Group Writing: A Thorn Among Thorns

 

I live on 14 acres in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Most of the property is open pasture, but I don’t run cattle or any other livestock. It is God’s country. A couple of times a year, I bush-hog the grass or let a neighbor take it for hay. I really need to spend more time on effective land management, but my job is quite demanding and long stretches of time at home is a luxury. I did mention the mountains. My property has rolling hills with patches of woods or inclines that I can’t reach with a tractor. Which brings me to my chainsaw.

I purchased a trusty Stihl MS 250 several years ago and never regretted it. It starts quickly and is big enough for trees I want to cull out and small enough to easily handle. Some guys golf or fish. I spend my time with my saw, brush ax, and a water bottle cleaning up hard-to-reach patches of briers and deadwood. Last Saturday I logged 4,200+ calories on my Fitbit, the majority of which was spent cutting and dragging brush down the lane. Which brings me to Lady Bird Johnson….

The story goes in our family that in a well-meaning effort to beautify the fledgling Interstate system, the former First Lady pushed a program of landscaping on the vast stretches of medians and grassed shoulders of the roadways. And that one of those plants that was selected was the Multiflora Rose [Rosaceae]. I’ve not been able to officially confirm this despite internet searches (where everything is true). But it certainly sounds like the unintended result of a large government program. One could blame it on ignorance at the time of horticulturists not realizing the far-reaching effects of alien species. But they sure as heck understood their power to do so. Anyway, my property is infested.

I stab at thee!

These scraggly ill-tempered bushes are tough and persistent. Any beauty that they bring is far outstripped by their ability to spread and create dense thickets of almost-impenetrable walls. Livestock won’t touch them – except for perhaps some desperate half-starved goats. I come away from the battle with scratches, splinters, and whelps. They crop up on fence lines – conveniently placed where mowers can’t reach. They hide under trees and make spraying a tedious affair. They come back quickly and if not tended, spread even more quickly. They are the bane of my horticultural existence.

So whether or not it’s true, here’s to you, Mrs. Johnson. Thanks for wasting hours of my time cleaning up your mess. And thanks to the Feds for doing what they do best – Fixing What Ain’t Broke.

So a Person Is Vulnerable to the Virus; What’s Their Responsibility?

 

There’s a letter to the editor published in the Fairbanks News Miner by an elderly individual with bad lungs, which makes her (the name is Robin; could be a guy) vulnerable to the virus.

She was on a rant that the in the store she entered, Fred Meyer, one of the brands that the Kroger chain runs, had many people running around without masks.  I go into that store every few days, and I confirm that roughly half the customers aren’t wearing masks.  I’ll add that the vast majority of those, are wearing cloth masks, which the CDC says is better than nothing (which equals a false sense of security).

I did reply in the comments section that the store she went into has a program where you can order their stuff online, park at the store in a designated spot, and they will deliver the items to your car (or for a lot of us in Fairbanks, your pickup truck). I also said that they also have a phone number, and you can talk to a real person. (I think; I hope that the local number isn’t a digital menu.) Fairbanks is a smallish town.  I posit that there probably isn’t a business here that won’t deliver purchases to the parking lot if you call and ask, especially if you explain you are vulnerable if you catch the virus.

The big point I wanted to make is that she has to take responsibility for her own health, and that includes asking for help if she needs it.

In a town like Fairbanks, with a low population density, a person can walk outside and easily maintain the 6ft social distance when they encounter people here and there.  And you can get the essentials of life, and also non-essentials, without entering a store. You can do it with a dumb phone, though it helps to have a smartphone, tablet, or computer to go online.

People talk about protecting the vulnerable as if they have to be coddled, and they have to be isolated.  Well, it depends.  A lot don’t need coddling, and the isolation need not be restricted to their own homes.  They can still get about, and not depend on everyone to wear masks.

It’s probably that way in the suburbs too.  But they have to take responsibility too.

Calling All Pasta Lovers, Everywhere!

 

Anyone who’s worried about carbohydrates, please take a step back.

Three cheers for the “Pasta Grannies” YouTube channel, and for the old ladies who show us how it’s done. It’s a really good look for social isolation, and for nourishing, filling meals during a time of trouble.

As someone who’s had a manual “pasta” machine for years, as well as the KitchenAid mixer attachment for the same (OMG, the lasagne made according to their recipe is out of this world), I find this refreshing, original, and fun. I do recommend the purchase of good pasta flour (sometimes available on Amazon), and following the directions as given.

Note to self: A search for “pasta flour” on Amazon at the moment brings up many “currently unavailable” results. People. Go to war with the army you have. “All-purpose” and “bread” flour will do the job. Until you can do it properly and in the way your (perhaps imaginary) Italian grandmother would have ordered.

Go, Nonnas! Enjoy!

Day 86, COVID-19: I Take an Antibody Test

 
A SARS-CoV-2 antibody test kit being administrated, from Arcpoint Labs

A SARS-CoV-2 antibody test kit being administrated, from Arcpoint Labs

The image is from the Arcpoint Labs website and shows both the SARS-CoV-2 antibody test kit and the way it is administered. Alcohol wipe the finger. Use a lancet to prick the finger and start oozing blood. Use a capillary tube to draw in some blood from the wound and place a droplet in the test kit port marked “lgG.” Repeat the draw and place a droplet in the test kit port marked “lgM.” Add reagent to the port marked “B” ( I think). Wait five minutes for results. They didn’t show me the kit when the test was completed so I can’t describe what it looks like when a result is given. Maybe it is some coloring of points marked “C” and “S” on the kit?

Mind you, this is not a test for the presence of the virus, like they give to symptomatic people. This is a test for antibodies against infection by the virus — and indicator that the virus has been in the system and defeated.

OK, what were my results? Negative for both lgG and lgM. The paper they handed out to explain the test results state as follows:

Negative lgG, Negative lgM (two possibilities):

• Patient has never encountered COVID-19 and is healthy, but susceptible. Continue social distancing protocols.

• Early latent infection — too early for antibody detection. Continue social distancing approx. 2 weeks.

Because they are testing for two antibodies there are four possible outcomes. The other three are:

Negative lgG, Positive lgM:

• Early stages of antibody response. Possible virus carrier/latent infection. Continue social distancing for
approximately 5-7 additional days.

Postive lgG, Positive lgM:

• Recent infection. Suggests functional immunity. Discontinue social distancing.

Positive lgG, Negative lgM:

• Past infection. Suggests functional immunity. Discontinue social distancing.

Arcpoint is one of over 70 commercial labs that have or are developing COVID-19 antibody tests. I asked what was the minimum titer required to generate a positive test result? The technician did not know but said that was a good question.

None of the tests are FDA-approved at this point. And the fine print also says “Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus. Follow-up testing with a molecular diagnostic should be considered to rule out infection in these individuals.” That quote is FDA-mandated boilerplate along with “Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis or diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or inform infection status,” “Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E,” and “Not for the screening of donated blood.”

So where does that leave me? It is suggestive that whatever else is going on, my particular perambulations have not brought me into contact with the virus. And, no, the flu-like symptoms all three of us in the household experienced in January was not COVID-19. We all had the seasonal flu vaccine and the illness we did have was pretty mild.

The county where we live in California, Contra Costa, is part of the greater Bay Area and has been in lockdown since March 17. We currently have 615 confirmed cases in the county, with 44 hospitalized and 14 deaths. The county’s population exceeds 1.1 million.

My community is away from the large population centers of the county. Which is just as well. The household is comprised of a 66-year-old female (Mrs. Rodin), a 70-year old male (me), and a 90-year-old female (Mrs. Rodin’s mother). Our infection control protocol is pretty much what you would expect from people our age — whatever our energy permits and whatever we can remember to do. Over the last couple of months, I filled up what had been bare freezers in case we had to be quarantined. We made sure we had 90 days of meds. I am the only one who goes to the grocery store or the pharmacy. I wear a mask when I am in any store and add gloves at the supermarket or gas station.

Mrs. Rodin’s mother accompanies me on as many trips as possible but only stays in the car. It keeps her from going stir crazy — and no one wants her to be stir crazy. As no one in the household was working outside the home when the health emergency was declared, the main impact has been the inability to do sit-down dining in the restaurants we frequented or the occasional visits to retail shops. It has scuppered any possible family visits for the time being. And broader excursions to Carmel, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, or regional and national parks are out of the question.

But we are not the ones I worry about. I fear for the many people who provided services to us that are now idled. I fear for people who need group support but who are barred from gathering. Mrs. Rodin asked me last night what are the people who need meetings to control their addictions doing? Fortunately, we do not have personal experience of this, but one of our favorite comedies, Mom, is centered around recovering addicts, so no doubt this prompted the thought.

There has been discussion on our Nextdoor local group about a shortage of produce in our local store. Speculation is that farmers are having problems getting the crops into the supply chain, or that maybe truckers are in short supply. I don’t know. This is probably temporary but I worry that a lot of damage is being done to the economy in ways that are not always apparent … until they are.

So, let’s get those antibody tests rolled out and getting a better picture of the level of infection and the true risks of getting this disease.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Virgin Experience #3: Emergency Room and Follow-up Treatment

 

I’m in serious need of a rant. For those of you who are queasy about health-related issues, you don’t have to read this post. But I have to write it.

Sunday night, my husband took me to the emergency room. (He had to wait for me in the car for four hours due to virus restrictions.) I was in pain, and after taking tests (some very painful) and checking me over, they found nothing conclusive. So they suggested I consult with a gynecologist about a biopsy of the uterus. Yippee.

Meanwhile, I’m in consultation with my very knowledgeable nurse practitioner. She is suspicious after all the details I’ve given her (I don’t need to bore you with them), that I have interstitial cystitis. (If you want the gory details, you can go here.)

My last gynecologist closed up shop some months ago and I hadn’t yet set up with a new one. The emergency doctor gave me a referral. I learned, however, that since I will be a Medicare patient, I need a referral from my primary care practice, not an emergency doc. So the nurse practitioner faxed in the referral. But you see, that referral goes into “The System,” which has to chew on it and eventually attach it to my new account. It can take 48 hours to locate it. Normally, that’s not a big deal, but you can see that I have a sense of urgency (pun intended). I hope to learn that the referral has shown up this afternoon. But of course, that’s only for the consultation regarding a biopsy, which I hope will be a tele-med meeting.

Are you keeping up? Meanwhile I talked to a urologist doc who felt I needed a cystoscopy. (Oh boy, can’t wait.) But there was not an opening (pun intended again) until May 19. Well, I guess I will have to wait and hope there is a cancellation. Then I realized, wait, this is probably an elective procedure. They probably are assuming the lockdown will be canceled by May 1. Great.

So I’ve made a decision that I think even the gynecologist will agree with (and even if he doesn’t, too bad): I will wait for the cystoscopy and then decide if a biopsy is warranted. In consultation with all the relevant doctors, of course.

The irony of all this nonsense is that if I have that condition, there’s no real treatment or cure. Except that flare-ups can be food-related. People have found that coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and citrus can aggravate the condition. In some ways, that’s the worst part.

I take that back; I can work on my diet. The worst part is being in pain, unable to do anything about it, and waiting. Because we are all shut down.

I do know that many of you have medical conditions much, much worse than mine. And have long-term grievances with receiving medical treatment. But I’m spoiled. I have been blessed with good health. It just seems that when I turned 70, everything went to hell.

It’s life unfolding. I will get through it. And I will live.

Bill Gates, There’s an Easy Fix for that WHO Problem

 

Bill Gates says Donald Trump is dangerous for cutting $500 million in funding to the World Health Organization.

  1. The World Health Organization is a disgrace. Their inaction, political correctness, and sucking up to thugs and murderers like the Chinese Communists has caused many good people to die around the world.
  2. The United States is broke.
  3. If there was only someone with enough money to donate $500 million to the World Health Organization…  Bill Gates has historically been just about the richest person on the planet. If he wishes to send $500 million to the World Health Organization, he is free to do so. Jeez, what a complainer!

‘Elder Scrolls’ a Virtual World of Possibilities

 
A scene from Elder Scrolls

A scene from Elder Scrolls

My husband and daughter have been playing the video game “Elder Scrolls” for a few years now (yes, they take breaks to eat, go to school, go to work, etc.). This virtual world is stunning in its detail and sprawl. When the weather is bleak outdoors, the digital forests with sun filtering through trees, birds singing, and wildflowers blooming give me a lift. Sometimes–although I would never publicize this on an online forum–when weather doesn’t permit walking, I jog in place in front of the screen, pretending to “run with” my daughter’s screen character. It is cheering, if there are no nightmarish beings attacking, to imagine I’m taking some air on cobbled paths winding through woods, or on a beach, or over a boardwalk. As my daughter works her way through the game, with its stiff storylines and stilted dialogue, we are building our own family lore around it, which to me is more amusing than what the Tolkien-wannabe scriptwriters offer. Here are some absurdities you can only get from the blending of real and programmed worlds:

Virtual Clutter: In Elder Scrolls, players constantly acquire objects and carry them around in their packs or whatever their digital conveyance is. If I understand it right, these items come in handy later, or give the player an edge in fighting, or extra food for recipes, or clothes. At times, it gets to be too much, so you can sell off items to people in the game, or you can dump them somewhere. Apparently, my husband has taken to dumping. My daughter discovered this after she spent some time buying herself a house and furnishing it how she liked. It was tidy and cozy, a calm retreat from battling mutants. One day, unsuspecting, she selected that area on the map to visit her home. My husband had been there before her. He had been busy cleaning out his gear, leaving items strewn around the medieval dwelling. And in the middle of the floor was a sacrificial heart.

Virtuous Character: This game allows a player to take on any role. One can be an honest worker, making a living from skilled craftsmanship. Players can also steal–and worse, kill the robbed victims for no clear reason. You can join an assassin group and carry out dark missions. (I admit that this doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure what it does to one’s conscience to play at being evil, and regularly walk up and stab a person, with a showy fountain of blood, who had just been minding his own business up until then.) Anyway, my younger daughter set up a character for her older sister, @Dill. And when she plays as Dill’s character, Elder Scrolls becomes a wholesome game. Dill’s character would never dream of violence that wasn’t in self-defense or to kill bad guys. In fact, she doesn’t seem to do much fighting. She never steals, never has a bounty on her head. Instead, she wanders benignly through the worlds, busying herself with productive handicrafts. She might cook, make purchases, try on different outfits. No wonder these girls–when not at home due to canceled classes–successfully share a tiny apartment near their real-world college campus.

Fellow Travelers: Elder Scrolls can be played online, where other players are jogging by, dog or exotic pet close on their heels, or riding on a majestic predator. When ugly brutes have spawned for a massive fighting encounter, players team up and help each other fight. They can use their healing powers on one another or join other players for a multi-pronged attack. All this sounds noble, but when you visit a populous town square, especially if you’re wearing headphones, the dignity melts away, and one suspects that teenage boys are behind the earful of coarse language irrelevant to the game. We witness a range of puzzling behavior: odd poses, dancing, noisy gatherings. Today, a tall, lanky woman in sketchy underclothes was standing on a pedestal–and then suddenly acquired pants. Next, a whole outfit appeared. She was getting dressed in public. Also today, there was howling. You might have heard of the social media movement encouraging people to go outside and howl at eight every evening while in isolation. Well, it wasn’t nearly eight, but several players were circled up on the backs of their assorted wolves, tigers, and mythical creatures. Their animals were all howling over and over. My daughter laughed, steered her ride over, and joined the circle.

Member Post

 

[A glitch of some sort rendered all the links invalid. Thanks to an alert reader pointing this out, I’ve fixed all the links and the fix seems to be sticking.] Baijiu* shot: The Washington Post launched a clumsy attack on a woman, the governor of South Dakota, because she is a Republican and her ideas on […]

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Quote of the Day: Kimberley Strassel on how D’s and R’s respond to the Wuhan Coronavirus Crisis

 

From the Friday, April 3 column entitled “Pols Face a Coronavirus Test”:

Example: The Trump administration spent this week distributing ventilators, standing up small-business loans, dispatching hospital ships, erecting alternate care facilities, explaining virus modeling, revamping regulations to keep truckers on the road, and plastering the airwaves with information about hygiene and social distancing. Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent this week setting up a new House committee to investigate Donald Trump.

It is simply amazing, seeing what the two branches of government, represented by two parties, consider the most important in this time of a literal shut-down of the world’s largest economy.

Thoughts on Lockdowns

 

A long time ago, I was doing work in a large financial institution and we had this thing you may have heard of called the financial crisis.  During the crisis and our mad policy responses to the unique situation of the time, the CFO was doing a town hall I was watching, and he said something to the effect of: “The government is giving out all these loans, and we took the loan. We don’t need the money, but the market situation is such that if we didn’t take the loan, it would be assumed we were failing. So we are going to hold on to it until the government lets us give it back.”

I think this is a pretty good way to look at state and local level coronavirus responses. That the negative inference derived from not doing the most extreme version of things, whether it is locally appropriate or not, is what is driving the massive overreaction. I think this is derived from the fact that nearly all of our national media is based in NYC and their parochial myopia drives a lot of our national consciousness. And COVID is very much a problem for NY.

None of this is to say that people shouldn’t proceed prudently.

COVID’s Silver Lining

 

On my weekly trip to the supermarket, I was stopped as I walked in by a long-time and very competent store employee who told me that no longer can we bring our own bags from home. Instead we have to use plastic bags.

Hallelujah. A hoped-for consequence has fruited.

 

No, Karen

 

When the seatbelt law was passed in the mid-’80s, my police sergeant told us to go out and cite as many people as we could for that violation. I immediately stopped a woman for not wearing a seatbelt. I never issued another seatbelt ticket in my career, and, if I could, I would find that driver and apologize.

Every Friday night, an anonymous noise complaint would come in about a jazz club near a major thoroughfare in my beat. I would stand outside the business; the sound from inside was less than the ambient street noise. I never talked to the manager, and made a notation “no crime observed” on the incident remarks. After a couple of weeks of this, I informed the dispatcher I would not respond unless there was an actual complainant. I never got dispatched there again.

There was a park near a large hospital where taxi drivers would gather waiting to pick up the fares, usually Medicare patients, that they had dropped off for appointments. I got an anonymous dispatch to a disturbance involving the drivers. I drove by and saw that they were just standing outside their cars smoking and talking. I made a notation “no crime observed” on the incident remarks and went back in service. After three days of this, I informed the dispatcher I would not respond unless there was an actual complainant. I never got dispatched there again.

This week, the mayor of Austin, TX, ordered that everyone wear a mask in public. He also recommended that the general public report anyone not following his diktat.

I haven’t been a cop for 16 years, but there are three things I know I wouldn’t do if I were. I wouldn’t cite someone for listening to a service in their car in a church parking lot. I wouldn’t tell a husband and wife not to sit together on a park bench. And I wouldn’t respond to a complaint from a junior Stasi about someone not following the rules set down by a pétit fascist.

Member Post

 

Democrats and their ilk have already likened the threat of pandemics to the fanciful threat of “climate change”, presumably considering measures as bold as the current lockdowns to enforce counteraction. So let’s review why the term itself proves their climate concerns utterly ridiculous.  For years, “global warming” was their battle cry. Why? The argument was […]

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“Your Papers, M’sieur”

 

We got the following e-mail from British friends who live in France, very near St. Emilion. Requirements there are much more draconian than we have been subjected to in the US.

We have to have paper attestations filled out: name, address, date of birth, and only one of five allowed reasons to travel can be selected, one person in the car, and then the form is signed and dated. Six days ago, that was revamped to be signed by the date and the time stated, as outings can be for no longer than one hour. Just to be clear, when Steve cycles to the village early for the bread he must have this with him. We have moved to the app that the police can scan, but again it needs to be altered to reflect the time, etc., each time you go out.

Shopping is a nightmare, as I am supposed to stay here. I am allegedly high-risk, so we tried the web-serviced “Drive” collection system operated by French supermarkets. There are now no delivery systems here and, actually, the dreadful website for the collection system would have had you tearing out your hair – I think we are barely sane. Using it was a nightmare as the search engine was not very good and who ever coded up the products should have been fired.

So, we spent literally hours organizing a weekly shop only to find that trying to “check out” was almost impossible. The site crashed four or five times during the two days of trying. This was mainly when they were trying to allocate slots for collection. They have an area looking like a petrol station where you pull into a terminal. You scan your order confirmation then someone brings out your order. Naturally the system is brilliant for the lockdown situation and social distancing, but the increase in usage went through the roof and their IT systems just aren’t coping. We had another disastrous try and then finally one that did not make us lose the will to live! I conclude that others have given up trying, but this is still for collection in a week’s time.

We have interaction with friends all over with Facetime, email, etc., but not closer than across-the-road chats with our neighbors. Unlike in the UK, the Presidential edict is the same as a law and heavy fines have been imposed on those who break the rules. You can go out for walks but not in groups and, again, with your attestation and for no longer than an hour. Very few shops are allowed to be open, so only essential services are working. We are just very grateful we have a very large garden so we can at least sit outside in the warm sun – it could be worse.

.

Life After COVID-19

 

One thing that we can be certain about is that the world has changed. What will the political landscape look like after the crisis has passed?

A lot of it will, of course, depend on a few factors, not the least of which is the shape of the economy. And the wildcard will be Trump’s ability to stay on message. But if I were advising POTUS these are the arguments that I would certainly be making:

Let’s first address the progressive dream of a future that’s more urbanized, more dependent on mass transit and less tolerant of tree-lined streets with individual homes set 30 feet apart. There’s a reason New York City is the epicenter of our current crisis. Nine million walking, talking virus Ubers all crammed into a single metropolitan area, topped off with subway trains crammed full of hacking humanity, all of which can make sitting in traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles pretty damn attractive. And that’s not easy to do.

And speaking of traffic, let’s also look to the Gaia worshippers and their dreams of a less industrialized and less capitalistic world. They’re about to get a peek at their reality vs their fantasies. If the jobs don’t rebound and there’s little or no hope of help from the First National Bank of Mommy and Daddy, and when their favorite local spot never reopens for their weekend amusement, then maybe they start singing a different tune. They wanted the workers of the world to unite, but they didn’t want to actually join them in communing with nature as fellow migrant workers with a Humanities degree. (I can only imagine what will happen the first time they get misgendered in the strawberry patch.)

Finally, the one argument that I feel fairly confident that Trump will handle is the subject of international trade and the sanctity of national borders. Somehow the unfettered free movement of patients, er… people… doesn’t have the appeal it used to. When COVID-19 hit the European Union the Union wasn’t as united as the Continental elite wanted their minions to believe. Not only was the free flow of people halted at the traditional national borders, so was the free flow of medicine and personal protection equipment.

And what of the free trade crowd that assured us that China could be persuaded to conduct itself to Western standards? Where is the assurance that somehow trade was going to convince them to give up their ambitions and embrace capitalism on a longterm basis? China believed it could buy the West. Now, countries are seeing the price they really have to pay.

Member Post

 

Today I completed my work at home.  What work you say?  Aren’t you a nurse, you say?  Why, yes!  Yes I am. But my second job lately has been deleting notifications. After it came to my attention that I had over 16,000 Read Notifications, I decided that I was probably slowing down the site.  Today, […]

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Member Post

 

;P I stayed home, sick, from my home office yesterday, and I had a lot of time to browse and catch up on things. One of them left me shaken to my core. Marco Rubio had become a fascist. Well, fascist would be too much of an ugly exaggeration, but he certainly advocates for dictatorship […]

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Day 85: COVID-19 The Natives Are Getting Restless

 

In the screengrab above is both the IHME prediction for yesterday — one day since peak deaths/day in US and a prediction of 2,150 deaths — and the Worldometers report from yesterday. 1,535 deaths actually reported yesterday, ~70% of the prediction and another day in which real experience is performing better than predicted. And so it is not surprising that even as deaths decline and economic carnage mounts, the natives are getting restless.

Fox News has a report out: Coronavirus stay-at-home orders stir protests nationwide amid fears of economic collapse. The article references protests in Michigan, Ohio, and Wyoming. Governors are already mentioning plans to implement at least a partial reopening. Yes, there will likely be an uptick in COVID-19 cases where restrictions are eased, but this was supposed to be about preserving the health care system and not keeping everyone at home until the virus died out. Or at least that was how it was sold to the public.

That “bait and switch” was the subject of Tucker’s monologue last night. An urgent idling of the economy of the nation was needed to preserve the health care system lest deaths from all traumas and illnesses run out of control. That’s what we were told. “Flattening the curve” delayed but did not necessarily reduce the number of people who would ultimately be infected, becoming ill and possibly die. But it made it possible for our health care system to meet the challenge and not break which would have made deaths from all causes more numerous. And while there were some places where the health care system got pretty dented, it held. It held so well that in some places health care personnel are being furloughed. And irony of ironies, the income of certain health care providers is getting hit pretty hard as procedures were canceled to make capacity for COVID-19 patients that never showed up.

@MISTERBITCOIN shared on our COVID-19 Trackers Group a piece from David Henderson: Liberation From Lockdown Now. It reviews the sad litany of failure by our leadership to correctly assess what was coming and to handle this epidemic in the manner that we have been able to do for the past several decades without destroying the country. I do not particularly fault the humans involved. China lied and people died. Italy was scary — particularly if it had been replicated in our country. But the “cure” (if cure it was) is worse than the disease. And so Henderson concludes:

It’s time to let us wash our hands and go to work.

Austria, Denmark, and the Czech Republic are now opening up. Sweden, South Korea, Japan, and even China have opened. Right now, in the United States, a thousand politicians are looking for political cover to reverse course. Let someone brave and bold step forward. History will consider that person a hero. A liberator!

And let’s not forget the fact that so many of us are losing social interaction. “Man is, by nature, a social animal,” said Aristotle and man, are we ever seeing how true that is. We are thinking, acting, creative beings. We have the capacity to achieve remarkable things, including responding to the enormous challenges of pandemic disease, but we must be free to do so.

Re-open the free society right now!

Today the President formally kicks off that project. We need to take this as seriously as we took the pronouncements of the virus task force. We need to be as aggressive with re-opening as we were with closing if for no other reason than only a sense of impending normalcy will break the grip of fear.

Tomorrow I will take a finger prick antibody test. No it’s not going to tell me a lot even if I am positive for the virus antibodies. If I don’t have any it will tell me that infection in my county — one of the initial Bay Area 7 that shuttered on March 17 — is not that rampant. As of this writing, we have under 600 cases and only 11 deaths in a population of over 1.1 million. There are more hairdressers that have gone without income in this county for a month than persons with enough symptoms to be tested and confirmed as having COVID-19. If I do have the antibodies it will not tell me that I am immune. I don’t know the minimum titer that the test requires. If I am positive for the antibodies it will mean I am at the minimum for the test, but won’t give me a count. But I feel like going out and having it done is the first step in the right direction — gaining knowledge and not just sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

I am the only one in our household taking it. I am assuming that if I am positive for antibodies so are they. Mrs. Rodin doesn’t think the test is worthwhile. She would wait for a blood draw test that actually calculates a titer number. Who knows when that will be available for anyone walking in off the street? But I know it should be as quickly as possible and there should be some information now about the titer scores for those who have recovered. This article includes some titer scores for donors and recipients of recovered patient plasma treatments. But I do not have the expertise to interpret it.

This is the way forward: Get the data on people exposed/infected so we can realistically calculate the odds of anyone getting seriously ill or dying. Get data on the level of comorbidity of those who died so we can fine-tune the identity of the truly vulnerable. Give people information. Give people choice. And then, just get on with it.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

What a Mess

 

CDC has recommended to doctors across the country that any “non-emergency” health care is to be postponed. There are a lot of problems with this, of course, not the least of which is defining “non-emergency” in my line of work. Treating somebody’s blood pressure is not an emergency unless she strokes out tomorrow, in which case it apparently was an emergency after all. Oh, well. But anyway, I’m doing a lot of video-call medicine, which is the government’s idea of, um, I’m not sure what. But this is what we’re supposed to be doing. For now. Until they change their minds. Again.

I had an interesting video call with a patient of mine this morning. He’s a retired physician from New York City. Brilliant guy, but he can come across as abrasive and arrogant at times. I think it’s just his New York City mannerisms, coarse language, and his extremely frank approach to conversation which can be off-putting. I think he’s fundamentally a good person and he can be really funny if you can get past his gruff exterior. He’s also a very vocal and frequently hostile Democrat. He hates Republicans. But hey, he’s a wealthy New Yorker. What do you expect? And come to think of it, he hates lots of other people too. So whatever. He’s in his early 80s now and lives in an assisted living facility with his wife. I called him this morning because his recent labs showed some problems with his diabetes. He likes his gin and his ice cream, and glycemic control is a challenge for him. Particularly because he doesn’t listen to a gosh darn word his doctor says. Or his wife. Or anyone else.

The best I can remember from our video call:

Me: “Good morning Dr. Smith! Good to see you!”

Dr. Smith: “Good to be seen! You know what they say here in God’s waiting room – better to be seen than to be viewed! Ha!”

His wife Florence in the background somewhere: “Harold!”

Me: “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Dr. Smith. I just wanted to go over your recent labs here. Your glucose is a bit of a problem again, and I thought we could…”

Dr. Smith: “Hang on, let me put down my ice cream so I can take notes.”

Me: “Dr. Smith, it’s 8:15 in the morning.”

Dr. Smith: “Ha! I’m not eating ice cream! I just like pissing you off!”

Me: “So you’re not eating ice cream. And you’re not listening to me, either, are you?”

Dr. Smith: “Of course I am! Glucose! By the way, my daughter says hello!”

Me: “Um, ok, great. Ok, about your glucose…”

Dr. Smith: “She’s a nurse in a hospital outside of the city, and she’s been laid off, so she’s got lots of time to call and annoy her dear old Dad about meaningless $#!% like his glucose.”

Me: “Um…”

Dr. Smith: “She’s an orthopedic surgery nurse, and most of their elective knees and hips have been rescheduled, so she just sits around the house and thinks of ways to annoy me about…”

Florence: “Harold!”

Dr. Smith: “What’s bad is that her husband is a nurse anesthetist. Which I never understood. What the #$%& does he do all day, anesthetize nurses? Does he sneak around and hide propofol in donuts or something? I mean, what kind of #%$&…”

Florence: “Harold!”

Me: “Um, about your glucose…”

Dr. Smith: “I mean, if you want to be an anesthesiologist, go to $@#!ing medical school, right? What the…”

Florence: “Harold!”

Dr. Smith: “Anyway, what’s bad is that he’s been laid off, too, because they’ve rescheduled most of the vascular cases that he works on. So he…”

Me: “Are you even taking your insulin shots? Because your labs look like…”

Dr. Smith: “They’ve moved a big ship into New York Harbor to act as an overflow for the overcrowded hospitals. They’re supposedly refitting some of the closed schools into makeshift hospitals to handle overflow from overcrowded hospitals. They’re mobilizing the $#@%ing National Guard, now that they’re done shooting kids at Kent State, apparently. What a bunch of…”

Florence: “Harold!”

Me: “Look, I…”

Dr. Smith: “But they’re laying off all the #$%&ing nurses because the @#$%ing hospitals are empty because the #@$%ing politicians are %#&$ing around with…”

Florence: “HAROLD!!! Keep your voice down!”

Me: “And if you don’t keep your sugar down, you’re going to…”

Dr. Smith: “I mean, if this is a serious pandemic, why are they laying off nurses? Huh? How can you have a proper pandemic with empty hospitals?!? What a $#@%ing mess! It’s like Trump scheduled a plague and nobody showed up! I mean…”

Me: “Look, why don’t we…”

Dr. Smith: “And the doctors these days are even worse! They haven’t been laid off – they’re just not even bothering to show up! If there are so many sick people out there, why aren’t the doctors out there taking care of them? They’re all just sitting behind their computers doing video crap like they’re scared of some disease! Aren’t they supposed to be treating disease? What a bunch of panty-waists!”

Me: “Look, Dr. Smith, with utmost respect, why don’t you go #$@% yourself?”

Florence: “HAROLD!”

Dr. Smith: “See?!? That’s what I’m talking about! Where is that kind of spirit? When are today’s doctors going to stand up and take care of some sick people? Be a man! In my day, we wouldn’t have been hiding behind our computers and our charts!”

Me: “That’s because in your day, you had oil lamps and papyrus rolls, and you sent all your sick people to leper colonies.”

Dr. Smith: “#$%& you. I retired twelve years ago.”

Florence: “Harold!”

Me: “Look, we’re being told to do things like this. I don’t like it either. But I don’t see how…”

Dr. Smith: “Wait – hey that’s my daughter calling in. Gotta go. We’ll talk later.”

Me: “We?!? We’ll talk later? We haven’t even gotten to your diabetes yet! I haven’t said a #$%@ word since you’ve…”

Florence: “Harold, shouldn’t you…”

Me: “I thought you said all your daughter did was annoy you? Why are you…”

Dr. Smith: “Take it easy doc! I’ll get right on that sugar stuff. Great to talk to you! See you later.”

Me: “Right. Ok.”


This is a rough transcript of our call, partially because that entire conversation took about two and a half minutes – he talks really fast. Especially when he’s pissed off. Which he usually is, until he has enough gin and ice cream. And he never has enough.

But he’s really angry about how we’re handling this virus. To be fair, he’s generally really angry about all sorts of things. But in this case, he may have a point. Possibly for all the wrong reasons. But he may have a point. Hard to say.

I don’t know how far outside the city his daughter and son-in-law work, although he says they go to lots of Mets games (Another really classy Dr. Smith joke from a previous conversation: “Why do they call the hospital oncology ward Shea Stadium? Because that’s where the Mets win! Ha!”).

And I don’t know what the real situation is in NYC hospitals, and how much of this is a dad that’s just pissed off that his daughter and his apparently very patient son-in-law have been laid off.

But what he describes is similar to our situation in my area. Our hospital census is way, way down. And elective surgeries are one of the few things that hospitals actually make money on. They often lose money on each case of pneumonia or whatever, but they make it up with cardiac caths and hip replacements. I don’t understand how the hospitals are staying open, until I think about how much stimulus money is flowing down the streets of every city in the country right now.

But he probably has a point about all the elective surgeries. What happens when we start to reschedule all those elective knees, hips, carotids, aneurysms, and God knows what else? Some of those are typically booked a few weeks to a few months in advance. And then we don’t do any of them for three months. And then everybody wants all of them done at once. How is that going to work? In medicine, like in anything else, when you try to do too much, too fast, sometimes things go wrong.

My guess is that our rate of surgical complications will be unusually high for the second half of 2020. Blood clots, staph infections, pneumonias, and so on – many of which didn’t have to happen.

Of course, if they had been doing elective surgeries during this time, how many of those patients would have developed coronavirus? Probably some. Which would turn out worse? Hard to say.

Well, it’s hard for me to say. I suspect that Dr. Smith would declare which is worse, with absolute certainty. And maybe he’d be right. Hard to say.

But the longer we wait, the worse this is going to get.

I don’t envy whoever is planning all this.

Again, I don’t know how much of Dr. Smith’s tirade is correct, although I have no reason to doubt any of it, since I’m seeing the same thing here. But for once, he and I agree about something:

What a $#@%ing mess…

Quote of the Day: The Path to Freedom Is Discipline

 

“Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.” – Henri Nouwen

Discipline, especially in the 20th century, got a bad rap. The word seemed to remind people of rigid, prim people who always wanted to follow the rules, and who had no imagination. It was a way of life that some eschewed because they believed it limited their freedom and enjoyment of life.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Cambridge English Dictionary, however, provides further definition of what I believe Henri Nouwen, the renowned Catholic priest, meant: “The ability to control yourself or other people, even in difficult situations.”

I think that Nouwen was trying to tell us that for our lives to be satisfying, rewarding and to make a difference, we must set aside moments of rest and reflection. Those people who feel that they have to fill up every second of their lives have no peace; everything and everyone makes a demand on them. He is suggesting that we set aside times when we are not overwhelmed, and he calls to us to be present and not distracted as often as we might tend to be. Especially in our spiritual lives, we benefit from creating room for the unexpected, the holy, and for peace.

Our own discipline also empowers us to bring people together in orderly ways. Our very being sends the message to others that we have what it takes to organize, manage, inspire and lead.

All of these aspects of discipline will not happen on their own; life claims too much of our time. When we practice discipline, however, there are openings for the unexpected to show up, for creativity to arise, and for freedom to thrive.

Sweden Update

 

For those who may not recall, Sweden did not shut down. They kept schools and businesses and restaurants open, encouraging only those at risk to quarantine. So… how are they doing?

It definitely looks like Sweden has stabilized. Which is excellent news for those who want to unwind the lockdowns ASAP.

Best Cop, Bad Cop?

 

I personally love what President Trump is doing, in his daily exposure of the entirely corrupted professional media, which sold itself long ago to the secular left wing of the Democrats. Today’s briefing was one of the best, as he went all multi-media on them, making them look into the mirror as he showed the American public their hackery. At the same time, we got First Lady Melania Trump talking to children, urging them to listen to their parents and reading them a story. So, is this a bad cop, best cop act? What do you think of this team?

QOTD: Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

 

“OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

“This is Houston. Say again, please.”

“Houston, we’ve had a problem,”

These words were spoken calmly fifty years ago today, on April 13, 1970. A supposedly now routine trip to the moon — after all, we had done it twice already — became an intense race for crew survival. With only the materials on board, some way had to be found to provide enough oxygen and power to get into a safe reentry orbit with enough oxygen to keep the crew alive until they could splashdown and get out of the capsule.

The fierce level of determination, backed by true technical expertise and imagination, was reflected in a second quote that was not actually documented at the time, a short phrase that summed up the ground control teams’ ethos:

Failure is not an option.

The context was a discussion, after the fact, of the problem-solving process, in which the comment was made that they worked through all the options, but failure was not one of them. Our government agencies have been made much more risk-averse and rule-following since that time, more focussed on avoiding blame than fixing problems. Behaving otherwise gets you beaten up by Congress and the media. Yet, there are moments when the American government shows flashes of the stunning daring and competence found in the early Cold War.

Today should have been a grand celebration of disaster turned into triumph. Instead, the day is being passed by largely unremarked by public officials. That is a shame because the message of Apollo 13 could not be more relevant today. We’ve had a problem, and failure is not an option.

For further reading, see the NASA Apollo 13 Flight Journal, with photographs and diagrams.