April 1st, 2020 7 AM
73 Days since first US infection.
I begin this task today in order to document the tragedy of my lifetime, in real time, for posterity and to enable humanity to learn from our fiasco. I will, throughout this document, abreviate the term Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), to C-19. I do this just to save the damn keystrokes, I expect to do this for a long while and have no desirte to retype coronavirus endlessly, thus coronavirus will be C-19.
I have always enjoyed writing, but felt no compulsion to press my writing onto others, no need to seek an audience, no notion that I alone had a unique voice, perspective or knowledge to convey to an audience. I felt no need to entertain or enlighten others with works of fiction, there are already so many who do so well. So I have only written when the Muse beat upon my head persistently about something.
I once had a literature professor tell me that out of 25 years of teaching I was the student most akin to Emily Dickenson, not for the quality of my poetry or prose, but that I was most likely to die with a body of work unread by people, bound in neat little notebooks, because I felt no need to share it.
She was correct in that, until today. Now I feel a need to document this, as it happens to me, in the manner of Anne Frank, in real time, for the edification of those who survive. To document where we went right and where we went wrong in the hope that the survivors learn the lessons our planet needs to learn. For the duration I plan to abreviate Coronavirus to C-19 just to save time.
Thirty odd years ago I served in the Army, for a while in the service I had the position of NBC NCO, which required some very basic NBC training. Ever since that time I have remained keenly aware of the ever present threat of novel virus. If I hear that term, “Novel Virus” I hear a memory, a physical recollection, of “Alert” being shouted down the hallways. Mentally I feel like I am at war. I have felt this way since early January when I first heard that nasty word, novel.
I am a 58yr old disabled vet. Peacetime, so save your thanks for the guys who had to go in the shit. I did not, instead I did training, training, and more training, some of which was NBC. Signing up and serving is not the same thing as signing up and going in the shit. Not all service to the nation is equal, the willingness to serve was when we all signed, but a lot of people deserve those praises a hell of a lot more than me.
I have a TBI which affects my multitasking; Ulcerative Colitis which is caused by an undiscovered immune system issue, and COPD-E or emphysema. Thus when it comes to C-19 I am in the ‘at risk’ group, in fact I am in the ‘elevated at risk’ group. The deck is stacked against me already. In that sense my title is optimistic, because if I am infected this summer I will likely die. It is my intent not to contract C-19 until Christmas or later, by then we hopefully will have viable treatments, or perhaps even longer till next summer when we might have a vaccine. In short my end date has moved from 15yrs? To next week?
I live with my adult son and his wife in a 2 bedroom rented home in Orono Me, right outside the university campus. My son Shane was at University but ran low of funding and so had only recently begun an internship with the Maine Electrical workers union. His wife, Macy, works as a personal care assistant caring for disabled, mentally ill clients in a group home type setting. Electrical work is seasonal and my son had only just began when the season ended and half the work force was laid off. So he is out of work and ineligible for unemployment. We currently survive on my disability stipend and Macy’s pay.
Shane is also in the at risk group being a survivor of NEC as an infant in 1990. Then he was surgically bisected and reconnected over the course of 18 months. This was followed by a decade of physical and occupational therapy. As a thirty year old man he has no colon at all and a host of issues all of which stem from NEC, and most of which medical science merely scratches its collective head at. You see NEC in 1990 had a 1% chance of survival, no one expected him to live long, no one expected long term issues and thus most Doctors know little to nothing about it.
Macy works as a PCA, a personal care assistant. She deals with two clients every day, a 6’3” schizophrenic who cannot understand C-19 nor follow any distancing protocols, and a bipolar client who asks to go out every day, when he needs to stay in, like everyone. The clients do not understand and get more frustrated, as does everyone, but these disabled humans do not understand and often do not listen. This increases the danger of infection and spread. If your client will pick up cigarette butts off the ground and smoke them, you have a significant risk factor for infection and disease spread. That risk affects both myself and my son through Macy who is essential to the job and that group home.
As an old NBC guy I reacted to that nasty, nasty term “Novel” right away. I was once taught that “Novel means new in the way a toddler discovers what sharp is by picking up a razor blade.” Novel, in virology means “we don’t know.” We are learning in real time. We have no resistance. We have no treatments. We have no vaccines. We are on the front lines with no weapons, and no ammo, limited armor, limited reinforcements, and no retreat. We are grass before the scythe and our only chance is to avoid the scythe long enough to learn from the deaths of others in order to help the rest of us survive the next attack.
In response to C-19 I took early steps in Jan to avoid contagion. I kept to myself, maintained a 3 ft distance. Washed my hands frequently. I ordered a face shield, disinfectant wipes and a plague Dr. Facemask, this later I intend to mod into a cheap respirator using carbon and particle filtration and an improved seal. I ordered the mask in the hope its appearance would keep folks at a distance. I keep distance from my household companions and am most often alone in my room with my door closed.
My efforts were insufficient. Shortly after C-19 touched down in Seattle, Macy became ill. Her symptoms closely matched then known C-19 symptoms partially, cough, and head cold. I stayed the hell away from her, upped my distance because its flu season and flu alone might well kill me. I wondered, “if this is C-19, it is far more asymptomatic than I suspected.” Macy was sick off and on for a week or so, then Shane came down with it, then me. I was sick 2 days and on day 3 at the hospital with shortness of breath, a symptom I cannot delay on. A dank illustration of how much internal house Q procedures needed to improve.
I went to the hospital with my son wearing a surgical mask in my custom face shield and a sign. “SICK—Flu, Cold or Corona?” I had to advise the security, as they had not yet reacted to C-19 SOP even though it was in Seattle. The nurse assigned to me had gotten those advisories and promptly Q’d me and tested me, but not for C-19.
I was tested for flu A and B, and RS virus (which is epidemic every year) but not C-19. I had no contacts in 30 days outside of family, no travel, no contact with China and live much like a hermit with minimal contact with humans due to my medical issues, so I did not meet SOP criteria for C-19 testing. I had breathing treatments and was sent home with a steroid prescription.
That was March 6 when I first quarantined for RS virus. So I have already been quarantined for just under a month. I have an advantage in this when compared to my fellow citizens, practice. My medical issues have largely Q’d me already so I am used to living inside more than out and even to spending much of that in one room. Even so the in house Q was not the same, but more restrictive and remains so. No more watching movies or sharing dinner with a show, no more hanging out on the porch this spring even with distancing.
Life went on. Daily I watched the John’s Hopkins map, watching C-19 spread, angry often because our POTUS was not reacting as I was trained to react to Novel Virus. In such a setting you assume the very worst about the bug, prepare for that and hope the hell it’s less. Only after you begin to see the first bloom pass will you have enough data to determine how much you can lower your protocols. To give that “All Clear”.
In early January I was very pleased to see the POTUS stopped travel from Wuhan, which had locked down 50 million people in the world’s largest forced quarantine in history. However after that he sat on his hands to my dismay. I was stunned. To me that “World’s Largest Quarantine in History” was a huge red flag meaning we need to follow suit now, not tomorrow, not next week, now. The bug is loose! I expected acts to follow to ensure we had the personnel and equipment, acts to protect our troops, acts to port our ships, to quarantine the USA until the bloom passed. None of that happened, and is still not happening.
In NBC I was taught that people react poorly to virus, they react with fight or flight, denial or panic, or that third so oft omitted reaction “deer in the headlights”. People will either panic or deny, and that psychology is a cruel factor to outbreaks. Trump ran, and seems to still be running, in the denial loop. The other day it seemed maybe he was embracing the harsh reality, but his later tweets make it seem not true. His actions prove he is still in denial of the on the ground reality. To date he has failed to enact national production, taking control of the production of N-95, surgical masks and gowns, face shields and respirators. In doing so he is dividing America against itself in a life and death struggle: A State vs State vs FEMA FFA in the for profit “free” market.
Evidence of Trumps denial loop is, in my opinion, indisputable. Here is a list of his quotes as the virus hit the USA, alongside my own “overreactions” and our infection/death count.
Jan 22 “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
654 cases outside china (COC) John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I have already ordered my face shield and disinfectant wipes for myself and warned my family of the threat.
Feb 2 “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China and it’s going to be fine”
19,900 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I am awaiting my purchases, updating my family and isolating.
Feb 24 “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA, stock market starting to look very good to me!”
80,400 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
Face Shield has arrived, but Macy has taken ill with a head cold continue updating and isolating.
Feb 25 “CDC & my administration are doing a great job of handling Coronavirus.”
81,400 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
Macys struggles through with Tylenol and cold medicine, working. All in all I think she takes two days off over two weeks, extending her weekends to recover as her job is both understaffed and underpaid, and the client’s needs never stop. I isolate and give updates on the numerous science and multinational news sites I browse, to study what I see as the enemy, C-19.
Feb 25 “I think that’s a problem that is going to go away. They have studied it. They know very much, in fact we’re very close to a vaccine.”
81,400 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I am shocked at this quote which I heard live streaming. It’s not possible. Normally you’re looking at three years or more. With everything expedited like the damn Manhattan project 18 months might be possible. AI assist is happening, so with all the winds of fortune 12-18 months is possible, but not likely. Is the POTUS unable to comprehend the threat?
Feb 26 “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to zero.”
82,700 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
My personal shock at the POTUS’s comments becomes my norm, I expect him not to understand, not to react. I share that understanding with my family. I notice Shane has symptoms while Macy is recovering. He had just been laid off due to seasonal slowdown. I maintain distance and increase the frequency of hand washing.
Feb 26 “We’re going substantially down, not up.”
82,700 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I inform my family that based on Wuhan, S. Korea and Japan, I suspect this is either aerosolized at least partially, or has asymptomatic transmission. While the latter might lower the overall death rate, it would increase its infectivity immensely, unpredictably so as people who felt fine could infect for a long while undetected while others become infected and die. Plus, since its novel we don’t know why they are dying, we are seeing how they die and trying to learn why. I told them we ought to look at our infection numbers and add a zero or two to the end of that number for undetected asymptomatic infectious.
Feb 27 “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”
84,100 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I remain isolated and point out to my family that in WuHan, where they did a 50 million people lockdown, they seemed to be cresting. This is six weeks or more from the initial outbreak. Which indicates that a Quarantine is effective as mitigation, but it needs to be in place for 90 days or more. Trump fails to act.
Feb 28 “”We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of elements of medical”
86,000 COC John’s Hopkins Covid-19 tracker
I take ill, and worsen over the next few days.
Over the next few days I worsened, as is my lot. As soon as I had a lessening of breath I went to the Hospital, and then into Q at home. I was ill with RS Virus for about two weeks, slowly improving, and then another wave would hit, like waves until it was past. I have not come out of Q since that time. During the month of March, with the disease here in the nation, our POTUS failed to take any serious national steps. He did not order FEMA to buy everything and distribute it to the states, so even now they are in a bidding war for PPE and Respirators. He did not order a national Quarantine, but abdicated any and all responsibility to the Governors. He said his job was to back up the Governors, and as Gov. Inslee replied, “We don’t need back up, we need a Tom Brady.” which infuriated Trump.
Trumps has said the following between when I got ill and today.
“This is the new Hoax”
“I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down”
“I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault”
“It will go away. Just stay calm it will go away.”
All the while the virus was doubling every three days as the graph below shows.
Meanwhile Trump attacks the media for reporting about it. If faced with a hard question his response is to call it nasty, and then impugn the reporter and their network for being nasty and asking nasty questions when they ought to be talking about what good things he has done. He never actually answers the hard question but trails off into endless mentions of things he did do, rather than admit he did not do other things. An inability to see and admit your own failure makes it tough or impossible to recover from that failure. If I cannot admit to myself I missed my target, then I perceive no need to fire again or take better aim with that next shot.
Trump is not a leader. He is a real estate agent with inherited wealth and charisma. A BS artist who conned his base into supporting him for their personal profit and by stroking their xenophobic feelings. His normal methods of manipulation do not work on C-19.
Trump cannot call a virus names, or demean it, or claim it is lying, he cannot bully or threaten it. He cannot spin death data but he’s trying, saying “200,000 dead would be a good result”. Already he is attempting to shift all responsibility onto the governors rather than make a unified response.
Trump sees the virus as a failure and a political liability. Rather than reacting proactivly to it, he is seeking already to dodge political blame for the response by deferring it all to the States. He endlessly points out, day after day, that he restricted air travel while omitting that for three weeks after he called it a hoax, and fake news, and a media spin or a new Dem plan to ruin him. He even claimed “look how well I’m doing, my TV ratings are way up” (for the C-19 task force press conferences) “the Press briefings are like Monday Night Football, like the bachelors final episode.”
Thus to him apparently, the US is not tuning in to see if they are going to die, they are tuning in to see him. To Trump, everything seems to be about Trump, even your fear of death does not exist, and is instead replaced by your love of Trump on TV; in Trump’s own mind.
Here in Maine yesterday the CDC announced that we had received 65,000 N-95 masks and that’s all we would get for the foreseeable future. I heard “HQ says your out of luck guys, no Evac, it’s too hot, you have to hump it out of there”. In other words “you’re on your own.”
My resoponse to this was to reach out to Origins, a clothing Company here in Maine run by one of those vets who do deserve that hard earned thanks. My intent was to ask him to retool for maks, but he had already done that. Already he had retooled one entire clothing line to the manufacture of reusable, reloadable masks, for anyone and everyone, especially first responders and the avg citizen, with the notion of save the N-95’s for those intubating. Reacting to the threat, in real time, like I wish our POTUS was. So I told his assitant to have him prepare to give them away, because we were on our own and the locals right around him will need his aid. I directed her to tell him to watch the latest Maine CDC briefing and see that for himself. I have no doubt he is taking some action for those around him, I wish our POTUS was as motivated and like minded.
As a result of all this I have not let my Q level down since Mar 6th. I recovered from RS, which was miserable, but I remained in Q as I watched the outbreak bloom. I have been well ahead of the curve all through, and remain so. I expect this bloom to last here until mid-summer, and then for it to re-bloom come fall. The other day Trump said “open by Easter”, and I thought wtf? We are still on the upswing, barely beginning and will be in the shit for months. Surely Dr, Faucci is better informed and educated on this, he is our leading epidemiologist, a leader against AIDs, Ebola, Sars1, and Mers. Apparently Trump “disagrees” with him and thinks more of himself and re-election than anything, even pandemics.
Consequently I have upped my Q level, even more distancing, decontamination. It’s worse for Macy who will be our main source of infection as she is an essential worker. This weekend she is pitching a tent on the lawn and we still have snow here. She will begin to reside in a tent this weekend. This was her idea, and her choice to do so. Macy grew up on the islands and then went to High School at sea upon a wooden sailing vessel. Hardship is not something she is unacquainted with. I do not think it is possible for me to properly explain to her how noble this is, nor how proud I am of her for even thinking in such a selfless fashion.
It is my intent to do as I have been doing, watch a dozen or so networks, and more websites, watching the enemy’s movements and the inevitable social changes, some of which will prove more deadly than the bug. Every day I do this around the globe via the web, and yesterday I decided to do this with it. To play the modern Homer and document my life in this 8×10 box for the next 9 months. Here’s to hoping I live that long.