November 6, 2020

My mother c 1954

Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday and it’s the first one she’s no longer here for. I miss her, but I’ve missed her for years. As dementia stole her faculties over a long, slow, painful period, she became less and less present and able to be the touchstone of my life that she had been. I love my father deeply, but, I am definitely my mothers child in so many ways. I inherited from her my somewhat British sensibility, my love of words, my Puckish sense of humor, and enjoyment of a good single malt scotch. She taught me to love literature for its own sake; encouraged me to read widely and deeply and with a sense of inquiry (although she was somewhat taken aback when she found me ensconced in Kurt Vonnegut at age ten); taught me how to choose words carefully and how to put them together into cogent ideas; and how to hold ones head high and move serenely through life no matter the obstacles. The vagaries of life that led her, the child of British emigres, brought up in San Francisco society in an era where women wore hats and gloves downtown and married men of good families and prospects, to venture afield and meet and marry my father never cease to amaze me. Wherever her energy is these days, I hope she’s happy and contentedly smiling down on her successful descendants and their collaterals.

Back to the Accidental Plague Diaries: Covid news has been knocked off the front pages by presidential politics this week but that doesn’t mean it’s over by a long shot. I’ve seen a few of my more conservative friends post some silly memes suggesting that it will now just all go away. I’m afraid that’s not happening. Both Wednesday and Thursday of this week, there were more than 100,000 cases reported in the US. (I won’t be surprised if that proves true for today as well when final numbers are tallied.) The numbers locally are skyrocketing. I can tell by watching my Facebook feed as well as by looking at the various case counters constantly updated on line in real time. I have had five or six friends post that they have been diagnosed this week. Two have been hospitalized. Neither is serious enough to require ICU care at this time but it’s early days. I’ve had four long term patients admitted to the hospital with Covid this week. One has died. For most of this year it’s been running about one a week so that’s a four fold increase, although the sample size is too small to make a statistical inference. As it has been proven time and again, the sequence goes behavior change leads to increases cases some weeks later leads to increased hospitalizations some weeks after that leads to deaths some weeks after that. I am assuming this huge wave that we just seem to be rolling into is coming from the opening up of various social institutions over the last few months, schools being chief amongst them. If the usual patterns prevail, we’re just going into the case spike now. The hospital spike should arrive just in time for the holiday season and we’ll start seeing a significant increase in the death rate for Christmas and New Years. So, unless you want to gift someone with premature death this year, keep up the usual: masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, avoiding of crowd situations.

The presidential election, while not yet complete due to the enormous numbers of absentee and mail in ballots, looks to be pretty much a done deal and there will be a new administration as of January 20th. What is that going to mean for Covid? That’s a little hard to prognosticate but I suspect a few things will happen. There will be some restoration to executive agencies such as the CDC and FDA of principles of science in decision making rather than principles of politics and wishful thinking. Congress retains the power of the purse and while the House is likely to appropriate money for public health measures, the politics of the Senate are far less certain and it remains in dispute which party will even be in control. All eyes will go to Georgia between now and its run off election slated for January 5th. With luck, Stacey Abrams will be allowed to do what she knows how to do. I will repeat my mantra. Black Women should be in charge of everything in this country. They know how to get things done. I also suspect that there will be some new federal initiatives put in place to make it easier for states to cooperate regionally for better pandemic control. I am not hopeful that there will be any sort of magic bullet vaccine. We’ll get one in the next year or so and it will help some but it will be like the Flu Shot. It certainly helps reduce morbidity and mortality but it’s no cure all.

The thing I am most afraid of in terms of thinking through what’s coming over the next few years in regards to Covid is the unknown long term consequences of the disease. As it becomes more and more clear that this is not a respiratory virus, but a vascular virus with damage to multiple organ systems, there may be all sorts of ugly little surprises awaiting those who have recovered. I won’t be in the least surprised if in a decade or so, there are significant cardiac, renal, or neurological late complications that surface in those who were infected. What they will be and what they will mean for health, function, and life expectancy are entirely unknown. But every time I read of a young healthy theater friend who has been diagnosed and is recuperating at home, I can’t help but wonder what happens next. A change in administration may lead to more of an emphasis on people and less on profit but I’m not holding my breath.

The tech gurus capturing zoom filming for The Importance of Being Earnest. That’s me in the top left corner of the main screen

My spate of online endeavors is coming to an end. The Politically Incorrect Cabaret video ‘October Surprise’ is out. I finished filming my bits for the South Carolina production of The Importance of Being Earnest tonight (due out December 9th). A story telling program for UAB’s Arts in Medicine for which I talked about how I have developed my resilience over the years bowed yesterday and is supposed to be available on YouTube soon (I’ll post a link when available). I can take down my green screen and pack away my makeshift studio this weekend until the next project comes my way. There’s always something. Maybe I can pull some theater friends together for cocktails and impromptu Zoom play readings over the next month or two. In the meantime, I have a number of projects around here begging for attention.

Stay safe. Be well.

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