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Posts Tagged ‘Coronavirus’

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“Numbers do not feel. Do not bleed or weep or hope. They do not know bravery or sacrifice. Love and allegiance. At the very apex of callousness, you will find only ones and zeros.”

― Amie Kaufman, Illuminae

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Today is May 4th. By tomorrow, or even later today, the death toll from the coronavirus here in the US will hit the 70,000 mark. That 70K is a figure, according to the model used by the white house* to forecast the virus, was estimated to be reached on or around August 4.

We are a full three months ahead of this obviously faulty model’s schedule.

For the past month, we have averaged about 30,000 new cases and around 2,000 deaths per day. It has remained steady and is not moving in any sort of downward direction. Not even close to indicating the end of this first wave. And bear in mind that those figures come even while some states have tried to suppress testing as well as public reporting of the deaths caused by the virus there. The reality is that the actual numbers, both of those infected and those killed by the virus, are substantially higher.

What this means is that we have yet to even approach the midpoint of this event.

We have witnessed the white house* beginning to try to normalize these numbers, throwing out higher figures so that anything lower seems somehow better. They never attach faces or personalities to these numbers.

They only see and present them as numbers with the hope that the public will also begin to only view them in that way, as though these simple numbers are distant and totally unattached to their own very real lives. And so long as they see these deaths as mere numbers and not as flesh and blood, they will view these numbers as an acceptable normal.

Numbers are just symbols and tools to be manipulated. They don’t have lives.

Numbers don’t hold the door open for you or smile and wave as you drive by. They don’t bake you a cake. They don’t do you a favor or give you a hug. They don’t hold your baby or pet your dog or send you a card. Numbers don’t give you a hand when you need it. Numbers don’t cry at a sad movie or dance to a slow song. They don’t catch wedding bouquets or sob at a funeral. Numbers don’t beam with pride at the happiness of those they love.

Numbers don’t love, for that matter. Or hate.

Numbers alone simply do not do justice to the lives they represent.

There are going to be a lot more large numbers ahead of us. That is a certainty. And so long as the more selfish among us fail to see the real flesh and blood people represented by these numbers, so long as they feel it is their right to flaunt the small protections we have against this virus, these numbers will continue to grow. Their very actions against being required to sacrifice anything at all will prolong and expand this crisis, will grow the numbers.

We have become a selfish people, indeed. We see only what we want to see. Hear only what we want to hear. We live in an echo chamber of self that doesn’t have much room for the concerns of others outside of what they stack up to as numbers.

I don’t know how to end this diatribe this morning. There is no good way to end it. I am simply frustrated by the callous use of these numbers and the ugly selfish and stupid behaviors being displayed by those who do not recognize the humanity they represent.

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“[Dona Maria] saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires.”

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

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“Schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality. Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but … that might be a tradeoff some folks would consider.”

–Dr. Mehmet Oz, April 15, on Fox News/Sean Hannity

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“Appetizing opportunity”

May only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality

Syndicated TV doctor and regular Fox News guest Dr. Oz created quite a firestorm with his appearance on Wednesday evening on the Sean Hannity show. He was was acting as the point of the spear for the administration’s new push to reopen the economy.

Because they have absolutely no plans for the comprehensive testing and screening needed to do so with even a modest degree of safety, their strategy is to soften up the American public to the idea that some of us will have to be sacrificed for the sake of the economy. They do so even though they know they risk the possibility of inflicting even greater long term damage to the economy if their actions end up prolonging this crisis and spread the virus even further.

So, out come their version of experts– the Dr. Oz’s and Dr. Drew’s and Dr. Phil’s– pulled directly off the TV screen to convince us that, hey, losing another 2-3% is no big deal at this point, especially if it means that Wall Street is happy.

So we end up with an “appetizing opportunity.”

Yes, when I think of putting other people’s children in harm’s way, appetizing is the first word that comes to mind. As a matter of fact, my mouth is watering a little right now just thinking about it.

Sounds ghoulish, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

Now, I am willing to cut Dr. Oz a small break here and suggest that he was not talking about sacrificing 2-3% of the population. That would be unforgivably vile, if that is what he meant with his words.

He may have meant that we would be adding 2-3% to the total dead when this all over by doing so.

But even that is borderline ghoulish.

Right now, we have around 32,000 deaths and even that is a suspect number because of the lack of testing for the many who died from similar causes in the past couple of months and as a result were not added to the totals. But let’s say that if we continue as it is currently trending, we may very well end up with 100,000 dead.

That number comes with a continuance of the shutdown that has been in place now for the past month or so in most places. Without that shutdown and physical distancing, that 100,000 number would no doubt be in our rearview mirror by now and we would be heading to perhaps a number with seven figures in it.

But let’s go with that 100,000 number. Under the situation using Dr. Oz’s appetizing opportunity, they have reopened the schools first. Kids and teachers are back in place. So are bus drivers and cafeteria workers and custodians.

Let’s suppose Dr. Oz meant that by doing this we would only be adding 2-3% to the overall death total. That means that, using  the 100K figure, that you could tack on another 2- 3000 deaths.

That sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

And who would we willingly sacrifice to join this elite group?

Whose child?

Which teacher? Or bus driver?

Which parent? Or husband or wife?

If it’s your kid, will you just shrug your shoulders and be happy because the unemployment rate is dropping once more?

How about your spouse or your mom or dad?

Still sound appetizing?

And that is with still giving the good doctor the benefit of a doubt in what he meant with his words.

You have to remember that Dr. Oz, along with Dr. Drew, were prominent voices at the beginning of this who claimed this whole situation was being blown out of proportion, that is was a media fabrication. Dr. Drew has since apologized for being wrong in his judgement. But Dr. Oz has taken a different path and is on the dunce train. He’s now saying that the crisis that he said wasn’t a big deal might kill a lot of folks so it’s no big deal if we tack on a few more for the sake of expediency.

I will believe that it’s truly safe not by the words of a TV personality doctor best known for peddling fringe pseudo-science remedies or a reality TV president*** that displays sociopathic behavior on a regular basis. Or the words of any of his toadying cronies.

No, it will take some sort of action.

I will believe it’s safe when the president*** hauls his svelte 239 pounds, along with his whole clan of grifting cowboys and cowgirls, to the front of a Walmart and act as greeters for an afternoon. They could shake hands and take selfies with all the good, safe people for a couple of hours. That might convince me.

Hey, he could even combine it with a golf trip to his Bedminster, NJ, resort that he is so itching to take. There’s a Walmart only about 15 miles down the highway from it that would be the perfect place for such an event.

Now, that sounds like an appetizing opportunity to me.

 

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Maybe one of the good things that might come out of this crisis is that people will look at the jobs done by themselves and others in a different way.

I read a news story where they were talking with a man who had worked for a food distributor, the kind that delivers food products to stores and restaurants, for many years. He had always thought of his job as a mere job and felt that it didn’t have much consequence in the bigger picture of the world.

But now, with the crisis putting a spotlight on the importance of the food chain, he began to see that what he did had significance, that it did, indeed, make a difference. He felt a pride in what he was doing that he had never felt before. He felt that he was working with a purpose now and not just droning mindlessly along.

This new perception changed everything for him.

I mention this because I think of those people who work the many thankless service jobs that fuel our modern world and who are still at the switch today, often putting themselves at risk in the time of this virus. Firefighters and EMTs. Law enforcement and corrections officers. Mail carriers and delivery drivers. Truck drivers, warehouse workers and stock clerks.

And especially the doctors, nurses, therapists, aides, food service and cleaning people that make up our hospitals.

And perhaps the most overlooked and least appreciated, those people who work hard at the supermarkets and other stores that are still open.

One of my first jobs was working in a Loblaws grocery store, working as both a stock clerk and cashier. It made me appreciate what a thankless job it could be and I try my best to be appreciative of any cashier or anyone who has to have people in front of them constantly through the day. It’s a hard thing to do, to maintain a consistent demeanor as a wide variety of folks parade before you for hour after hour, some not so nice at all.

And to factor in the risk from this virus as they are serving these people just a foot or two away, who are unknown to them and may well be carrying it, makes their efforts seem almost heroic.

I am sure they don’t think of themselves as being heroic. Most have no choice and have to be there just to maintain their life. They just see it as doing their job.

But often heroism comes down to that simple thing– just doing your job.

Heroism doesn’t come from those seeking accolades or praise. It doesn’t come from beating down an opponent and pounding your chest.

It comes from regular people doing best what they can when they are needed in the face of a threat because they have no other choice.

And that’s what these folks are doing right now.

No doubt that some, maybe many, will contract the virus. And that makes me feel for them even more. So, if you must go to a store (do not go if you can help it!) maintain your distance and look at your cashier for a moment. Think of the risk they are taking so you can have a bit of food. Then thank them with some sincerity.

Maybe they will feel like a hero if just for a moment. Or just for one day…

Okay, that means I get to play one of my all time favorites, which I am always looking for an excuse to play. Here’s Heroes from David Bowie.

“And we can be heroes, just for one day…”

So, be careful.

Be kind.

And have a good day.

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“Life” is of course a misnomer, since viruses, lacking the ability to eat or respire, are officially dead, which is in itself intriguing, showing as it does that the habit of predation can be taken up by clusters of molecules that are in no way alive.”

― Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

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It’s interesting how things reveal themselves to you in different ways.

The painting above, The March, was painted about a year ago and was part of my Multitudes series. It’s a piece that always made me uneasy and even a little frightened. There was something ominous in the massed figures and the way they were marching forward.

It was not a parade of celebration.

No, it had a purpose and intent that felt to me like it was skewing toward the darker side of our nature. It was like it portrayed some evil force marching towards us. In fact, when I wrote about this piece last March, I used a line from the Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451, as the introductory quote: “Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.

And looking at this piece this morning, I stand by those initial feelings but they seem even stronger and more prescient given the march of the Covid-19 virus around the globe. I look at this painting now and see the faces and green coats as personifications of infection. There is a zombie-like pallor to the faces, the color of death. And as author Barbara Ehrenreich points out in the quote at the top, viruses are not truly living organisms. They are undead predators waiting for a host to further their march.

So, this painting has become more focused and narrowly defined for me personally. It’s like it has been waiting for the proper moment to reveal itself and its meaning. It doesn’t make me feel any better but at least I know what I see in it now.

It’s a scary time, these late winter days in March. There are certainly rough times ahead, both from the virus and the hardships created by it that we are going to face. I would like to say that I have confidence in those people who we have entrusted to lead us through times like this. But we are led by a person who lacks all empathy and is only concerned with his own situation. He has greatly weakened the agencies needed to face these situations, slashing budgets and even dismantling the Pandemic Response team back in 2018. He has filled his administration with inept and corrupt political lackeys, not with capable professionals in their fields who would dispassionately respond to crises like this. They would act with the public’s best interests foremost in their mind, without having to first worry about offending the childish sensibilities of the egomaniac in charge.

We are not confronting this with what we would consider an A Team leading us.

I am worried. Worried for my family and friends, Worried for my nation. Worried for this world.

And as the month of March slogs forward, the viral march moves on, as well, with an orange faced idiot in a red hat acting as the drum major.

Be well, my friends. Good luck to us all.

 

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