Category Archives: General

April 1st, 2020 and Coronavirus Diaries 10

April Fool’s Day.

Not be be a downer, but it sure seems like there’s not much to have fun to be had today and I truly hope no one out there decides it would be really funny to do some kind of Coronavirus-type joke.

“Coughing” on your friends, etc.

The other day the Trump administration finally seemed to admit the reality of this situation, that if everything goes well, we can expect some 100,000 to 250,000 dead.

I know there still exist those out there who aren’t taking this very seriously and, truly and honestly, I hope they come out of this unscathed.

But given the ease in which this virus seems to be transmitted, the odds sure seem like they might catch up with you. And sadly, it doesn’t end with people catching the illness, it continues as they spread it to others.

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Last weekend, it was our intention to take a mini-vacation, ie something that would last maybe two or so weekdays and the weekend. We had marked the date and were planning to do some Florida driving, including going to the parks (Disney World, Universal).

Obviously that didn’t happen.

We also were considering taking a longer vacation later on, perhaps a week or so, and fly up to New York and visit that area. Maybe even make our way to Boston.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen now.

Today, I feel like we’re going to be under a lockdown through this month, April, and likely the entirety of May. The disease will still be out there, but by that point the raging fire will have spread through and, hopefully, care will be easier to provide.

Even so, we will continue to be isolating, I feel, well past May and into the summer months.

It feels like the world itself has hit the pause button and we’re just keeping our heads down and hoping for the best while fearing the worst.

Coronavirus Diaries 9

Some random thoughts (!) here:

Nintendo’s timing in releasing Animal Crossings may well have been incredibly fortuitous for the company. I don’t mean to step on the misery and misfortune brought on by this pandemic, but when locked up and isolated, one hunts for anything to pass the time and Animal Crossing’s release was a godsend to many.

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With the good comes the very bad. We’re starting to see many celebrities who have contacted the Coronavirus, including big names such as Tom Hanks and his wife Rita WIlson, Idris Elba, Prince Charles, etc.

More depressing is that like many other “regular” victims, some celebrities have fallen to the Coronavirus.

Christie D’Zurilla at latimes.com offers a list of some of the celebrities who have fallen from this virus:

Celebrities who died from Coronavirus

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Now for a bit of better news, also found on latimes.com and in an article written by Sonia Kelly:

Powell’s Books rehires more than 100 employees as online orders soar

The article’s title says it all and, I wonder, if maybe this event will truly transition people from “going out” to buy certain items and, instead, they realize its not worth going out to pick up some things.

Granted, I’m not talking about all things here.

But in recent times I’ve noted that I no longer have much of a desire to visit bookstores. While Amazon.com makes me nervous about their overall size and monopolistic bend, the reality is that whatever book/comic book/graphic I may want, there it is.

And I don’t have to order physical copies of them. I can order the digital version and be reading the book/comic book/graphic novel in a matter of seconds.

Same with music.

Same with movies (though in this case I tend to use VUDU).

Same with video games (though I don’t seem to have as much time nowadays to play all that much as before).

The reality is that going out even before the Coronavirus for us tended to be so we could a) eat out/buy food and/or groceries or b) see a movie (that’s done for now) or c) buy clothing.

Otherwise, there really wasn’t much of a need to go out at all.

That was obviously for us.

Will it be like that for others now?

Coronavirus Diaries 8

Funny how time becomes fluid when you’re locked up inside.

Two weeks ago -roughly- and in the first couple of weeks of March the U.S. seemed to finally wake up to the fact that the Coronavirus was something to take seriously.

We had sporting events cancelled, large parks (Disney, Universal, etc.) shutting down. Airlines essentially stopping foreign flights, cruise ships grounded. Restaurants no longer seating people inside but doing take-out or delivery.

Clubs, bars?

If you’re smart, you’ll forget about that.

Sadly, not everyone is taking this as seriously as they should. There are those I read about in the news who just have to have a party or have to have their services with crowds. Jerry Falwell Jr., staunch Trump supporter and right-wing Born Again fanatic, stated Liberty University, his university, would press forward with regular classes.

I suppose he bought into Trump’s original “it’s a hoax” line and, frankly, I fear for the students.

Now, at the end of March, it feels like a morbid quiet has settled over us here. While we read the terrible stories of Hospital ICU’s overwhelmed with patients, especially in the denser cities like New York and Chicago, we go to stores to buy our basic needs -food being the biggie- but try to keep our distance from others.

Where once you’d see one or two people with gloves and/or masks, the majority of people now seem to be using these items and its rarer now to see people walking around stores (those that are still open) without some form of protective gear.

Back in March 13 (Friday the 13th, I might add!) I wrote the first of the Coronavirus Diaries (click here to read it!) and I wondered:

How long will this go on? Not to put too fine a point on it, but the economic impact will be both very negative and incredibly huge.

Welp, two weeks later the economic impact is becoming clearer. Unemployment is literally through the roof and this is hardly surprising. When restaurants and Hotels, airlines and the Cruise Industry, and any shop not deemed “essential” is forced to close up, this leaves those who run these businesses in a tough spot. If your business is idle/closed, you aren’t making money. You cannot keep paying your employees so they have to be laid off. They sign up for unemployment but the rent is due. Bills have to be paid.

It’s a scary, scary time, to say the least.

And the worst thing about it all?

I don’t see the end.

China, where the Coronavirus first appeared, seemed to get a handle on the virus and, a few days back, opened their cinemas.

Ominously, the very next day they closed them again.

Another thing I said in that original Friday the 13th post was:

The biggest hope is that scientists figure out in relatively short order a vaccine and/or effective treatment against this pandemic before it becomes far, far worse than it already is.

It seems to me the entire planet, all nations of the world, are effectively hitting the pause button. We’re all hoping we can weather this storm as best as possible, keeping the worst numbers, those who get very sick and/or fall to this illness, low.

We’re all hoping for that effective treatment, for the vaccine that rids us of this pandemic.

Pretty obvious stuff, I concluded in that Friday the 13th post.

It feels like we’re closer to the beginning than the end at this point, and one wonders how long it will take to get to normalcy.

If ever.

Coronavirus Diaries 7

You have absolutely no reason to believe me but I had a conversation with my wife a week or so ago and at the onset of the self-isolation craziness and the enormity of the Coronavirus was becoming all too real, wherein I wondered whether I, and a few people I know around me, had contracted the Coronavirus earlier in the year and didn’t know it.

Bear with me here because I know what I’m about to say may sound crazy but…

Early in the year, in early January, I recall my father got very sick (he’s since recovered) and he was sick for an awful long time, perhaps two or so weeks, and had a hard time getting rid of whatever he had. A friend of ours, another elderly man, also got sick around that time and for him, too, the illness lasted an unusually long time. He coughed a lot and had pain in his lungs but, over time, he finally got over it. Yet another person who works for us also got sick and it also took a long while to get over. One of my sisters also got sick. She’s a pharmacist and noted this cycle of getting sick was going out of hand. We started cleaning up around us and disinfecting all because it seemed like we couldn’t quite kick the illness.

At around that time, perhaps later January, I too got sick but the illness didn’t last terribly long for me and it wasn’t particularly hard hitting. What I do recall was that I felt it was strange to catch what I thought was the flu (the symptoms seemed to line up with that) since I had my flu shots for the year done in October or so. My wife, as far as I can remember, didn’t get sick.

I also recall experiencing -and I verified it with some of my January and early February posts- being awfully tired at the end of work weeks, to the point where I would literally collapse in bed from exhaustion and greatly welcome the weekends.

See, when I’m not working on my latest novel, my family works in the tourism industry and we have contact with people from all over the world.

Including China.

Could what the people immediately around me and I have been experiencing at that time, in January and into very early February, been the Coronavirus and we simply didn’t know?

Before you think I’m certifiably nuts, check out this article by Lindsay Holmes and presented on Huffingtonpost.com:

Is It Possible That You Had The Coronavirus Earlier This Year?

Seems like I’m not the only one who thinks maybe he was exposed to the virus early on.

Thing is, and as the article notes: There is no way to test someone to see if they had the Coronavirus before, just if they have it now.

Which means that even if I was exposed to it or had it, I, and everyone in my circle of family and all my friends, even those who were sick earlier in the year, need to continue being incredibly cautious and self-isolating.

Still, it is a scary thought that maybe, just maybe I might have been already exposed to this virus before the news of the pandemic truly broke.

Terrifying, really.

Coronavirus Diaries 6

With plenty of you out there home and not going out, if you’re interested in watching the progression of the Coronavirus, especially in your country and/or state, check out this interesting link to 91-Divoc:

An interactive visualization of the exponential spread of COVID-19

The information is rather… depressing, I guess, showing that the U.S. is essentially following the same line of infections by time passage that many other nations have shown. While others have managed to get control, however, we’re still on the upswing of things.

Speaking of which, its even more depressing to see comments by right wing pundits -over-eager, it seems, to please Trump- starting to talk about “opening up” businesses, ie ending the self-isolation many have been doing lately, and simply stop doing it and allow people to congregate.

Seems like a great idea… if one wants everyone to catch this virus and for certain overwhelm all hospitals and, as a result, have many more people who will not be able to get access to ventilators die.

Yep, classic pro-business, anti-people thinking.

Here’s a lovely story by Daniel Burke regarding a lovely pastor who defied the governor’s mandate to not have groups of more than 50 people -itself a rather large figure!- and claims to have held mass for 1000 people!

Then there’s Britt Hume of Fox News (who else?) saying it’s “entirely reasonable” for the elderly to risk getting the Coronavirus to aid the economy (the link is to an article by Matthew Rozsa and preented on Salon.com):

Fox News’ Brit Hume: “Entirely reasonable” for elderly to risk getting Coronavirus to aid economy

Sigh.

These are the same people who were outraged at Obamacare because it supposedly (it didn’t) create “death panels” for medical services. Now, some of them are actively urging people to risk their health and/or life for the sake of keeping this economy going.

Speaking of which, here’s another scary article presented on laeater.com and written by Matthew Kang:

Cheesecake Factory Tells Landlords Across Country It Won’t Be Able to Pay Rent on April 1

Most people in the U.S. likely are familiar with the Cheesecake Factory brand. They are a restaurant chain that serves a plethora of foods but their specialty is (c’mon… guess!) cheesecakes. They make many different types and most are quite delicious filled calorie bombs.

Just writing the above makes me want to go to a Cheesecake Factory and pick up a slice of something…

Anyway, this very large, successful chain of restaurants, like I’m sure many, many other restaurants out there, faces harsh economic issues and, as the article makes clear from the headline, they will be unable to pay any of their rents come April 1st, a few days from now.

I suppose this is what gets the right wing riled up and wanting to “force” people outside and not in isolation, the idea that many businesses are on the fringe of collapsing because they no longer have the large client base -and the money provided by the same- to count on to survive.

As I said in one of my first posts regarding the Coronavirus, this is the second very big issue one has to deal with, the first being one’s health: The Economy.

It’s going to be hurting.

Bad.

And for some time. I suspect the “end the isolation” movement is going to fade away as we hear about more and more hospitals that are overwhelmed with patients and more and more deaths reported.

On the somewhat plus side, it was reported that the Coronavirus does not seem to mutate rapidly (you can read an article about that here, fromn washingtonpost.com and written by Joel Achenbach). This is good news because it means that when an effective vaccine against the Corornavirus is developed (early trials are already in effect), people can get the vaccine and, likely, the virus will be done.

However, realistically an effective vaccine will not be available at least until next year some time (it takes that long to go through effective trials), so we’ve still got a while to deal with this.

The end of it can’t come soon enough.

Coronavirus Diaries 5

Self-Isolation.

Seems like that’s the key here. Stay at home. Venture out only if you absolutely have to, and in those cases maintain distance from others, and afterwards wash your hands well.

Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York opined on the news that he expected April and May to be even worse with the number of sick being seen/hospitalized. Senator Rand Paul, a supposed Libertarian (but pretty much another hard right Republican) revealed he tested positive for COVID19 and was -there’s that word again- self-isolating so as not to spread the disease to others.

In Miami Beach, all Hotels have been ordered to close starting tomorrow. This means no new reservations/clients but, of course, there are some exceptions for people who have monthly rents and effectively “live” in the rooms they have. Miami Beach is that way. There are people who come down during winter (the “snow birds”) and spend the winter in the warmer weather and/or there are others who come to visit family and take up rooms for extended periods of time. Finally, there are those who pretty much live in certain apartments in what are labeled “Hotels”.

For one month starting tomorrow and continuing through April 22, though, the Hotels are to close their doors to any daily tourists.

It makes sense: Even if the Hotels themselves may not be overrun in their lobbies with people, if the Hotels keep operating and each one has, say, at least 10 rooms occupied (a paltry number for this period of time!), those numbers per Hotel add up and the beaches could well be crowded with people and therein comes the problem.

Already “non-essential” stores have been ordered to be closed for an extended period of time while restaurants continue to operate but will only make “to go” food or deliveries and will not allow people to sit within.

I said it before and it bears repeating: The effort is appropriate certainly even as the effect on the economy is going to be devastating.

I sincerely hope Bill DeBlasio’s prediction winds up being wrong. I really, really hope that some kind of effective medication can be found to combat the virus. It appears a vaccine, when it comes, will not arrive for at least a year, so that’s out for now.

There’s simply no bright way to paint this.

We’re at the beginning of this situation and the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is, at least today, nowhere in sight.

Coronavirus Diaries 4

Today I noted three just released films, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma have been released digitally for “rent”, ie for $19.99 you get to rent and see one of the films for a certain amount of time (I’m not sure how long, I tend to just go ahead and buy the films I want and haven’t really investigated the whole digital “renting” thing all that much).

I read that Onward, which was just released to theaters on March 6th, may show up in a few days as a digital rental as well.

Further, there will no longer be any box office stats offered for movies in current release. Why? Well, because most -if not all- movie chains are no longer open for business.

Given the Coronavirus, confining a large(ish) group of people in a relatively small space is pretty much a recipe for spreading a disease.

Thing is, there are plenty of movies the studios have ready to be released. These films represent obvious cash investments and the investors are eager to get their money back or (hopefully) make money on said releases.

So it seems for the time being we’re likely to see more and more of these digital rentals appear.

The price isn’t that bad, I suppose, to rent a film. If you and your family, say between 2 and 5 people or so, sit down and watch the film, it comes out cheaper than the group of you going to a theater to see it.

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I headed out to the grocery stores yesterday and early this morning and while I don’t think things are quite as bad as they were a week or so ago (has it only been that long?!), there are still plenty of places where the shelves are bare of certain items.

It’s amusing to see what gets left behind and some have posted images of absolutely bare store shelves yet vegan foods are plentiful and untouched!

I get a laugh out of that but the matter of hoarding remains a stark reality.

At least one thing is for certain: We’re living through a truly unique set of circumstances, one that hasn’t happened in over a hundred years and likely won’t happen again after all this blows through.

I remain reasonably optimistic that more effective treatments and/or vaccines will be developed for this disease and there will come a time when we will finally return to normalcy, but until then, I’ll repeat what I said before:

Take care of yourselves out there.

Coronavirus Diaries 3

So three days ago I wrote about the Coronavirus and the things happening in/around the disease and, as somewhat expected, things have changed quite a bit in these three days.

To begin, the streets are looking far emptier than before.

Many businesses are being ordered to either shut down or severely restrict access to the number of people within. Basically, any business, park, etc. should have congregations of no more than 10 people at any time in close proximity.

Movie theaters are essentially shut down. Gyms are shut down. Sporting events are cancelled. I read today that Ikea, at an abundance of caution, is shutting its stores. There are other stores still in business but they are curtailing hours and, I imagine, will try to limit the amount of people within at any given time.

The run on toilet paper and water is still going on, absurdly, but it is what it is. In the local grocery store, there are runs going on for certain food items, especially canned foods, but it seems like there’s more stock available of late. Could be that those who panicked early have their cupboards filled and thus the later comers are now getting what they need, and so on.

Gas prices are going through the floor, in part because people simply aren’t traveling as much, either by plane or automobile, and/or have no desire to do so. There is the very real possibility, I read, that the price of a barrel of oil might go down below $20, an almost unheard of price.

Sadly, there are also stories of young Spring Breakers, either ignorant of or ignoring the orders to keep away from groups because dammit they want their fun, flooding certain beaches.

Don’t do it, folks. You’re young and strong and the odds of this virus impacting you seriously are low but, still, why risk it? Why risk not only getting it, but giving it to others?

Speaking of which, the tourism industry, a huge industry in these parts, is taking very big hits. The fact is that no one from any foreign country is coming here, either because airlines are no longer making flights into the U.S. or their countries are closing up their borders and not allowing flights out.

It sounds crazy as hell but it’s a prudent thing to do until the Coronavirus’ spread is curtailed.

I’ve read reports here and there about drugs that have shown themselves effective against this disease and given the fact that it is the #1 Worldwide story at the moment, I suspect most chemical labs are devoting plenty of their time and resources to finding a cure for the Coronavirus and/or an effective vaccine.

Perhaps -a big if, I grant you- there will be a breakthrough and a cure will be found and we can sooner rather than later get back to our normal lives.

Perhaps.

One should try to be optimistic but also realistic and the darker side of all this is that we’re at the very, very beginning of this rather than anywhere near the end.

A frightening thought, certainly.

Stay safe out there, folks.

Coronavirus Diaries 2

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in this for the very long haul.

How long?

It seems more and more like we’re going to be living under some kind of semi-lockdown (thought given the fluidity of the news, this may change in the next hours, much less day!) where people are going to be strongly discouraged from gathering in any large or semi-large group.

Schools are, at least in these parts, effectively shutting down any actual classrooms. Relatives, and my daughter, are out of class at least three weeks, perhaps for the rest of the semester.

I’m seeing reports of movie theaters, obviously another place where large groups of people may congregate in a relatively small space, shutting down, at least in New York.

Given the ease of transmission of this disease, it seems foolish to go to any event like this and risk being close to a large group of people.

Then there are reports, here and there, of wildlife that has gotten used to tourists or visitors coming by and given them food now going hungry. In Japan, Nara deer are leaving their park looking for food as tourists who normally feed them aren’t coming around. In Thailand, bands of hungry monkeys are roaming the streets looking for food. Once again, the drop in tourism and the tourists who usually feed them is the cause.

Frankly, its both scary and incredibly sad.

On the other hand, there come reports that because of the inactivity of people and the low levels of tourism, the waters in Venice are becoming remarkably clear. Further, there are reports that smog/pollution in some of the affected areas, such as China and Italy, are greatly diminished.

But while its wonderful to think about how much cleaner the air and water are even after such a short period of time of decreased activity, both industrial and tourist, the economic impacts are on the horizon and they’re terrifying.

How many people work in tourist fields? How many in the restaurant business? How many work in industries impacted by this virus?

And the big question: How many are going to feel the economic strain of not working while we let this virus run its course?

I don’t want to be an alarmist but it seems to me there are going to be a lot of people impacted financially because of this virus. The idea that we have to effectively quarantine ourselves and/or try not to go out all that much for up to eight or so weeks is a very long time.

How many businesses will not be able to sustain themselves for that long? How many employees will lose their jobs because said businesses simply cannot keep operating as they have?

You think about other industries that employ many, many people?

For example, the movie industry. Thousands of people work in this industry, beyond simply the actors, directors, and screenwriters. There are at times many millions of dollars invested in a single feature film (the bigger ones, obviously)and we are now wondering when/if said films can be released. And when they are, will people shy away from the theaters?

Vacation spots: When will people come back in larger groups?

It feels like we’re at the beginning of this, sadly, rather than anywhere close to the end.

Of course, this could change. Scientists could come up with some effectively treatment for the Coronavirus and, just like that, we could find a way to deal with it and get back to “normal”.

Then again, it might take a while.

We’ll see.

Coronavirus Diaries

As I wrote yesterday, it seemed people finally confronted the fact that the Coronavirus is something we need to worry about.

Today, the news continues to be rather grim. The Coronavirus is a more dangerous, potent virus versus the regular flu and now, two days later, it feels like closing off events where large numbers of people are pressed together closely (ie sport events, theme parks) is a prudent move.

Here’s the big question: How long will this go on?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the economic impact will be both very negative and incredibly huge.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland, along with Universal, announced yesterday they would be shutting down. This not only affects the park’s owners/operators, who will lose millions of dollars each day, but more importantly also the park employees, many of whom make close to minimum wage.

I’m reading about the effects to other “mom and pop” type stores, that suddenly there aren’t many clients going to restaurants or stores in general, preferring to close themselves in at home and away from the possibility of catching and spreading this disease.

They’re not wrong in worrying even as one wonders how some of these smaller businesses and especially their employees will survive what could be an extended period of economic slowdown.

Truly we’re going through a new and very frightening situation, both for fear of catching something that could cause significant health problems, and the resulting effects it has on our bottom line.

The biggest hope is that scientists figure out in relatively short order a vaccine and/or effective treatment against this pandemic before it becomes far, far worse than it already is.

Pretty obvious stuff, I guess.