangerous… especially as this would likely be a case where what happens in Vegas DOESN’T necessarily stay in Vegas. It was a mess.

She’s not a bad person. Not ill-intended. But she is ill-informed and, it seems, ill-suited to leadership in these difficult times. Nothing easy about any of this I know, but if ever we need thoughtful leaders who communicate honestly and clearly, who take responsibility for their choices and who inspire us with their command of the facts and their commitment to our welfare, it is now.

And meanwhile, Dr. Rick Bright the Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the Bureau of Health and Human Services, says he was removed from his position because he resisted pressure to pursue Trump’s drug panacea and objected to “rushing blindly towards unproven drugs” which could be “disastrous and result in countless more deaths.” Trump says “maybe he was… maybe he wasn’t.”

Excuse me? Yes, I know that there’s always more to any story than what the protagonists may offer but I don’t think, given the track record of retaliation and unwillingness to permit dissenting voices in this administration, that it would surprise us to find out that Bright’s claims are true. We certainly deserve a better answer than “maybe he was… maybe he wasn’t.”

Bright was charged with the oversight of vaccine development. I would indeed hope that, in that role, we’d have individuals who give priority to science and facts and not the type of political gamesmanship that surround the hydroxychloroquine silliness I discussed — again — yesterday.

I don’t mean to sound cranky. I really don’t. But there are days when the news just makes my head want to explode and where I’m not at all sure that some of our leaders have learned any lessons at all from the past three and a half months.

Tomorrow, I hope, will offer some brighter news. I need a “family” fix, I think. I need the grandkids. I need the garden. I need to remind myself, as I used to remind the colleagues I had the honor to lead over the years, that so long as we can predict the sun will rise tomorrow, and the republic will still be standing, anything else is manageable.

So, cultivate an aura of zen-like tranquility. Breathe slowly and deeply. It’s all good. We’ll get there. I have faith in us.

Stay strong, stay safe and stay healthy

No photo description available.

April 22

There’s a lot of news… there always is… it’s just that not much of it is really new.  More of the same debates and worries and, in some cases, stupidity.

The President seems to be applauding decisions in Georgia and South Carolina to start reopening things even though the decisions of the governors there goes against the guidelines articulated by his White House.  The Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation of the University of Washington (IMHE), whose models the White House task force keeps highlighting, says that both those states should plan to keep social distancing in place until early to mid-June.  And then it can consider shifting to containment strategies.  

We’re nowhere near that yet, and what Georgia or South Carolina are talking about is not a containment/surveillance/tracking strategy.  It’s a “what the hell, it’s time” strategy and it seems to be driven by an ideological viewpoint more than science.  

I heard one of the Georgia governor’s supporters explaining the rationale.  He talked about the devastating impact of the virus on small business owners and noted that these are “mom and pop” shops… many run by minorities and immigrants.  He’s right.  It is having a devastating impact and we have to keep looking at how we help folks recover, but the problem won’t be solved by contributing to a new surge in infections and deaths.  

The president applauds Georgia’s choice anyway —  despite the fact that it flies in the face of what his task force recommends. 

More confusion, more inconsistency, and more risk.  It’s frustrating.  And the cynic in me has to ask about whether the governor or Georgia and his supporters have always had such a deep concern for immigrant and minorities’ well-being and livelihoods.  Something tells me an examination of the state’s policies and practices might not show that to have been the case.  Makes you wonder.

The IHME says that even the least affected states and/or those with the most effective responses, should be waiting until they drop to a threshold of 1 prevalent case per 1,000,000 before starting a carefully managed reopening.  By May 4-15 we might see California, Montana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, reach that level.  Others will follow as we move into late May and June.  But we aren’t there yet.  

Some states will nonetheless jump the gun, numbers will go up and the timeline across the board will be derailed.  IHME’s estimate of deaths through August just jumped 10% after several weeks of estimated declining totals.  They now predict 66,000 deaths by August 4, assuming that social distancing guidelines are kept in place until the 1 case per 1,000,000 threshold is reached.  If we assume that isn’t going to happen, then we have to assume that the numbers will grow worse, not better.  

As has been true all along, whether folks who make decisions want to recognize it or not, it’s all about the science.  That’s what should drive our thinking.  It’s the same thing we’re hearing today about hydroxychloroquine.  The President “felt good” about it.  He’s a “smart guy.”  “What can it hurt?”  Etc etc.  

Now the National Institute of Health is saying it shouldn’t be used in the way that he recommended.  The Veterans Administration in the largest study to date (though not peer-reviewed or randomized) found that those getting the drug actually died at higher rates.  Studies in other countries are buttressing concerns.  The bottom line isn’t about “I told you so.”  It’s about the need to be guided by science and facts.  

And it’s a reminder that when you lead, your words matter.  People listen to you.  They believe you.  They trust you.  And words spoken without care for their accuracy — with knowledge — can cause harm.  

These are the same sorts of issues that have been in the news since I started writing this journal on March 11.  We seem determined not to learn some of the lessons that this virus is so painfully teaching.  California got it right.  New York, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, and many others do, too.  They are learning.  They adapt and change.  But sadly — and dangerously — others don’t.  And so, it goes on.

That’s enough for today.  I’m tired.  Lots of excitement last night including the dogs cornering an opossum that had the audacity to be wandering on their turf last night.  Lo Khyi, our big boy… the Tibetan mastiff … got nipped while bringing the opossum to account.  But he looked pretty proud shaking the offender soundly before dropping him and letting me bring him inside.  The other pups followed and the opossum who was “playing possum” at that point, got up and snuck away when we weren’t looking.  If he’s smart, he won’t be back.

It’s Earth Day, too.  Here’s an interesting piece on the strategic case for U.S. leadership on climate change by George Shultz and Jim Baker, the first two Secretaries of State for whom I worked.  Worth a read.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy and, today I’ll add, stay green!  It matters.

April 21

Happy Tuesday.

Here in Northern Virginia the sky is trying to decide whether it will lure us outside with sun and the promise of spring or whether the clouds will win out and bring predicted thunderstorms.  It’s uncertain.  Much like the mood in the country.

Last night we were listening to the story about the meatpacking plants becoming the new hot spots (and the governor of South Dakota still won’t restrict gatherings or issue workplace controls… go figure).  The story ended with an assurance from the CDC that the virus is not present in and can’t be spread by food.  Reassuring?  Not really.  Leija and I had the same immediate reaction.  That’s what the CDC thinks and believes… today.  But tomorrow?  Who knows.  

Every day it seems we learn something new about the virus.  We thought it attacked the lungs.  But now we know it attacks the heart, the kidneys, the brain as well.  “Masks don’t make a difference”  except that now “masks DO make a difference.”  “It has peaked.”  “It will peak May 7.”  “Continue to stay home.”  “Go back to work.”  “Europe is reopening… Europe’s numbers are still dangerous”.  Confused much?  It’s hard to know.

Meanwhile, the protestors demanding their liberty and some of the folks like Governor DeSantis in Florida and Governor Kemp in Georgia are conducting their own interesting, if dangerous, science experiments.  Of course I’d feel a lot better if I thought that they understood the medicine and science of all this but hell… let’s reopen the gyms and tattoo parlours and hair salons and restaurants and private clubs and, of course, everyone will maintain social distancing (we’ve seen how careful the protestors were about that… oh yeah… wait… they weren’t, but that’ okay, isn’t it?).  And “if appropriate” staff will wear gloves and masks.  Dandy.  

Maybe in the next few weeks we won’t see a surge in Florida and Georgia.  Maybe we won’t read stories about protestors falling ill with the virus or more church communities experiencing waves of deaths.  I hope we won’t.  But I wouldn’t bet on it, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be taking my chances just because Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis think it’s all manageable.  

After awhile there is so much to be outraged about that we lose the capacity for outrage.  We’re exhausted by the idiocy.  As one FB post noted recently… you can’t quarantine stupidity.  We hardly even talk about the numbers any more because it’s just more of the same.  Numbing numbers.  Before the day is out we’ll have over 800,000 reported cases and 43,000 deaths, but we learned just yesterday that initial antibody testing in Los Angeles County suggests that the number of people infected was at least 30 times greater (and perhaps as much as 50 times greater) than initially thought. 

The good news in that is that it suggests that the fatality rate may be lower than it seemed… the bad news is that even if the rate is lower there are even more asymptomatic carriers out there who can spread the disease and there will still be many who die when they contract it even if the percentages are lower. 

As I write the clouds are creeping back in.  Yep… an uncertain day in these uncertain times.  But I am certain that I’ll be here tomorrow.  I am certain that pups will slip into the bed in the nighttime lying on the comforter and adding their warmth to the bed’s embrace. I am certain that there will be a hairy woodpecker at the feeders in the morning or a Caroline Wren or white-throated sparrow.  I am certain that we’ll have food on the table… a glass of wine if we want it… and shelter from the storms that threaten.  And for today that is more than enough.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 20

There is so much information that comes at us every day.  It’s hard to track it all.  But sometimes there are stories or issues that just stick in your head.  For me, the “end the shutdown” story is one of those.

I talked about it some over the past two days but it hasn’t gone away and it just nags at me.  Offends me.  On many levels.  

I understand that there are a range of folks voicing their concerns and some I can understand and sympathize with.  The small business owners who see their life’s savings, and in some cases their life’s work at risk.  They’re scared, worried, and desperate.  I get that and I can relate to their concerns.  Most of us can because we’re all affected one way or the other.  Just as we can relate to the needs and concerns of those who have lost their jobs.  Or, even more tragically, lost loved ones.

We all get that.  Everyone is affected.  Some worse than others.  And it may not make them feel better to realize that others are suffering too, or have lost even more.  But they have.  I hope that as a nation we find ways to help mitigate the economic pain and costs but this is a crisis.  Lots of us are going to be hurting in different ways.  But while I empathize with those who are worried about their businesses, their needs have to be balanced as well against the needs of others with whom they share the world.  We ARE all in this together and it requires shared sacrifice.

That is what society requires.  That’s what we get as humans when we choose to live together as a community bound by rules and conventions that limit some individual freedoms to meet a greater good and provide countless other benefits that we all derive from being part of that community.  Public safety and health, education, social welfare services, public parks, clean water, sanitation… the list goes on and on.  We don’t get to pick and choose at times like these.  We elected officials to make the decisions for the greater good so that we aren’t locked into cycles of violent self-interest as we compete to advance our own desires over what matters to others.  

This is what puts the “civil” in civilization.  This is what keeps us together.  This is what makes it all work.  And I’m sorry for all of us who will suffer, but it’s part of the deal. 

There are those, however, who I don’t understand at all.  Who believe that their views are the only ones that matter.  Who think that we are all “sheep.”  That they can take any risks that they want to… but who still will expect doctors to put themselves at risk to save them if they fall ill, and who will expect government funded hospitals to be open to provide them urgent care.  They want it all.  And they piss me off.

Libertarians want to make their own choices.  Want no government interference.  Then choose to live somewhere else — don’t put my loved ones at risk because you choose to be irresponsible.  Don’t live in our cities or our states.  Go create your own society and more power to you.

Then there are the anti-vaccine zealots.  They’re worried about what?  About a government plot to make them healthy?  To keep their kids from dying in childhood?  Fine… you can leave too.  You don’t have to be here.  Find someplace in the world where vaccines aren’t part of community health and take your chances.  I’m tired of you putting my grandkids or others at risk.  

I know I sound harsh.  But that’s how I feel today.  I’m angry — and a bit scared — by the ugliness that is emerging.  White men waving guns and talking about bullets rather than ballots.  Intimidating and threatening.  Blustering and babbling about their freedoms.  Men full of hate and anger.  Women too.  Ugliness isn’t sexist.  Nor is hatred.  Or racism.  Or anti-semitism.  

There are those who have empowered them.  Who have made these public expressions of hate and contempt tolerable if not acceptable.  They should be ashamed.  And those they empower once hid their faces under white sheets or painted their swastikas on synagogues under the cloak of the night.  Now they stand before cameras, they march in Charlottesville, they brandish their assault weapons in Lansing and smirk with the attention they get.

It’s not as though these have not been part of our society… or most societies…  throughout time.  There is good and decency and compassion and tolerance in the world, but alongside them there is hatred and ugliness too.  There is the yin and the yang.  

We cannot become complacent. We can’t dismiss the potential for evil to rise… to come to the fore.  It happened less than 100 years ago in Nazi Germany and it can happen again.  

We try to be understanding.  We try to be decent.  We try to listen and build bridges.  Most of those folks on the streets this weekend, I’ll wager, aren’t looking to build bridges.  They aren’t open to listening.  

Not everyone out there was a bad person.  Some are scared.  Some misguided.  Some just stupid.  But there are bullies and thugs and racists and misogynists, too.  They see the world changing and they seize on the trauma of the pandemic to try and somehow shift the tide.  

They should be ashamed.  But they are, I fear, beyond shame.  They take advantage of the tolerance and the respect we have for everyone’s rights to disrupt, to intimidate and to put everyone at risk of further spread of the most serious public health challenges our nation has faced in over a century.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I’m not saying we should become like them… intolerant bullies arrogantly demanding our way and the hell with everyone else.  But I have to wonder if we don’t need to learn to be stronger in defense of what we believe.  Stronger in defense of our society.  Stronger in defense of our values.  Less afraid to offend and more willing to call out bigotry, stupidity and hatred when we see it.  

You can tell me that this is just a very small group.  That media coverage amplifies it and makes it seem worse than it is.  And that may be true, but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.  This is the way it begins and we need to make sure that it remains under control.  

Many good people in Germany watched fascism grow not believing that it could ever become what it did.  And the world paid a price.  Humanity paid a price.  Our voice needs to be heard.  We have to draw the line somewhere.  We can’t wait to “turn the tide” — we need to act before it is a tide.

This isn’t about the rugged individual against the power of the godless state as some seem to want to pretend.  It’s about democracy vs demagoguery.  Decency and compassion vs selfishness and intolerance. 

We need to figure out how we will advance our agenda and not just watch in dismay as societal norms are increasingly undercut.  And as we try to answer that, we need to focus on the fact that there is an election that is only a bit more than 6 months away. 

We need to start now to support candidates who get it.  We need to support women and men who speak for our values, who will stand for decency, and who will not cater to those who threaten the fabric of our society.  

Elections matter.  Elections have consequences.  And if we haven’t learned that lesson over the past four years, I fear we never will.  

Okay… I have vented.  I can’t say I feel better but I needed to write about this today.  It’s been on my mind since I got up this morning.

I hope your Monday is better than you expect.  I hope that the week will be too.  We’ll see.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 19

It’s Sunday. I’m not going to write much today. Really.

I’ve already done a 90 minute Zoom call about Nepal. Pretty worrisome there. The impact of a lockdown that is now almost 30 days has to be devastating to so many who live on the edge of disaster even in the best of times. Leija and I donated to a local food bank yesterday… there just aren’t the same safety nets in Nepal. Most don’t have savings. Those that did are seeing them depleted.

Many of the Nepalis who worked overseas find themselves jobless… remittances have dried up… tourism dollars and jobs have disappeared. It’s not good. It may be tough here but the issues are far more critical there. Their infection numbers are low but testing is very limited. I fear it may only be a matter of time.

At home? New York hospitalizations are coming down which is really good. Given that it alone had over 220,000 cases, that’s great. But STILL 1,300 new cases were identified just yesterday and 507 more people died there alone.

The latest poll I saw said 58% of Americans favored continued isolation vs. rapid reopening. You can count me in that number. I am in one of the states that Trump wants to “liberate.” No thanks. Not now… not yet. Meanwhile the idiots still congregate without masks and with no sense of responsibility to their fellow citizens in Austin, San Diego, and Denver among other places. Shame on them. And if they get the virus it on them…but if they infect others they go unaccountable…it just seems wrong.

Here’s a really good article that friend Susan Marsh shared yesterday that reminds us all just what we’re dealing with here… it’s not pretty but it’s important to understand.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/how-does-coronavirus-kill-clinicians-trace-ferocious-rampage-through-body-brain-toes

But it’s Sunday. A day for reflection. And so I wrote an answer to this week’s Storyworth question…”What do you miss most from your childhood.” It was fun to reflect back on those days… the link is here if you want something that is NOT about COVID-19 to read.

Leija is baking cupcakes for the grandkids… we’ll deliver them this afternoon and wave at the kids from the edge of their porch. It’s a chance to see them, even if from an approved distance, and a reason to get out of the house.

Yesterday we ventured out too… very carefully. We went to the Beltway Brewery which offered contactless pickup of local brews AND hand sanitizer that they are producing! So it was barley wine, IPA, blonde ale, and hand sanitizer… who could have asked for more!

And then we got interfacing from Joann Fabrics for the masks that Leija is making. Leija stood outside the store… in a carefully spaced line and wearing her mask and gloves… waiting to be one of the ten folks at a time allowed in the store. An excursion that was important, but carefully executed.

So… I’ll stop here. I’m going to go water the new grass seed. We’ll go deliver cupcakes. Maybe we’ll walk the dogs. We’ll fill the day again, and we’ll hope that all of you will do the same, with hearts at peace knowing that our time of reflection at home is for the greater good. So thanks for taking care. Thanks for keeping well. Happy Sunday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 18

I’m no expert on the subject of COVID -19. I know that. But what becomes clearer with every passing day is that figuring out the path forward is complex and daunting.

The models are already being adjusted. The latest says only four states might be ready to reopen in early May… and even then in a very controlled way. Others may need to wait until late June or early July.

Governors can’t find the testing kits that are such a critical part of reopening the economy. They don’t have the resources for virus surveillance and contact tracing. They can’t find swabs. It’s across the board… every state across the country it seems. The sensible pre-conditions that so many are saying are necessary to reopen just aren’t there.

At the same time, The WHO is reporting that they can not affirm that antibodies grant immunity, raising more questions. And increasingly we are seeing reports that the number of folks who are testing positive, but have no symptoms (even though they can spread it), are higher than imagined. More grist for the mill of uncertainty.

And meanwhile, we won’t fund The WHO — the world’s preeminent heath organization that needs our support more than ever as this global pandemic continues to spread in the developing world.

Trump claims that it’s because WHO didn’t share information. What information is that? The information that they shared back in December and January? The information that numerous US representatives working with, and in, WHO had access to and shared with Trump’s administration as news of the virus emerged in late December. So we will cut funding based on a Trump lie. That doesn’t seem to bother him. It should bother us.

Yesterday, Democratic Senators had a contentious call with Vice President Pence who could not answer the questions that they (and many of us) have about the federal government’s seeming inability to get the testing equation right.

He says that the administration has no higher priority… that there is huge excess capacity… but I have not heard anyone… ANYONE… any governor, mayor, doctor, nurse, not anyone say that they have the testing they need. Obviously, the VP’s assertions beg the question of where is the support if we’re so well prepared? It is incredibly frustrating.

And then there’s the President’s latest tweets calling for the “liberation” of Minnesota, Virginia and Michigan. All, of course, states with Democratic governors. His tweets come a day after he said he favored a measured and careful approach driven by the governors. Now he’s calling for people to defy social distancing guidelines.

He’s encouraging the reckless behavior of these folks we see crowding together on the steps of Michigan’s capitol — some wielding assault weapons — demanding an end to the lockdown. They stand outside the Minnesota governor’s home and wave their signs saying if ballots won’t solve this, bullets will.

Online screeds call for the “boogaloo” — armed insurrection — and they are linking their calls to Trump’s tweets. And, in a nation with far too many guns in the hands of people with a fantasy of violent rebellion as the response to their anger and hatred, this isn’t something we can dismiss as just online ranting.

Trump’s tweets echo what we hear on Fox and other conservative media outlets and they empower and give comfort to the protestors. I think it is scary.

If he believes in his call for “liberation” it is frightening and stupid. Some say that it’s “just” an effort to throw red meat to his base and to get the media and distract us from worries about testing and fact checking on The Who and other issues. But, if so, that sort of gamesmanship is irresponsible at any time and at a time like this it is a danger to us all.

On one level, we seem to be going back to the beginning of this where leaders downplay the virus and substitute wishful thinking and political gamesmanship for science, facts, and thoughtful policymaking. That sort of willful self-delusion cost us precious time at the start of this crisis and if this continues, I fear it will cost us more lives and risk a resurgence of the virus even before the first wave is even peaked.

The news this morning just feels too grim. Deaths doubled form 18,000 to 37,000 in just the past week. The number of unemployed has risen by 22 million in the past month. The number of people who are hungry, the number of families who can’t feed their kids, is growing rapidly.

Even though some of the worst predictions about virus related deaths have been forestalled, the complexities and uncertainties we will face remain undiminished. And, as I watch footage of people flocking to the beaches in Jacksonville, without masks or regard for social distancing, I worry that the numbers may surge again in the weeks ahead as other states and localities act without the sort of care and thoughtfulness for which we see others arguing.

This virus, as I have said before, is far from finished with us.

This is not a great way to begin a weekend, I know. I had meant to seek out upbeat tales but this is what I found this morning and it’s what’s on my mind.

And, for those who are fans of the President (and I admit I’m not) let me say that I don’t seek to make this political — it’s a personal reflection — but you can’t tell this story without reference to those with the responsibility and power to address the issues. And the facts, the tweets, and lies (for that is what they are), speak for themselves. It is what it is, no matter how some might try to color them.

So… it’s only 10 AM. No more news for me today. I’m going to find a food bank we can support. I’m going to read a good book. I’m going to watch a movie. And life will go on.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 17

It’s my little sister’s birthday today, so, a shout out to Martha Mary Bogie! She’s an outgoing and active woman — I have trouble picturing her social distancing in Minnesota (but of course, I am SURE she is… right, Marth?)

As I found with our grandson’s birthday and my own earlier this week, we do find ways to mark the moments even at this difficult time. I almost said “difficult time in our nation’s life” but, of course, it’s more than a difficult time for us. We have now passed the 2 million mark in terms of global infections. Deaths are almost at 150,000 and climbing.

I still find the array of information and opinions to be almost overwhelming. The bottom line is that I’ll err personally on the side of caution. Everything tells me that’s the smart play… at least for us.

Tom Frieden, the former CDC director who I got to know when I was Ambassador in Uganda, is a smart guy and he suggested that until there is a vaccine — which could be 12-18 months — we could be facing a new normal where some degree of social distancing, avoiding handshakes and hugs, and where the most vulnerable will need to be even more careful.

It’s striking how every time we have to go out we feel a bit of trepidation and we prepare each excursion with care. Masked, gloved, and with a plan of attack that will minimize exposure and contact. No touching the face… avoid getting to close… strip off the gloves… use sanitizer. It is indeed a new normal.

Every day I hear experts talking about something else that’s new… something else that they’ve learned about the disease or that they don’t understand. All we can do is listen, learn, and be as smart as we can.

I know we have to begin to think about reopening the economy, and at least the President has now backed off and agreed that governors have to make the choices for their states. He doesn’t have “absolute power.” Now I worry, though, that he’ll do as he has repeatedly done throughout the crisis with his vacillating shifts and argue that it’s ALL with the states. That’s equally unhelpful.

He may not have “absolute power” but if states act irresponsibly there is a cost for everyone. It’s a question of leadership, engagement, and partnership. That’s what has been missing for so much of this struggle and it still is going to be an issue, I fear.

Is it going to make sense for Florida that the mayor of Jacksonville plans to reopen beaches and parks today? Maybe. He’s encouraged by the fact that they’ve flattened their curve. But that doesn’t mean the virus is gone… far from it. In reading the mayor’s order, it seems reasonable on the surface and it calls for folks to continue to respect social distancing… but I fear they won’t. Will Jacksonville see a new surge in the virus in two weeks? It will be interesting to watch, but it’s also worrisome. Because if Florida eases too soon and infections surge, neighboring states could also see issues.

We ARE all in this together. That’s why groups of neighboring states are beginning to plan together as they should, and that is why there is a role for the federal government in coordinating, guiding, and facilitating. But it seems with this President that if he doesn’t want to share the spotlight he doesn’t want to play.

So… it’s late morning… the newly planted herbs and flowers survived the freezing temps early this morning (28.4 degrees) thanks to Leija’s jury-rigged coverings for them. Now it’s already back above 50 and I don’t think we’ll see anything that cold again this season. So it’s outside to put down grass seed on the new dirt that the landscapers brought to build up the soil a bit under the deck and along the foundation to keep water flowing away from the house and not into it.

There’s always something to keep us busy and let us keep our minds on things other than COVID-19 and the risks that lay beyond our doorstep. So I’m going to enjoy the rest of my Friday. We have a nice vegetable stew I made last night. And there’s more than enough… too much in fact… that will keep me busy. It’s a good dilemma to face.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 16

The news of the day?

Black bears in Yosemite are having a party! With the park shut down the bears are out and about more than ever. They’re using park roads as their new hiking trails and they seem to revel in having the park to themselves. Good for them. I wonder if they’re social distancing in the process?

There are more sea turtle nests on some of Florida’s closed beaches. That’s pretty cool too. We’ve all seen and heard that skies are clearer in some metro areas than ever before and the lockdown in Nepal is reducing pollution there too, offering views of the Himalayas from parts of the country that haven’t seen the lofty peaks in decades.

Every day there are good news stories and stories of human kindness, of resilience, of gratitude. Maybe I should focus on some of them tomorrow. I know that they’re there, but they get lost behind the other, less heart-warming, news.

I don’t know about you but I’ve become numb to the numbers and some of the news reports. There are over 2 million cases now globally, with over 640,000 of them here in the US. We have over 31,000 recorded deaths now as well. The numbers will keep growing, sadly. Globally, as I talked about the other day, there are new hot spots emerging. Imagine if it takes hold in India (there are already over 12,000 deaths) or picks up steam in Africa — which is so woefully unprepared. And in South Korea they’re trying to make sense of reports that 141 recovered patients are now testing positive again. Time will tell if we need to worry or not.

Today, the President seems to be saying that decisions on reopening our nation’s economy belong to the states — backing off his assertions over the past two days that he has absolute authority to make the call. I’d say that’s good news overall but who knows what he’ll claim tomorrow. The inconsistencies and confusion that he sows are not helpful, to say the least.

And the decisions, no matter where they rest, are going to be tough. Already there are those who resent the shutdown and the “interference” of government into their freedom to live their lives on their own terms (and perhaps pose a public health risk to others and sow their own brand of chaos). The tension between big government and the libertarian movement is not new, but you wonder if there will be backlash and what form will it take? Will the lesson we take away from this crisis REALLY be that government has too much power and is interfering with our right to catch and spread diseases?

I worry as well that we’re seeing similar tunnel vision on “reopening” the economy. Senator Kennedy from Louisiana and many others (I mention Kennedy because I just heard him on the radio) seem to believe that if we have to sacrifice some lives to reopen the economy then that’s just the price we have to pay. We can’t let the economy totally collapse, he argues, so some will just have to die. It’s an argument that may resonate for the President and, if reports are to be believed, it is the case being made by many of his wealthy friends.

I don’t know if the latter is true but I would guess that there is an element, if not a lot of fact there. The choice, of course, isn’t between staying locked down forever and throwing open the doors and letting public health be damned. There is a middle path that many responsible leaders are trying to find. But for those who think we’re going to look like we did in December or January, think again. We may never be that nation again.

So, the bottom line for a sensible and measured approach to reopening the government seems to hinge on testing. Lots of testing. Repeated testing. Testing and contact tracking. Surveillance (disease surveillance, that is). And the consensus seems to be, as well, that we don’t have enough testing capacity to do it. And although we have made progress since the testing debacle that hindered us early in the virus, there is a long way to go and, once again, the federal response is lacking. Trump says testing is a state issue.

Once again, as with food distribution issues I discussed the other day, the challenge of marshaling and directing resources to meet an urgent nationwide demand for testing is something that the federal government is uniquely suited to do. Certainly more so than having 50 states take a crack at it. But Trump hems and haws and says it isn’t his job even as he also claims “absolute authority.” If we care about getting folks back to work… if we want to build a new normal without blindly sacrificing lives and adding to the tragedy we have already faced… then we’d better get the testing piece on track. But once again, as with so much, the administration seems to have its head somewhere else. I just don’t know where.

Enough. I think I’ll picture bears frolicking at Yosemite and be happy with that for the afternoon.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 15

There are days when you wonder what to write about and then there are the days when there’s just too much you can choose from.

I had wanted to write about gardening today… lol… but maybe I’ll do that later.

Instead I’ll start with a plea… SOMEONE help me understand why we would choose to suspend funding for the World Health Organization at this impossibly difficult time for so many countries around the planet. Seems that was the focus, in part, of yesterday’s entry. But for God’s sake. Even if you had a concern about WHO’s performance vis-a-vis China, you can put down a marker, voice concerns, open a dialogue and seek information. But really… is THIS the time to suspend funding? What do we think we’re going to gain in the short term? What immediate reforms do we want to see at a time when there’s so much else to worry about?

I don’t get it. I really don’t. I’ve not heard any well-articulated rationale. But there’s a Tweet, of course. Tweets have replaced policy papers… tweets have replaced thoughtful positions… and so many seem to accept that as a new normal. It’s striking how the criticisms the President has chosen to level at the WHO are so similar to those directed against his administration for the lost time and lack of a focused response for too long as this pandemic took hold. My first reaction is to say this is just more political gamesmanship rather than a principled choice… and it’s gamesmanship that can affect people around the world. It can cost lives. And it can come back to hurt us in many ways. Sigh.

Meanwhile, if you read the news there are more and more reports of folks living on the edge. Folks, in America, who are struggling to feed their families. There have always been people living on the edge. Forgotten. Ignored. But now the numbers are skyrocketing as jobs are lost and folks’ safety nets, such as they are, are disappearing. Food banks are under incredible strain… some have had to suspend operations.

It’s not that we’re short of food. We’re seeing images of produce rotting in fields, of dairies dumping truckloads of milk, and more. The challenges lie in distribution. In matching supply to need. I know that there’s a lot for our leaders to worry about but this seems again like one of those times when we’re missing the mark. Rather than focusing on WHO perhaps we should be looking at these challenges.

I worry we’re going to get more of the usual blame-shifting. This administration is quick to blame the states… or dismiss problems like these as issues the states must manage. But the next moment the President asserts absolute control and dismisses the authority of the states to make decisions. The federal government is uniquely placed to help manage these issues of food distribution across the nation and ensuring that, in partnership with the states, we are able to get the food we produce to those in need. But how quickly do you expect that to happen? What have the past few months led us to expect? Not much, I fear.

Finally, even as we continue discussions about how and when to reopen our nation, I have to say that I worry about what comes next. Japan, for example, is still in the throes of this crisis and now is worried about hundreds of thousands of death. Other nations in Africa and Latin America and elsewhere are just coming to terms with this. We’re not isolated from the rest of the world no matter what we might think or hope. What happens there will affect us too.

Public health leaders are reminding us about the Spanish Flu. The second wave came back with a vengeance in the fall, more contagious than the first round and killing far more. That’s not to say that COVID-19 will do the same. But we don’t know. What we do know, however, if we are clear in our thinking, is that this virus isn’t done with us yet.

Happy Wednesday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

No photo description available.

April 14

I just finished up a busy morning of teleworking. And now, the garden calls. I have some seeds to sow (not wild oats, mind you, but some lovely wild flowers) before the next round of April showers hit tomorrow and Thurs. I have high hopes for May flowers. I also have a few annuals we picked up the other day to plant. So that’s how I’ll spend some of the afternoon at least despite the fact that there’s a bit of a spring chill in the air yet.

I’m trying not to get caught up in the latest round of news reports. I’ll just say that, in a democratic system that prides itself on having three co-equal branches of government and where we have always recognized that states exist, and have rights, that the federal government must respect, I get very concerned when the President asserts he has absolute power. He doesn’t. Period. Enough said about that nonsense.

It will be interesting to watch, though, how the states and the federal government work together — or not — to address the challenges of public health on the one hand and economic vitality on the other. This is a very tricky path to walk and all the partners need each other. It can’t be unilateral decision-making at any level and it is going to be hard enough to get this right and do what is best for us all if we’re working at cross purposes.

This would make for a great civics lesson. It’s a real test of the strength of our model. Will the genius of our founders stand the test of this particular crisis? We tend to take for granted our national unity and we seldom give real thought to the sorts of tensions between states rights and federal authority that can lead to conflict but they are there. Let’s move with care and listen to each other and engage thoughtfully lest we open a can of worms that creates a new set of challenges at a time when we have more than enough before us.

Meanwhile, although we’re understandably consume with the debate here at home, let’s not forget the global challenges as well. If we do, they too can come back to bite us.

Let me offer just the first three paras of an interest opinion piece from the New York Times:

“In some places in the United States and other developed countries hit hard by Covid-19, the question is when might it become possible to start getting back to work. For much of the rest of the world, the nightmare is yet to start. And part of the horror is that many poorer countries won’t have the means to do much about it. Nor, given the international community’s lack of organization and leadership in the face of a global crisis, can they count on richer nations to help them.

With the exception of Iran, the countries hardest hit up till now are among those with the world’s most advanced economies, scientific establishments and medical services — and even Iran has a relatively functional medical system. What probably lies ahead is the spread of the coronavirus through countries ravaged by conflict, through packed refugee camps and detention centers in places like Syria or Bangladesh, through teeming cities like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro or Monrovia, where social distancing is impossible and government is not trusted, through countries without the fiscal capacity or health services to mount a viable response.

That would be disastrous not only for them but also for the rest of the world as supplies of raw materials are disrupted, fragile economies collapse, strongmen grow stronger and the virus doubles back to reinfect northern regions.”

Here’s a link to the whole thing…

There’s a lot to think about here. It’s something I’ve been pondering, too, in the case of a nation like Nepal. Their lockdown for the past three weeks has had huge challenges. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination but what if the virus takes hold (as it very well may do in any event. They have only one ventilator for every 100,000 or so people. The health care system will be overwhelmed and the suffering will be far beyond anything we can imagine.

So it’s been a hard road. We’ve seen our share of tragedy and sorrow. But, comparatively, it could have been so much worse.

So…I hope we can get our house in order. I hope we will be wise and judicious. I hope that we find both a spirit of compromise at home and a commitment to compassion when we look beyond our borders. And I hope our leaders will remember that the human impact…here at home and across the world…is real. We will be judged by our choices in the weeks and months ahead. I hope we’ll be proud of the verdict.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 13

Whoo hoo!  We’re under a tornado watch until 6 pm.  Nice to have something other than coronavirus to worry about!

So we’ve got one eye on the weather and the other on family.  There’s a coronavirus case in one family member’s workplace and another is a bit under the weather.  You can’t help but worry a little.  Or a lot.  Depends on how active your worry genes are.  This is certainly a time when we get a good measure of how each of us responds in times of stress and uncertainty.  I would have been just fine, however, with having to guess about that, rather than having a real world stress factory putting us to the test.

All this continues to be confusing.  Are we peaking?  Are we partially peaking?  Is it a rolling peak?  But what does peaking really mean if the threat is serious enough that if we stop social distancing in two weeks we risk a new wave of infections in July that some experts say will be even worse than what we’ve seen.

Say WHAT?  It’s so hard for folks to wrap their heads around all of this.  How worried should we be?  How long should we be worried?  Who do we listen to?  There’s a whole grab bag full of models and assumptions to draw from, but who knows.  Even the experts admit that they are still learning as we go.

Meanwhile, the President is reposting tweets about “fire Fauci.”  That’s never a good sign.  Whether it’s a warning shot or a signal of intent, it will have a chilling effect on the willingness of experts to speak out.  Just like the firing of the IG inspector general.  Just like the attack on the experts who issued a critical report on the government’s response.  

The President doesn’t like criticism.  In fairness, none of us do.  But I always hope that leaders are secure enough in themselves and confident enough in their judgment that they can take it in stride and even welcome it.  I always took dissenting views as an opportunity to at least reassess my conclusions.  To test my assumptions.  The President seems to take it very personally.  And he seems to tend to remove the offending voice like we might pluck a weed from our garden.  I don’t think that is either good or wise.  

Tony Fauci is not infallible.  No one is.  But he lives in a world of science and facts and seems to me to be doing an exceptional job in a very tough position.  He has earned the trust of many of us and he takes great care, I think, to not abuse that trust.  His words are measured.  Weighed carefully.  And I always find him worth listening to.  And I’m worried that the President is giving prominence, if not support, to calls for his removal.  We’ve seen a lot of stupid things in the past month.  Firing Fauci would be another.

Of course, it may not come to that.  It may just be a warning shot, as I said.  An attempt to intimidate or silence or at least influence what Dr. Fauci might say.  That’s just as bad, I think.  Time will tell.  Maybe it was just another thoughtless tweet… but I give the President more credit than that. I think very few of his tweets are thoughtless.  There’s a reason for them.  And given their content at times, I find that scarier than them being just mindless rambling and retweets.

Yep… there are many ways we can exercise our worry genes.  But if worrying doesn’t lead us to remedies or thoughtful action it’s a waste of energy.  And when the issues that concern us are so far beyond our control we may want to focus elsewhere instead.

So, on this stormy and threatening afternoon I’ll go and workout… play piano… read… and otherwise do a mental reset and give my worry genes a rest.  I hope you can do the same.  It is Monday after all… that’s a test enough in itself.

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay healthy.

April 12

SCORE!

But first… Happy Easter to all who celebrate. It’s a time of renewal… rebirth. And we can hope that all of us will be renewed, perhaps, with a new spirit and new hope for the days ahead.

I know that the grandkids are thrilled that the Easter Bunny not only was declared an essential worker but that the Bunny wore gloves and mask while hiding eggs and goodies. It would have been fun to have seen the kids searching but hearing about it is good too.

And I took a few moments to replay memories of my own childhood and of when our kids were small, scouring the house for the last few eggs that the Bunny (who was obviously a bit more sadistic than the current iteration) had taken great pains to cache in the most challenging of hiding spots.

But I digress from the big news of the day… yes… we SCORED.

Funny how little things can excite you, but we took a chance that the local Wegman’s grocery store would be less busy on an Easter morn. We donned masks and gloves and made a grocery run and found low fat Oatly (our favorite oat milk) AND toilet paper (I item per customer, of course) AND paper towels AND extra firm tofu (Whole Foods had none to be found) and a few other items that we were running low on.

Pretty satisfying. Small victories these days… but appreciated nonetheless.
We also stopped by the garden center (we were out and masked after all). We got some flowers and herbs to plant, wild flower seeds to sow, potting soils and a natural spray (garlic oil, cottonseed oil, and clove oil) to try and drive off the ants that have invaded my houseplants.

And now we’re back home… hunkering down once again, but sending all of you wishes for a peaceful Sunday and Happy Easter and Passover and, for our Nepali friends, Happy New Year 2077 two days early!

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 11

I started writing daily about life during this pandemic a month ago. On March 11 we had 1,000 cases. One death. Today, one month later, we have over 503,000 cases and by the end of the day we’ll be close to 20,000 deaths. Back then CDC was projecting 160 million to 214 million infections and over a million deaths. Today we’re talking about 60,000 deaths.

Were the experts alarmist? Not necessarily. They were offering projections based on the realties at that time. And then state after state acted and helped to turn those numbers around. And that’s great. And despite fits and starts and conflicting messaging, the federal government put out social distancing guidelines as well And that changed the models.

But can we now breathe easier and say we’re on the downslope? Not yet. Even with dramatic action we went from 1,000 to 500,000 infections in a month. Even with dramatic action almost 800 people died in New York alone yesterday. And meanwhile, although curves may be flattening overall, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new infections… they just aren’t coming as quickly. The hospitals in New York may have weathered the worst of the crush but peaks are building elsewhere, including in the DC area.

I can’t imagine having to figure it all out. But I think all of us have to hope that we proceed with great care until we know this is under control lest we give new life to the CDC predictions that tens of millions could be infected.

We aren’t out of the woods yet. Experts are saying that if we end social distancing on May 1, as some suggest, we risk a new resurgence of the virus in July.

And against this backdrop, the debate on reopening schools, on reopening businesses, and on ending social distancing is going to be contentious at best. The issues are complex and the path is unclear. It’s going to be a hard call.

How and when… these are tough decisions. Glad I don’t have to make them but then… when we think of it… we kind of do. Because, irrespective of the choices made by the president, governors, or mayors, we’ll have to make our own decision. And those won’t be easy either.

Today Andrew Cuomo quoted Churchill. I think it was apt:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

With that in mind, all I can say is check with me in a month. I think it’s likely I’ll still be here.

Happy Saturday. Stay healthy, stay safe.

April 10

They stand, poised, eyes expectant and searching for clues as to my next move… so they can race ahead of me to take up position either in said chair or in the dog beds by my desk or sprawled across the duvet on a king bed that is spacious… but not when filled with a lot of furry bodies.

No matter how crazy the world around us is, the mundane everyday concerns of life go on. If you’re a dog, like our four, you continue to focus on the rituals… meal time is one.
Or there’s the eternal morning question that arises once Dad lets them back in after their morning constitutional — WHERE will he go? To his favorite chair? To his office? Back upstairs?

It’s the same excitement later in the day. They watch each move. Am I putting on shoes? Grabbing a coat? Putting on a hat? The hat is the final confirmation…YES… we’re going for a walk. And then they position themselves to ensure that any effort to go out the door will include them joining in.

The routines define their lives. But even in a dog’s life, a crisis can emerge that throws them off stride.

Last night, or more precisely early this morning at 4:18, the smallest pup, Gracie, was suddenly sitting bolt upright between our pillows, trembling. Gyptse Jane, the golden doodle who is far from tiny, shot like a rocket into the bed and fell draped over my chest her nose pressed into my throat. Even Lo Khyi, our big Tibetan mastiff was suddenly up and moving letting out a high pitched whimper (which always seems so odd when it comes from such a big boy) and hitting the bed with one of his big heavy paws. Even Max, who may be getting a bit hard of hearing got up… but with a look on his face that asked, “What’s going on?”

The culprit? The cause of the chaos? A tiny… barely discernible to our old human ears… beep. It was a smoke detector letting us know that the battery was getting low
Now I don’t know WHY our smoke detectors generally choose 3 or 4 AM to tell us this. They just do. But that tiny beep recurring every few minutes is a signal to the pups that the end of the world is nigh. And they turn to us to make it right. We did. Batteries were changed. And we all took a walk out into the yard as well to “relieve” any further anxiety.

And under the light of a moon just starting to wane, and with a chill wind gusting around us and clouds scudding across the face of the moon, it wasn’t a time to worry about COVID-19. It was just a night when our pups needed us — a brisk spring night with a serious nip in the air that had all of us looking forward to crawling back into bed. And we did.

Life does go on. It has to. And later in the morning, as we drove back from “senior hour” at Whole Foods with a new stash of groceries (and a few bottles of wine) in the trunk, we listened to experts struggling with the question of when, and how, our life as a nation will go on.

In that regard, I’ll just say that I wish the President wouldn’t declare target dates and make everyone nuts with statements about how we’re going to “open up America” again on May 1 — or any other day for that matter. I appreciate the more far measured way that Tony Fauci says the “virus determines the timeline.”

In any event, we will, undoubtedly, find our way back to a new normal. But it will take care and thought and a carefully calibrated approach in which public health and economic health will have to be delicately balanced. And the timeline has to be determined by the on-the-ground realities.

It will also require sufficient resources dedicated to testing — for antibodies as well as current infections — to keep us on track. That sort of deliberate approach is not the President’s style… but we can hope that those around him will exercise the calm leadership and good judgment that is needed and that they can convince him to let the experts do their jobs.

As another work week ends in the era of coronavirus we continue to see positive signs of curves being flattened and I’m proud that we’ve been part of the considerable community across our nation that has tried to make this happen. Despite the hopeful trends, though, there are many challenges ahead and now, more than ever, we have to stay the course. So we will.

Although I’m tired today after a fractured sleep and an early morning shopping trip… I really didn’t mind having a chance to “make it all better” last night — even if it was just for the pups. And if we all do the right things, we’ll make it all better across the nation too. Let’s give it a shot.

Happy Friday. Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy

April 9

Wind gusts of up to 60 mph expected this afternoon. Wouldn’t it be nice it they could just blow the virus off into the ether?

It’s not going to happen, of course, but a guy can dream. At times, sitting here in splendid isolation (relatively speaking) it’s easy to reduce this experience to an intellectual exercise. So many new cases, so many deaths, models that offer this projection or that.

But we know, of course, that behind the numbers there are real stories. Yesterday over 2,000 people died in the United States from Covid-19. That means someone died every 43.2 seconds. And not just “someone.” A mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a friend. A person who a month ago was holding a grandchild. Making love to their partner. Comforting an elderly parent. Walking a dog or stroking a cat.

Or maybe they were the meanest SOB to walk the streets of their town. Alienated and alienating. It really doesn’t matter. They had a story to share. They were part of the fabric of our lives either as a central figure in our story or connected by the most tenuous of threads. And yesterday, over 2,000 of them died… very likely alone.

But, if we’re all in this together, we’re all part of the tapestry that makes up the world we experience. A tapestry in which every 43.2 seconds another thread was cut yesterday because of COVID-19. The tapestry — the world we know — is less rich for that.

They all would die eventually, of course. But in our hubris we thought that mankind had things under control — that medical science was up to thwarting whatever nature could throw at us.

We weren’t necessarily wrong. We’ll eventually get this figured out. We’ll get it under control and produce a vaccine and find treatments that will make this just another “manageable” disease that we can live with, and live through.

But nature has a way of throwing curve balls. Wicked ones. And we can’t be sure that we’ll always figure it out in time… and we can’t be sure that the next one might not be far more deadly.

But we can’t live our lives in fear or worrying about the imponderable. Together we’ll deal with whatever comes because we have no other choice. And we can hope that it will be enough. And it likely will.

And meanwhile, we will be grateful that, as bad as this is, it isn’t much worse. We will be grateful for those who battle on the front lines to keep us safe. We will be grateful to those leaders who keep humanity, compassion, and humility foremost in their minds as they seek to guide us through the challenges. And we will be grateful for those who are central to our own lives… to our own part of the tapestry.

Give them a virtual hug if you’re apart or an extra-long one if you’re together. Make it last for those who didn’t get a last hug, make it last 43.2 seconds. And then do it again. Because we can.

Check out this link. Close your eyes, breath, and listen. It is hauntingly beautiful. And we can all use that in these challenging days.

April 8

As I approach the one month mark of daily writing I realize that I wish I had journaled regularly over the years… not just at this time of crisis. But perhaps it is because we are realigning our days that it is easier to find that daily window to write. Whatever the reason, I hope I’ll find a way to continue to journal even after this all settles down. If nothing else, the chance to reflect on the world around us… on our lives… is a good thing, I think.

There’s a lot of reflection going on of late. I just saw an interesting article in which Pope Francis offers some thoughts on the pandemic and the natural world. It’s interesting.

Meanwhile, there’s some promising assessments, but it’s still hard to know what to believe. We’ve dealt with countless assessments and models over the past month. There was a time, early on in this process, when we feared if we didn’t act effectively 40% or more of the population could become infected and the deaths could top 1 -2 million. Scary.

More recently, thanks to social distancing efforts and strong leadership in places like California, New York, Illinois, and many other states, we thought only 100,000 might die. Then the number was raised to as many as 240,000. Now the coronavirus taskforce is saying it might be only 60,000.

Confused? Lots of us are. What I think everyone agrees on is that social distancing and the stay at home orders have been critical. So very important. Crucial. We see successes in California and Washington and even in New York in flattening the curve. The rate of spread is slowing. But other modelers are worried that we’ll see new hot spots emerging in the south and midwest. Not everyone is sanguine that 60,000 is achievable or realistic.

What we do know is that even if the number of new infections every day in New York, for example, is dropping, there are, nonetheless, still many new infections being recorded. Reduced rates in doubling, in hospital admissions, in the numbers of folks being intubated are all good. But we’re far from done with this. We have to stay the course.

I look forward to the day when we can hug our grandkids. Move about with confidence. But I’m not sure yet when that will be. Our collective comfort with jumping back into life as it was will need a lot of nurturing. Better treatments for those who do get infected might help. Antibody testing would help. More widespread testing and surveillance so we truly understand what is happening would help. A vaccine would certainly help. But all of this will take time.

We need to be thoughtful and measured in deciding when, and as importantly how, we begin to resume or social and economic engagement. We need a plan that is not driven by political calculus or cabin fever-fueled desires to put this behind us but by careful balancing or pubic and economic health considerations. I worry about whether this administration is up to the task.

We need to be grounded in reality… not in fictional accounts that defy the facts. Does the President really have “facts” that show other nations have been more severely affected and have higher infection rates than the US? I don’t believe he does. Nothing suggests that this can be correct. But he aggressively asserted last night this was true. I’ll call BS on that one. Because it is.

Today we exceeded 400,000 infections and 13,000 deaths. And we know that both are probably undercounted. It would be nice to be able to believe our president’s words. But it’s pretty hard when time and again we get this sort of nonsense.

It’s hump day today. Let’s hope that the rest of the week keeps offering promising news of smart choices helping us to control the challenges. And let’s hope for rational decisions about the path forward. We’re going to need them.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

April 7

When I started doing this daily journal back on March 11, I commented in one of the first posts that the coronavirus was starting to feel like an old friend… one that we were intimately engaged with.  

It’s still true.  And yesterday, Dr. Fauci suggested that this virus might never go away… it may be with us for years to come.  But it will, he hopes, be better managed with both new treatment regimens and vaccines that will make it far less a threat.  But until that vaccine is developed we’re at risk from this wave, from a second wave, and any subsequent surges.

It raises questions about just how we may be living our lives for many months to come.  I don’t know what that will look like.  Will there come a point where, after this intensive wave is over, we just roll the dice and take our chances?  The assumption I’ve heard repeated more and more lately is that most of us (many of us?) will end up being exposed at some point.  

We can’t stay home forever.  But we will wash our hands more, I bet.  We will think differently about how we engage publicly.  We will conduct ourselves and our lives differently.  It will be interesting.  Possibly scary.  A time of uncertainty.  And the vaccine is still many months away.  We’ll figure it out.  

Right now, though, we’ll worry about trying to help flatten the curve… still.  It seems like we’ve been talking about this for a month (which is because we have).  The effort has to continue.  

There’s possible signs of the virus easing in New York… which means numbers are leveling off.  It doesn’t mean that it’s over.  California may be making some flattening strides thanks to social distancing.  Washington too.  But even then, while there may be fewer cases… and most importantly, fewer cases all at the same time… the assumption still is that many folks will still get the virus sooner or later.  Those who think of this as a “one and done” experience are going to be disappointed.

Meanwhile, other places are starting to feel greater stresses.  In Michigan, over 2,000 health care professionals have been infected.  In Louisiana it’s getting dicey.  Florida numbers are worrisome.  And the disproportionate impact of virus deaths among the African American community is starting to put in stark relief issues we too often give limited attention to… issues of unequal access to care — and especially quality care — that break along racial and economic lines.  It leads some to believe, really believe, that there are many things that will change after this is over.  But will they?  I wonder.  

As always…stay safe and stay healthy.

April 6

Mondays. They deserve their reputation, I think. Even in this time when one day is much like the next, Mondays stand out. They remain the day of the week when we jump back into reality. And there are times when reality just isn’t very nice.

The death toll from Covid-19 has exceeded 10,000 as of this morning. And it’s going to get worse. I’m trying to figure out what it means though when the surgeon general and others warn about how bad this week will be when they are also talking about 240,000 possible deaths from this virus. Doesn’t that number suggest that we’re going to be struggling for much longer than the next week?

And I’m not sure what it means when the President talks about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It reminds me of the old Doonesbury cartoon during the Vietnam War era, that suggested that “the light at the end of the tunnel” might just be the headlight of the locomotive bearing down on us.
We will get through this, but let’s not be premature in declaring that the finish line is in sight. We’ll only encourage a premature “return to normal” when we’re still fighting the battle of convincing folks to stay at home to begin with.

Meanwhile, just allow me one short rant, following up on a story that has been building again all weekend. The President has continued to double down on touting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus. He says “there are some very strong, powerful signs” of its potential even though health experts say that the data is extremely limited and that more study of the drug’s effectiveness against the coronavirus is needed.
He followed his spiel with, “But what do I know? I’m not a doctor.” That much is right. He is not.

But, when Dr. Fauci was asked yesterday what HE thought of the President’s claims, the President stepped forward and intervened before Dr. Fauci could answer. Could it be that the President didn’t want his “opinion” countered by science and fact?

Today, Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro parroted the President and suggested that Fauci’s views were just one opinion. Hmmm. A trade advisor – or – the leading US government expert on infectious diseases who has studied these issues for decades. Who do you listen to? Hmmm. Tough call? Not so much.

The scary thing is that this drug, although having some approved uses, IS toxic and it can have a serious impact on people with compromised immune systems or with heart problems. It can affect vision. It can have lots of side effects. That’s why we quit taking it as an anti-malarial years ago when we were serving in high risk
countries. There were other, safer, choices that had been developed.

It is NOT a miracle cure, it is NOT for everyone, and we should NOT allow Trump or Navarro or any Tom, Dick or Harry, to give us guidance on this. We SHOULD be letting doctors figure this out, assessing its appropriateness for each patient and the voices of the experts should be amplified, not muffled or diminished. There is evidence. There are facts. There is science. Let’s be guided by these…not by uninformed wishful thinking.

Shifting gears — yes, the rant is done and I feel much better — I will report that yesterday I started a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve enjoyed puzzles since I was a kid. The harder the better. I haven’t had time over the past four decades, however, to do many. I’m finding the time now. It’s good therapy. It shifts my focus and probably reduces my blood pressure. That’s good.

But I’m lucky because I’ve got the dogs as well and they are pretty good therapy too. Walking them is good for us all, and we’ve been doing a lot of that lately. But it’s more than that. I think the pups know what we need. As I write this, I’ve got three of the four sharing my space. Max and Gracie are sleeping in their beds under mydesk. Gyptse Jane is softly snoring, stretched out on the carpet behind me. Earlier, Gyptse came wandering in and, somewhat imperiously, pushed her nose under my arm sending a clear message — “Pet me. Now.” I did as I was bidden.

There was something comforting there. The soft silkiness of her coat as I stroked her back. The way she pressed against my leg. She knew, perhaps, the importance of that moment of peace — of communion.

Even on a Monday … particularly on a Monday … it was just what I needed.

April 5

One of the countries that has suffered most in this global pandemic is Iran. Our nation has chosen not to lift sanctions on that country during that time. Now I’ll admit that I’m not privy to all the intelligence and I know that Iran is a nation whose actions — from support of terrorism to the pursuit of nuclear weapons — is a great concern. But, in this moment of global crisis, isn’t there an argument to be made for humanitarianism?

Would lifting sanctions, easing the burden for a few months, really tip the balance in our competitions with Iran? Might it open the door for a different approach going forward? I don’t know, but I wonder if anyone has thought about it or if we just continued a punitive approach because it’s easy … it’s what we know … and we can do it and no one says a word.

In the months ahead as we continue to manage this disease and its possible second wave (and it’s expansion into the developing world, countries like India, or the nations of Africa) it seems to me that cooperation and coordination are going to be critical. But It’s not clear that we’re thinking in those terms. And, as we consider the economic ramifications of all this and seek to forestall a global depression, the same imperative for cooperation and global leadership is required. But will we see it? So far I’m skeptical.

Few are looking beyond the crisis in their backyard. I get that, but we have to be looking beyond next week or next month even as we fight to bring the virus under control. We seem to be abdicating our global leadership. We need to be able to address domestic concerns and the international health and economic concerns at the same time. And, in our absence, China seems to be once again seizing the day, as they did when we abandoned the Paris Climate Accords. Food for thought.

Meanwhile, I saw a headline last night that yesterday was the deadliest day yet as we deal with the virus in the US. It’s hard to be shocked when the day before that was the deadliest and the day before that. And today will see more deaths than we did yesterday.

And that trend is likely to continue for a while. We’re looking at 9,000+ deaths so far. We anticipate 100,000 – 240,000 maybe more. Depends on the models you accept. (And please don’t get me started on Trump’s puerile comments about these being the kinds of “models” he knows.) These models, however, are based on assumptions about nationwide stay at home orders and on consistent leadership to make social distancing widely successful.

But those assumptions aren’t being realized. And, as we see again and again, it’s all about leadership. FDR’s leadership in bringing the nation out of the Great Depression and through most of WWII is a model we look at. George W’s leadership after 9/11 is another we can compare. You might not have agreed but you knew where he was going. You knew what his vision was.

Today? Who knows? Yesterday we were told there’s “going to be a lot of death” and at the same time the president also asked why we couldn’t let churches hold Easter services. Maybe we could do them outside, he suggested. If I could “face palm” in a post like this, I would. He undercuts the social distancing guidelines that every expert says is critical.

He undercuts the mask guidance his experts are urging us to follow. Yesterday he strongly urged again that people with the virus should take an anti-malarial drug that is NOT approved for COVID-19 by the FDA. “What can it hurt?” That’s what he said. According to doctors it can hurt a lot — and, of course, it limits the availability of the drug for those who need it for Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Donald? Personally, I’ll look to others for my medical advice.

Then there are the eight states whose governors — all Republicans — still refuse to issue stay home orders putting the rest of us at risk. Or there’s the Governor of Georgia who, in a move that is totally inexplicable, has reopened Georgia’s beaches just a day or so after issuing a stay at home order adding to confusion and disarray. We see multiple states using the crisis to ban abortion services … but still allowing hundreds to mingle together at church services … and then go out and put others at risk.

Each day I hope to see the stories that tell me we’ve got a national plan. That we’ve got leaders who can meet the challenges of today and preparing for the demands of tomorrow. I want to believe that our well-being isn’t just in OUR hands but that our government also has our backs. I’m not sure I can say that right now.

As always, stay safe, stay heathy, and stay strong.

The market dropped again today…we’re now officially in a bear market after many years of constant growth.  When measured against the countless ways that this disease is going to change our lives the market losses seem minor.  But these market slides are fueled by concerns about real economic slowdowns that won’t feel minor as they start to hit.  And, as it is, we have seen more than $5 trillion in value wiped out.  

April 4

My brother Dan would have been 75 today. We lost him, though, 13 years ago. Brain cancer. For our family, it was a heartbreaking loss and for his wife and their four kids, it was a tragedy. He was way too young when he passed. They wanted … they deserved … so many more years with him.

Today we see this tragedy being played out again and again. A 42 year old father of three on Long Island is just the most recent example I’ve read about. There are so many more. We’re over 7000 deaths. But that number shows every sign of rising into six figures as we stand right now. And each one, each life that we lose, is a tragedy.

Of course people pass every day. That was true before the virus hit and will be true after it finally is brought under control — and I believe that will happen. But when we have losses on such a scale, and from one cause, it somehow feels like that natural mechanics of birth, life, and death, are horribly out of sync.

We respond in many ways emotionally. Some are healthy. Some not. We hear reports of abuse on the upswing. Spousal abuse. Child abuse. That’s not healthy — obviously. But it’s not surprising. So I’m trying to get my head around how the idea that keeping liquor stores and guns stores open as “essential” at this time is such a smart idea. Gun sales are booming too. And I can’t believe that is good or that we won’t pay a price for that as we go down the road.

My own emotions take their swings too. Overall, like all of you, I’m doing fine. Getting by. Doing what needs to be done. But there are those moments. Last night — and still today — I’ll confess to feeling angry. Angry at willful stupidity and selfishness that puts us all at risk. It manifests in many ways. The governors who refuse to act. We don’t want to be “intrusive” they say … but they have no qualms about being “intrusive” when it comes to women’s reproductive health or in ruling on who we can love and choose to spend our lives with. Don’t get me started. The hypocrisy is painful to watch.

I am furious at the smug and self-satisfied “Christians” who came from their services yesterday where they put everyone at risk … and everyone they will encounter in the days ahead … but who proclaimed themselves “covered in the blood of Christ” and thus safe from the disease. They are so convinced in the purity of their faith that they can disregard all else … putting countless others at risk in their spiritual arrogance.

That may sound harsh. But it’s the way I feel. I respect people’s right to practice their faiths — I truly do. And so many friends who feel deeply about their faiths are fantastic role models. They understand the need to listen and be part of the greater good. The Catholic Church is running adds for online services — even on Easter when I’m sure they would have loved to have their congregants come together. But they won’t. And that’s the right thing to do. But those individuals that I saw interviewed last night made my blood boil.

And we see this playing out in various congregations across the country. They should be ashamed as they choose to put their own interests above everyone else. Somehow this seems to be the very antithesis of how Christianity tells us to act. But they go on … and in some states, such as Florida and Texas, the governors are complicit in undercutting public heath efforts as they declare churches to be essential services to be kept open during this crisis rather than asking them to use other methods such as online services to support their adherents. They will pay a price. But so will many others who had no voice in whether this should be allowed.

There are times when being angry is OK. When it is the right response. What other response makes sense when the President announces new public health guidelines about masks — guidance that the experts believe is important to reducing fatalities — and then in the same breath he undercuts it by announcing that he’ll disregard it … and repeatedly says, ”it’s strictly voluntary” — do it or not — and implying that it’s really not such a big deal, you know, it’s just those doctors being … well, being doctors.

There’s a lot more to rail about. If you read the news at all you can choose your example. Kushner’s remarks about the federal emergency reserve stockpiles, the overnight rewriting of long-standing public information on the web sight to conform to Kushner’s new “reality” and then the president attacking a journalist who had the nerve to persist in her questioning on who the reserve is meant for if it is not our citizens in the 50 states.

Or how about the firing of the Intel Community inspector general, continuing the post-impeachment purge of those who were just doing their jobs. Seems we have more to worry about at the moment … or maybe that explains the timing.

Then there’s the removal of Captain Crozier from his command of the USS Roosevelt. SecNav (another one of the numerous “acting” officials in what is the most ad hoc administration I can ever recall) might have believed it was the right call but the women and men who served under Captain Crozier — and I’d wager many Americans who have looked at the story — would argue differently.

Yes, I absolutely think that there are days where anger can be an appropriate response to what is happening around us. But, although it’s OK to let ourselves feel angry about all that is wrong and stupid and intolerant and self-righteously arrogant, we also have to know when it is time to let the anger go lest we become as intolerant and arrogant in our anger as those who have sparked our fire. At some point we have to let it go and focus on ourselves and what WE can do, and what WE can control.

We can stay the course on social distancing. We can offer support with charitable contributions. We can reach out to those who are alone. We can encourage those who are struggling. We can care. We can try to understand. And we can set an example with rational discourse, patience, courage, and strength.

A little love doesn’t hurt either…”try it — you’ll like it” as the old Alka Seltzer ad said. What can it hurt?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

April 3

Another Friday here in coronavirus land. You know, at least if you’ve read any of my previous posts, that I’m not making light of this pandemic. Far from it. But it is our reality and we all have to continue to try and wrap our arms around it.

Yesterday, the accumulated weight of all the stories…

— Of desperate health care workers scared to go to work but soldiering on because they care,

— Of jobless claims on the rise and an economy nearing freewill

— Of folks who’ve lost their health care and who have few options for help,

— Stories of loved ones lost, of folks dying alone,

— Of a naval commander removed for speaking for his sailors (a story that particular angered me),

— Of leaders shirking responsibility (the governor who only “just” discovered that the individuals who are asymptomatic can transmit the virus … what rock has he been hiding under?)

All of those stories and more … one after another on the news all day. Last night they felt overwhelming. I hurt. For our families. For our kids. For our nation. For friends overseas. For the global community. I felt anxious and frustrated and worried. It seemed it was just a matter of waiting for the next shoe to drop.

And, if you just look at any website that compiles the top stories, today is more of the same. But, the sun still rose, nonetheless. The skies are blue and it’s a beautiful day. Leija and I cut the grass with our new lawnmower … it had been like a jungle. We tamed it. I put in a few hours of work. I reached out to folks to help with our efforts in Nepal where we’re waiting for the virus to take hold. And in a bit, I’ll walk the dogs, or do a bit more in the garden where some of our perennials are coming to life and birds are coming to the feeder.

There is so much that is good and so much that is right that continues despite the virus.

There will be more anxiety, frustration, and anger in the days ahead, no doubt. More grief and sorrow and fear too. But we’ll survive and tomorrow, as they say, will be another day!

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April 2

For some of you who are following the news daily there may not be much in what I write about today that you haven’t seen. But this blog isn’t meant to be a compendium of the news so much as it is a snapshot of an evolving crisis and of how our moods and perspectives (or at least my moods and perspectives) evolve as it unfolds.

I was struck last night at the sense of growing frustration and anger that there are still a dozen states with no “stay at home” orders in place. It makes no sense as we see this spread across the nation and as the realization sinks in that we ARE all in this together, and that if some areas of the nation act irresponsibly their foolishness is not kept in check by border lines on a map. Florida, one of the hardest hit states, has finally imposed a stay home order but I have to believe it is way too late. How long before it becomes a new epicenter and we say “if only they had acted earlier?”

All of this, of course, begs the underlying question of why there has been no national level order to give direction. The president’s “guidelines” — that have been undercut by his own inconsistencies in messaging — are not enough. But I’ve been critical in that regard since they were issued. He asserts that he wants to defer to the governors … to let them assess their local conditions. But this is not a “local” pandemic and this is not the time to leave it to the governors alone to act. Coordinate with them? Yes. Absolutely. They do know their state-wide concerns better than Washington. But to defer to them to make the best decisions in terms of the public health of all our citizens? No. They have neither the full range of information nor the needed national perspective to make those decisions.

I’ve been steaming about the lack of national direction and stronger action for weeks — and we still don’t have it.

I worry that the more optimistic projections about keeping deaths to under 100,000 are based on assumptions about national social distancing that haven’t been supported by the facts. As always, I hope I’m wrong, but I worry that the numbers will tell a different tale. And meanwhile, we hear the same reports about PPE and ventilators being in short supply, that testing is still too far behind the curve and that chaos rather than targeted and systematic action is the norm.

All of this comes amid reports that hundreds of thousands of masks in warehouses in the US (held by private business?) are being sold to foreign buyers. FEMA apparently has opted not to intervene.

Governors and states continue to have to compete with each other and there are more reports that states led by Republican governors who have been sure to “appreciate” the president are getting more supplies than they ask for while in other states…such as Michigan which is led by “that woman” (as the president referred to her) are still being left behind on the supply curve.

I can’t swear that every story is true but it tracks with the words we hear from the president himself so it’s easy to give them credence.

And, one of my new “worries of the day” is the undue focus on when the virus will “peak.” It’s kind of like the cherry blossom watch in the DC area. But this isn’t about the best time to view the blossoms and I’m concerned that it creates a sense once it peaks it will then all be ok. We care about the peak, certainly. Especially because its timing and intensity have huge implications for the ability of the health care system to cope with these impossible demands. But let’s also be clear-eyed in recognizing that when the virus “peaks” in two, or three, or four, or whatever number of weeks, (depending on where you might be on the sliding scale of local spread these days) it doesn’t mean we go back to business as usual the next day. I think folks get that … I’m sure the medical professionals do … but I worry that there isn’t enough emphasis on the fact that this virus could continue to be a huge public health challenge for weeks after the peak.

Having too much time … and having made a commitment to myself to write daily … means I think about this too much probably. LoL. But so be it.

What else is crazy today? Another 6.6 million unemployment filings in the past week. That’s crazy. That brings us to 10 million in the past two weeks. I’m struggling with the assertions by some that it will all turn around in a heartbeat once this is all sorted out on the health front. Jobs will be restored. Everyone will be made whole. It will be OK. Once again, I find myself hoping that those very positive voices are right … but I’ll allow myself a healthy dose of skepticism.

“Crazy” is also the fact that someone like Tony Fauci now needs a security detail because of death threats. Those who have listened to the conspiracy theorists assert that all “this” is a deep state plot to hurt the president by spreading fear about a fake, or at least minor, virus. Apparently, they think Fauci is a key figure. The fact that there are those who believe this … who threaten a guy who’s just doing his job and who is putting public health above politics… is insane. But it is, sadly, not at all surprising.

Meanwhile, today we’ll likely see the global infection numbers top 1 million and the global death toll exceeds 51,000. Here at home it seems that each day we set a new record for deaths per day. We could hit a 6,000 U.S. total before the day is out.

None of this is cheerful news. It is what it is. This is a global challenge, but not the end of days. We will survive.

And it’s not about assigning blame or fault for the crisis in which we are now caught. The challenges are daunting and no one can make it all just disappear. That doesn’t mean, though, that we shouldn’t expect our leaders to act with wisdom and strength and vision so that we can follow and support them with confidence and determination. We should expect that. But I still don’t feel we have gotten that at the national level where it is critical.

I truly believe we could have changed this equation. We could have flattened the curve in a significant way early on with decisive action. We could have saved more lives. But we didn’t prepare adequately, we didn’t respond quickly enough, and we didn’t act with courage and decisive leadership on the national stage when we needed to. And, even now, although our response has improved, it is still a far cry from what is needed in a time of national crisis.

I’ll be curious to see if, a few months from now, I look at what I’m writing today and shake my head at how unduly pessimistic I was, or if I’ll wish that my worries of today had been the worst that happened. Time will tell. It always does.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And, although today I didn’t chronicle the positive tales of courage and compassion and love that are coming out of this struggle every day, they are there. Find them. Take heart. And carry on.

April 1

It would be fun if we could just declare all the news as a big April Fools Joke but, of course, it isn’t. As I said yesterday, I’m not going to dwell on the WH briefing which has turned into a multi-hour talkfest. The substance can be distilled down into a fraction of that time. The rest is a mix of political campaign and mindless blather.

What strikes me though, is that while perhaps Debbie Birx and Tony Fauci see positive developments based on metrics they look at or the information that THEY are given, the news as conveyed by the front line care givers and by the governors and mayors who are dealing with it on the ground present such a different story. I’m really having trouble sorting out just where we are.

I’m listening to a webinar on COVID in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Africa, as I type this. A clinician who is working in Boston (and leads an NGO based in Uganda) is talking about just how very frightening and challenging this virus is. Like so many doctors he is saying he has never seen anything like this, anything this scary and difficult to treat. It’s a “beast” he says, and it has to all be about prevention because there is nothing we can really do to treat it. Grim.

Our numbers seem shocking but it sounds as though a few weeks from now they will seem like nothing. We’re going to pass 200,000 cases shortly. The number of deaths is already over 4,000 and our fatality rate based on these numbers is now over 2%. It has grown steadily from about 1% earlier in this saga. That’s still low as a percentage but still 20 times higher than seasonal flu — which is only 1 tenth of one percent — and even worse because it is so contagious and the number of infected is/will be so great.

So we cope. We stay home. And we don’t obsess.

Life does go on. Social distancing is a challenge, but we’ll survive. There are ways that communities across the country are engaging each other — evening dance parties as folks gather in their driveways but can still appeal each other’s moves; teddy bear hunts or Easter egg hunts where folks can take their kids on drives or walks in the neighborhood trying to spot the bears in the trees or the easter decorations in an upper window or on a front porch. There are plenty of ways we can find to stay engaged if we try.

The webinar I’m listening to is now suggesting that yoga can help. Some of you are nodding your heads. Others are rolling your eyes. But there is something important about the mind/body connection. The message is about focusing on the positive and recognizing that too much attention to the negatives … such as listening to too much news … can raise our blood pressure, increase our anxiety, heighten our stress.

I have to believe that there’s some truth to that. So don’t forget to laugh. Don’t forget to smile. We can find joy in each other. A hug for your social distancing partner, if you are fortunate to have one (or several), can go a long way. A video call to your kids or your grandkids can change the day’s trajectory.

And don’t forget to celebrate life’s milestones — they still happen.

Although we had to keep a distance when we dropped Luca’s presents off the other day (that’s our youngest grandson who was turning 4) we could still watch him open those gifts and hear him exclaim with excitement. (He got both a tool kit/workbench AND a kid-sized ukulele).

And we could see the marvel on his face as he blew out the candles on his awesome TNT cake — right out of Minecraft — that our daughter, Tjiama, lovingly prepared for him. COVID-19 couldn’t put a damper on that! At times like this family matters. Friends matter. Love matters. Let’s not forget that.

Today I’ll minimize the news I watch and maximize just being present. And even if the weather is a bit iffy for walking, I’ve two dogs curled at my feet as I write this and two more nearby. I’ve got tons of books to escape with, movies to watch, and a piano ot play. What more can I ask?

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