I got a text from an old friend a couple of days ago. She’s a nurse anaesthetist in Houston these days. In it she said that her 290 bed hospital is completely full. 160 of the patients are Covid patients. Every single ICU bed has a Covid patient in it. It was 10 AM and she had already been called to six Code Blue situations and she was frazzled and exhausted. And that’s just the beginning of the surge in Houston area hospitals. There’s a very predictable pattern happening in hot spots. Cases begin to rise with higher percentages of positive tests. About three weeks later, hospitals begin to fill up. Three weeks after that, the deaths begin to skyrocket. The end of July and beginning of August are going to be brutal for Texas, Arizona, Florida, and the other states following their general curves.
Numbers are arcing up in Alabama as well. As we don’t have the large dense urban centers, our absolute numbers are far fewer but the trends are the same. UAB hospital now has over 100 Covid inpatients (we were at about sixty a month ago). The other hospitals in town are also seeing a rise. It’s seeping into the long term care facilities and senior communities and starting to spread among those vulnerable populations. Our governor, never one to rock the boat, or even to be visible the majority of the time, emerged today for a press conference and announced a mandatory statewide mask order. I suppose it’s better late than never but it would have been helpful before the numbers really started to spike. Of course this has led to the inevitable backlash among those who have been conditioned by certain media outlets to regard anything that impinges on their sense of entitlement as a threat. I wonder what a future generation is going to make of the great mask wars of the summer of 2020. Perhaps we need to enlist the help of the Kardashians running a PR campaign to make masks the must have fashion accessory of the season.
The longer a significant portion of the population refuses to believe in Covid and its dangers and flouts good public health policy, the longer we’re all going to have to put up with it. Every time I see some grinning idiot wandering into a store or take out counter without one, I kind of want to hit them up the side of the head and say ‘You, yes you are the reason I can’t take my planned trip out of the country this fall or go to a rehearsal or performance or be with my friends’. Then I think better of it as I’m getting to the age where if I get knocked down by a neanderthal, I could break a hip. It’s not that we haven’t know for well over a century how to cope with a pandemic. It’s really quite simple. Determine who is sick or a carrier (testing), and break chains of transmission (masking, quarantine, and contact tracing). It’s really that simple. But for a disease that spreads rapidly and for which the whole country is at risk due to lack of immunity. large scale public health programs need to be put in place. It requires a full core press federal response so that appropriate resources can be called up and put into place. Unfortunately, decades of starving public health programs as unimportant, political marginalization of science and expertise, and leadership at the very top that is completely disinterested in anything other than corporate profit have made this essentially impossible and I really don’t see much progress prior to this next spring and even that is likely to depend on the political winds.
I sent the collected accidental plague diaries to the editor I’ve been working with to determine if I’m actually writing a book with these pieces. It’s about 50,000 words now since I published the first one in early March. He thinks that it actually dovetails with my original thought for a book about the stresses that were going to be brought to bear on the health system by the aging of the Baby Boom. Covid is just hyper accelerating those processes in some unusual ways. I was expecting the cracks and problems to begin showing in the late 2020s and really becoming a serious issue in the 2030s. Looks like I missed the mark by a decade. I’m still not sure how to put all this randomness together in a coherent whole but I liked what he had to say so I’m going to ruminate on it a couple of weeks. If I get the pieces in order in my mind, then I should be able to write fairly quickly and might have something by next year. Got to use all those non-rehearsal hours for something other than perfecting my Civilization VI game.
I am taking my first journey since Covid his this weekend when I head to Seattle to see my family. It’s my first time off and the first time I will have been able to see them since last November. Those of you in the greater Seattle area, if you want to get together for walks around Greenlake or the Arboretum or along the Burke-Gilman Trail, let me know. Most of the things I usually do in when I’m up that way just aren’t a good idea at the moment due to infection control principles. I’ll be staying at my brother’s house in Wedgwood. I have no real agenda other than family time – probably a number of very long naps as the grind of work in this era has been getting to me. I’m not looking forward to flying in the age of Covid but it was either that or nine days of driving round trip. Watch this space for my impressions. Believe me, I much prefer to write travel diaries than plague diaries.
Keep those hands washed and sanitized.
Wear your mask when out and about.
Stay home as much as you can.