July 27, 2020

“View of Chattanooga, Tennessee from Lookout Mountain”

And I have returned from the Pacific Northwest back to my own domicile where the weather is hot and sticky, the condo is deliciously cool due to the recent replacement of the HVAC and where I am once again being pretty much ignored by both of my cats. My friend Holly house sat while I was gone, at least in part to get some peace and quiet away from her busy family life – perhaps the cats are disappointed that I am not her. Both Oliver and Anastasia did not even bother to appear for several hours after I came back, and even then it was only to yowl about supper.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. Family time, naps on the couch, socially distanced visits with old friends followed by another gauntlet of airports and planes in the time of Covid. With the number of flights greatly curtailed, nothing was crowded and I didn’t feel especially endangered as mask usage was consistent throughout the process. But one never knows, does one. The only minor issue was finding, on arriving back in Atlanta, that I had somehow left the rear driver’s side window down all week and it had rained so I had to swamp out the back seat before exiting the economy parking lot. There was nothing of value in the car so it wasn’t a major issue but I have no idea how I managed to do that. I suppose it was better than the time Steve and I went off for a three day weekend leaving the oven on…

I decided not to make a beeline home. I was tired so I spent the night in Atlanta in yet another one of those ubiquitous Hampton Inns. (I now have something north of 600,000 Hilton Points and, of course, nowhere to go to spend them). The next day, rather than making the usual beeline down I-20, I decided to take a more leisurely and scenic route up through Chattanooga. Now I have driven through Chattanooga about 100 times over the last couple of decades but I’ve never stopped. As it was a sunny day, I decided to take the drive up Lookout Mountain for the view. Most things were closed or full of unmasked tourists so I did not see Rock City or visit Ruby Falls, but I did have a nice masked and socially distanced walk among the lovely houses on top of the mountain looking out over the Tennessee river valley spread below. After that, I came on home.

Back to the accidental plague diaries: In the nine days I’ve been away, the number of Covid-19 cases in the county is up about 2,000, the number in the state is up about 13,000, and the number nationally is up about a half million. It took several months to generate those numbers at the start of the pandemic, now it’s taking just over a week and, with continued uncontrolled spread, it will start speeding up more and more as that’s what exponential numbers do. Now that it has become so firmly entrenched in more conservative states, the administration appears to finally be waking up to the very real public health concerns but their track record to date at putting politics and ideology before good public health practices doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that we’ll be making headway soon.

What’s most irksome about all of this is how absolutely unnecessary this all is. Even at this late date, the pandemic could be controlled and well on its way to eradication in four to six weeks. It would be painful and politically difficult but could be done. We are the richest society this planet has ever produced. We can do or have anything pretty much as long as we align our political and economic systems to make it so. What would we need to do? First, a real lockdown of at least a month. We haven’t had one other than some jurisdictions in the Northeast and the SF Bay area. It would have to be nationwide, no exceptions, everybody home, no travel other than trade goods, no one on the street or gathering anywhere for any reasons and that would have to be enforced. Second, use of that time to make and distribute accurate point of service testing so that as people coming out of lockdown can be tested and we can gather an understanding of where the virus is being transmitted in real time. Third, contact tracing of carriers with enforced quarantines until the transmission chains are broken. Of course, to do this, the government would have to take on the economic calamities that will resort from more lockdowns and we haven’t been the best at that so far, especially when compared with the rest of the developed world. But that’s why the rest of the world is beginning to open up and we’re in a continued upward trajectory.

I can’t help but wonder if my little jaunt to Seattle, which I felt was absolutely necessary for both my mental health and my family, wasn’t in its own way contributing to the problem. I’m pretty good at my masks and social distancing (although the staff at my father’s senior living facility was miffed when we removed our masks on the patio of his building to drink our coffee, even though we were outdoors and a good ten feet apart). But that’s me, always over thinking and taking on more weltschmerz than I really need to. I have a full week before I go back to work, so I’m spending it pretty much in self imposed quarantine in my condo to make sure I didn’t pick it up on the trip. So here I am, puttering around with a list of little projects to keep me busy this week.

If I do go out, you all know the litany.

Wear your mask,

Take your sanitizer with you,

Keep your hands washed…

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