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PANDEMIC DIARY

  • Pandemic diary:notes from a small town

Dear Millennials, Gen X,Z and Alpha,

I apologize for the world we are leaving you. It sucks.

The Novel Coronavirus will create profound changes in society.  It could be a catalyst for political change in our country, but that will be difficult because of the president’s mobster-like grip on his party. The Democratic nominee will get votes against Trump but that may not be enough to win. I’m not even sure a new POTUS could handle what lies ahead. Look at what happened with a capable and intelligent president, Barack Obama, during his first term cleaning up the financial catastrophe that unregulated financial derivatives created after eight years of a Republican president. In the 2010 midterm elections Republicans picked up seven Senate seats, 63 seats in the House of Representatives, won a net gain of six gubernatorial seats and flipped control of twenty state legislative chambers, giving them a substantial advantage in the redistricting that occurred following the last census. Obama wasn’t fixing the financial crisis quickly enough for some American people. Oh. and he is black.

In the mid 1980’s Jack Vitek and I would meet at Flanagan’s Pub on Monday nights and drink a couple of beers. One of our regular topics for discussion was the impact the peace/love movement had on our country. At the time we thought we were really changing society. We were passionate about what we believed in; no more war. You too will need passion and commitment to face the challenges ahead. Your American dream will not be the same as mine was. The burden of student loans and stagnant wages has put home ownership out of reach for many. Just 35% of households headed by someone younger than 35 owned a home in 2017. This epidemic will worsen economic worries for you. And then there is global warming.

The progress made between 2008-2016 toward stemming the steady rise of carbon emissions has been undone in three short years. The US has left the Paris Climate Agreement and federal standards created to regulate our country’s carbon emissions have been rolled back. If this shortsightedness is not addressed soon, your grandchildren’s world will be very different from this one.

You cannot afford to be complacent. Our American democracy is being destroyed before our eyes. Our leaders have abandoned their oath to serve the people. The nation is more divided than it has ever been: rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal, black versus white, Christians versus Muslims, rich versus poor. People who have led productive lives find themselves homeless while there are hundreds of vacant luxury apartments in cities. This pandemic will only widen those divisions. Brevard NC, April 14, 2020,

  • The forest is unaware that mankind is at war with a deadly, highly contagious virus.
    The forest continues its cycle of seasons as it has since the beginning of time.

    It looks the same, ever beautiful.

I am lucky. I live in a forest.

Brevard, NC, May 23, 2020

Brevard, NC, May 16, 2020

Brevard, NC, April 18, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

How long will this continue? Is it the new normal?

DuPont State Forest is closed. Miles of orange now fence keep
people from parking along the road and walking into the park.
A trip to the grocery store. Face covering, check.
Hand sanitizer, check. Alcohol wipes for contact surfaces, check.

We still have our forest, a place to forget the problems of the outside world.

Easter, April 12
Here it all seems so distant. Is this really happening? When I read the news in the morning am I confronted by reality. Although we probably could not have kept the virus out of our country, denial of the potential catastrophe kept officials from acting to mitigate the pandemic earlier. The news depresses me and although I keep telling myself to not read it, my depraved curiosity draws me to it like a car wreck on the side of the road.

This is a tight-knit community. Although we have gathered a few friends outside on the deck once or twice, we miss seeing them as we did, in our homes. I worry that the warmth we feel toward each other will be diminished going forward. Will we look at each other with suspicion, wondering if the person facing us is a vector for the virus?

  • The glorious light in the morning reveals the trails as something new, glinting off of damp
    rocks and leaves.Logs, covered in green velvet, glow as if plugged into an unseen power source
    fueling the production of chlorophyll. It's everywhere and it's abundance restores me
    and makes me feel one with the gentle, nurturing forest.

Monday, April 20
The only remaining relative from my parent's generation is my aunt. Her home is in Pelham, NY, about two miles away from the New Rochelle synagogue attended by one of the first reported US coronavirus cases. She lives alone in an early 20th century home in need of maintenance. I went to visit her the first weekend in February. It was her 93rd birthday. She has not been out of the house or seen anybody since mid-March, although her neighbor has been by a few times to wave at her through the kitchen door. A friend does some grocery shopping for her. We have been sending packages of soup, boxed milk and granola bars. Early on we sent her bath tissue. She is not tech savvy and has no online access which further isolates her. Before the pandemic She still drove and was able to do her own grocery shopping. I don't know if that will be possible after the quarantine is lifted. Although the virus seems far away from our corner of North Carolina, it is very close when viewed through the lens of my aunt.

Aunt Jacquelyn
Pelham, NY, January 31, 2020

The Calm Before the Storm
Grand Central, January 30, 2020

News about the virus developing in China was just breaking that first weekend of February. Social distancing wasn't even in a New Yorker's vocabulary at the time.  Life went on as usual. I saw a pair of women wearing face masks near Bryant Park, but they were Asian. For some Asians face masks are a fashion statement, so I thought nothing of it until My flight home. Not many situations unnerve me but the TSA line at Newark International Airport was high on my anxiety threshold. The people in line, dressed in  sombre winter grays and browns, shuffled forward slowly as each person passed through the metal detector. Some wore face masks and I wondered, was that to protect them from me or me from them? The low ceiling and fluorescent lighting created a jaundiced look to the whole scene. Hell, I thought.

New York, January 30, 2020

volume_up I feel a sense of calm when I return to our forest. It's good to come home.

DATECASESDEATHS
April 3, 2020245,4426,098
April 4, 2020277,6077,406
April 5, 2020311,6378,454
April 6, 2020336,8519,620
April 7, 2020367,65910,943
April 9, 2020435,16014,797
April 10, 2020468,89516,697
April 11, 2020503,17718,761
April 12, 2020533,11520,580
Offline
April 16, 2020644,34828,554
April 17, 2020678,21034,641
April 18, 2020710,27237,175
April 19, 2020738,92339,015
April 20, 2020764,26540,565
April 21, 2020792,93842,518
April 22, 2020819,17545,343
April 23, 2020876,17449,651
April 24, 2020886,70950,243
April 25, 2020925,75852,217
April 26, 2020960,89654,265
April 27, 2020987,32255,415
April 28, 20201,010,50756,803
April 29, 20201,035,76559,266
April 30, 20201,064,57261,669
May 1, 20201,095,30463,871
May 2, 20201,131,85665,782
May 3, 20201,160,99767,448
May 4, 20201,188,82668,606
May 5, 20201,213,01069,925
May 6, 20201,238,05272,264
May 7, 20201,263,24374,809
May 8, 20201,292,90276,942
May 9, 20201,322,17178,716
May 10, 20201,347,31880,040
May 11, 20201,367,96380,787
May 12, 20201,385,89381,796
May 13, 20201,408,74583,449
May 14, 20201,430,34885,197
May 15, 20201,458,24186,492
May 16, 20201,484,46388,508
May 17, 20201,507,79890,113
May 18, 20201,528,17990,998
May 19, 20201,552,14092,603

Data from worldOmeter

Brevard, April 18, 2020

It didn't take long for people around here to accept the new way. Most, but not all, people wear a face covering in public. There is no clear demographic defining those that do and those that don't. But those that don't are different from me. I wonder if they are just reckless or so-called "patriots" who view any government dictum as an infringement on their civil liberties. In the same way they see any discussion of the Second Amendment — A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed1 — our rightful civil liberties can interpreted to suit one's needs. Owning an AR-15 has nothing to do with a well regulated militia, i.e. the National Guard. Regardless of the reason behind their defiance there are now two camps of people: those who mask and those who don't, giving us  another reason to be suspicious of people who are not like us.

Brevard, May 16, 2020

Lines everywhere. Lines on the pavement to keep us six feet apart. Lines at restaurant takeout. Lines in the list of cases and deaths.

I have been keeping track of the numbers. I record and tally them every morning. It gives me a clear, data driven picture of where the US stands with the pandemic. I cannot grasp what it is like to be a family member or health care worker having to deal with a sick person or their death. I try hard to see the numbers as people's lives. I feel guilty because I cannot.

Friday, May 22
An hour from now North Carolina enters Phase 2 of the state lockdown. That means I will be able to get a haircut or go to a restaurant for a limited seating meal. While I welcome the lifting of restrictions I wonder how this will all end up. The daily new cases of COVID-19 are staying the same, between 20-25,000 and daily deaths are down slightly. Our county now has 11 cases, up from 7. We know so little about this disease. All scientists can do is err on the side of caution.

 

CASE INCREASESDEATHS INCREASE
30,439996
32,1651,308
34,0301,048
25,2141,166
30,8081,323
67,5013,854
33,7351,900
34,2822,064
29,9381,819
  
31,7981,947
33,7626,087
32,0622,534
28,6511,840
25,3421,550
28,6731,953
26,2372,852
56,9994,308
10,534592
39,0491,974
35,1382,048
26,4261,160
23,1751,388
25,2582,463
28,8072,403
36,5522,202
29,1411,911
27,8291,666
24,1841,158
24,1851,319
25,0422,339
25,1912,545
29,6592,133
29,2691,774
25,1471,324
20,645747
17,9301,009
22,8531,653
21,6031,748
27,8931,295
26,2222,016
23,3351,605
20,381885
23,9611,605

May 25, 2020.
Today is Memorial Day in the US, a day when we honor those who died defending our democracy.
Today the US death toll from COVID-19 will surpass 100,000.
We should also honor those who have died from this virus and those who have served the sick.
  • And the forest continues its march through the seasons.
    Summer is just around the corner.

    This summer will be unlike any other I have experienced.