I’ve been following the outbreak since January 25th when I first heard about it.
Occasionally I travel the Los Angeles area as a freelance makeup artist for a department store cosmetics line. On January 25th, I worked at Nordstrom in Arcadia near the Santa Anita Racetrack. During the Chinese Lunar New Year, this Nordstrom celebrates with dragons, acrobats and traditional Chinese drums. It’s a spectacular site and one I was thrilled to witness this year.
It was then that I first heard of a mysterious virus that had shut down Wuhan, China. One of my customers, a medical student and Chinese National, had decided against traveling home for the Lunar New Year on January 8th. While the Communist Party had downplayed the outbreak, even lying about its existence, the first recorded case of the mysterious virus was on December 8th. She said, somewhat conspiratorially, “That means, the virus has been spreading throughout the country rampantly. Now hospitals are overwhelmed, and trust me, it’s already here.”
She was right, the problem was so much more serious than the Chinese government had said. On January 23rd China locked down all travel in and out of the country and quarantined Wuhan, the largest quarantine in human history.
That night I returned home and started learning everything I could about China, the virus and the possible cause or causes of the outbreak. Knowing it could already be in the U.S. at this point, having had more than a month to arrive, it would only be a matter of days or weeks before cases here emerged.
I obsessively began washing my hands, limiting my time in large gatherings and trying like mad to get my husband to understand the emergency. You see, whenever he gets sick, I get sick. Like most Americans at that time might, he just laughed, until he got irritated and then he finally got mad when, on March 3rd after voting, we went to lunch at a Subway that had no public restroom and he refused to return home to wash his hands before we ate. Home was a mere five minutes away. No, he wanted to eat his sandwich then go to Starbuck’s for his regular afternoon coffee.
“What is washing our hands going to do? Tell me?” He snapped.
I looked at him like he’d lost his mind. I had no words. I repeated his question in hopes he might understand the absurdity of it. Having lost patience myself I then said, “Scientists, infectious disease experts and doctors are telling everyone to wash their hands! Hands are the leading cause of disease transmission! We just came from standing in line for 2 hours and then using a touch screen voting machine that over half of the L.A. population has used!” A little hyperbole was in order. He then touched his sandwich with two fingers as he picked it up. A Subway worker, a woman in her forties, watched this exchange and ran out to our table with a handful of alcohol-based hand wipes.
“Thank you,” I said relieved.
My husband put down his sandwich and picked up the wipes. “There, are you happy now?” He asked.
“I am,” I said. “I’m not trying to control you, I’m trying not to get sick.”
The next day Los Angeles, with one case confirmed in Los Angeles County, declared a State of Emergency. I texted my husband immediately. He didn’t respond to it, but when he returned home, before saying anything else he exclaimed, “I washed my hands as much as I could today and used a paper towel to open every door.”
“Thank you, honey. I love you.”
See, dear reader, I’m not one to say, “I told you so.”
To be fair to my husband, he read this and said that he comes across as a blithering idiot. He’s actually one of the smartest people I know and certainly smarter than I. I am and have often been an alarmist at different times. More on that another day.
I tell this story not to embarrass him, but because his response was like most people’s response has been and still is. A poll taken by NBC and The Wall Street Journal showed that “47 percent say they aren’t too worried or aren’t worried at all.” 60 percent say it’s about to get much worse. Because it is. If you’re paying attention, it is.
In this country, we’re used to enjoying the benefits of continental isolation, no land wars, no epidemics and certainly no pandemics in recent memory. It’s far easier for us to ignore it when we can’t see it. Sure, the Sars virus, a close cousin to Covid-19, could get you very sick and kill you, but it was only transmissible through direct contact with an infected person already exhibiting symptoms. Avoidable, yeah?
“The flu will kill more people faster this year,” my husband had said.
“There’s no evidence to support that,” I said. No one knew the true potential of the virus and China has been lying about its death toll from the beginning. A funeral worker reported that an estimated 60 percent of the bodies they were cremating were untested and had come from private residences. That’s potentially a death toll 10 times higher than what the The Communist Party reported to the World Health Organization.
I suspect the City of Los Angeles had waited to call a State of Emergency until after Super Tuesday so that everyone would vote. Right now, California is galvanized, excited, angry, focused. This was the largest turn out of voters in anyone’s memory. It’s critical we don’t lose that moment. So, I don’t blame them. The greater good is getting this President out of office and morale is everything. What is it that Spock said to Kirk just before he stepped into a radiation-filled chamber to save the universe? “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”
Which is easy to say in a movie. They brought Spock back to life. So, I don’t mean to trivialize the risks of this. Additionally, I have no proof that the case wasn’t confirmed the morning of March 9th, or even the night of March 8th after the polls closed. I just don’t believe in coincidences or perfect timing of things, particularly not in government.
Broadly speaking, California’s response has been more immediate than the federal government’s, but without a unified national response, it’s just band aids on a gaping wound. Republicans are still tweeting that people should go out to restaurants, with their families.
Here’s Devin Nunes, California Republican Congressman last Sunday on Fox. There’s a lot of concerns with the economy here, because people are scared to go out. But I will just say, one of the things you can do, if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily. Let’s not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going.
Alex Jones is selling vitamins that will “prevent you from getting the coronavirus.”
Because of Donald’s travel ban, international airports were packed with thousands of Americans trying to make it home over the weekend.
St. Patrick’s day, a busy bar day in Chicago, saw lines of people waiting to get into bars all across the city.
So while many of us hunker down in 29 states as schools, bars, restaurants and places of worship close, the pandemic whips across our nation unseen and unchecked.
These are heavy times. In my neighborhood right now, grocery store shelves are empty, everyday. The employees are exhausted and to add insult to injury, shoppers unleash on them regularly if they can’t get what they want.
Elsewhere there are lines around the block at gun stores nationwide.
Panic makes hoarders. Hoarding creates shortages. And in the case of guns, it’s life-threatening. America is still a country of cowboys and religious fanatics; neither archetype is known for its measured responses in a crisis. All of this could have been avoided had The Donald not disassembled the CDC, hired his cronies to head it and then lied about the seriousness of the outbreak. Oh, and most critically, if he’d provided tests for every American his precious Stock Market might not be in a free fall. Tests create surety. Markets like surety. People still go out and buy things when they know they’re not sick and those who are are staying home.
Where does it end?
Biden, I think. If Donald doesn’t succeed in stealing the presidency again.