PRIVILEGED IN THE PARK – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It was really a lovely day. Cool, bright, not humid. The car, after these months of sitting under the trees which, these days, are covered with the remnants left by Marilyn’s birds. Our Renegade was not looking her best. And, there were a lot of medications waiting at the pharmacy.

We had gotten up early because Marilyn thought we had a doctor’s appointment, but it turned out to be next Tuesday. Since I was up already, I bravely ventured out. Mailed a long-delayed letter. Picked up medications, got the car washed, bought Marilyn a bouquet of white roses, then went down to River Bend.

I found a great spot for photographs, an old Andy Griffith, Mayberry scene. And there was a mom and her two little kids playing in the river. I was also wearing both mask and gloves with my USMC T-shirt and an NCIS vest (bought directly from the CBS online shop).  I guess I didn’t look dangerous enough to call the cops.

I asked permission to take pictures of her and the kids. Eventually, I asked why none of them were wearing masks. She told me, “Thanks for asking permission for pictures. Yes, you can take them. As for no masks and gloves, I think the media is blowing this out of proportion. The President knows what he is talking about.”


Long pause from me. “Hey, ” she said, “You look familiar. Didn’t you used to be on TV? Oh, don’t tell me. I know! I grew up watching you on TV. You have a nice day, now.”

I also guess no one told her about the literally thousands of snapping turtle who live in that area of the river. That’s why you aren’t allowed to swim in it or even dangle your feet off the dock. They like to munch on toes and fingers and have the jaws to for it.


Her 5-year-old is in preschool. The 4-year-old is in nursery school. And mom watches Fox News. You can’t save them all.

OH BRAVE WEIRD WORLD – BLOGGING AND THE PANDEMIC – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Blogging Insights and the Pandemic

From the author, questions about the pandemic and blogging and where you stand as a blogger in relation to it:


Posts about the pandemic feature prominently on many (if not most) blogs these days. Blogs by definition are chronicles of the lives and views of their authors and the world around them. It is no wonder that the pandemic features prominently in many (if not most) posts today. 

Articles and posts about corona virus/COVID-19 could be seen dotted about the internet since the beginning of this year. These were mostly articles about health, epidemiology and the environment.

In the beginning , Covid-19 had not spread across continents. It reached the status of pandemic a couple of months ago and turned our lives topsy turvy. The lockdowns and social distancing that followed are things that we have never experienced before. The pandemic has changed the world as we know it . It has deeply touched the lives of all, even those who have not been infected.

In today’s Blogging Insights we discuss how it has affected our blogs and blogging.


QUESTIONS: 

1. How frequently do you post about the pandemic? Please share links to a couple of your “pandemic posts” that you particularly like. If you have not written anything about Coronavirus/COVID-19 (seems unbelievablewhat are your reasons for this? 

https://teepee12.com/2020/05/27/history-and-plagues-end-marilyn-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2020/03/27/how-often-do-plagues-hit-our-world-marilyn-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2020/05/12/a-sneaky-little-virus-marilyn-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2020/05/21/my-day-at-the-hospital-marilyn-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2020/04/07/on-the-upcoming-50th-anniversary-of-earth-day-marilyn-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2020/03/31/it-is-not-over-marilyn-armstrong/

There are many others written by different people, either those who share this blog with me, reblogs, or other contributors. There is often a paragraph about the current “state of affairs” hooked onto another post which isn’t focused on COVID — for context.

2. What kind of “posts about the pandemic” do you like to read? (If you don’t, then please tell us why?“Like to read” is probably a misphrase in this post. Although if someone thinks they are making a breakthrough, I’ll read that until I get to the end and realize it is all early experimentation and probably won’t go anywhere.

I read enough news to keep current. Other blogs which seem to contain opinions from other countries. Sometimes, a headline and a paragraph are more than enough. We watch some of the evening news, then abandon it. Colbert, when he’s on. John Oliver, when HE is on.

Somewhere inside, I’m enraged. Furious. Angrier than I have ever been. I can’t fix it. I can’t even try, not if I want to live.

3. How have you and your blog adapted to “the new normal”?

More pictures, more memories, rewriting older posts that feel appropriate, and simply need updating. I try hard to not rant but often fail. When I need to write about the here and now, I reblog when I can since digging into my soul to write it is not the fun stuff I signed up for when I began this blog.

4. Have you seen any change in your blog stats during the pandemic? Also, are you posting more or less than you used to?   

My stats are higher than they were, but that could as easily be an unrelated fluctuation. I think I have been writing better, at least some times. I’m trying to include more photography and “upbeat” material because everyone is bummed and they need things that don’t remind them of the mess we are in.

Many are outright depressed. I know I can’t read dark stuff at all. Other than enough news to make me feel connected, I can’t deal with it. It makes me sad, depressed and feeling helpless, and hopeless. Not the best set of feelings in such a stressful period.

Known spread of the virus. Obviously changed since this was published.

All of this has taken a terrible toll on my ability to laugh, a real pity because that’s what I most need.

I’ve counted on laughter to make life bearable when times are hardest. These days,  it’s hard to get so much as a chuckle. Maybe someday, should we all survive, we’ll be able to look back and find the “funny,” but it’s pretty hard to find it right now. Not surprisingly, pictures of birds and flowers are doing better than much of the writing.

 

HISTORY AND PLAGUE’S END – Marilyn Armstrong

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get tired of worrying about being sick and say “Life or death, I don’t want the rest of my life to be spent in hiding.”  It helps to not be part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of citizens, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway and no one is entirely sure why.

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. You can’t get a “shot” that will prevent you from getting it and while heavy doses of antibiotics help, mostly, it kills you. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1347 and decimated its population, it has made its way around the world, killing millions, including in the United States where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how the Plague ended is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected would typically remain in their homes and only leave when it was necessary, while those who could afford to do so would leave the more densely populated areas and live in greater isolation.  Also, the plague stopped being dependent on fleas and became Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes could spread the disease from person to person, no rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague epidemic, there were many other bouts with it through the centuries, including a pandemic that started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctors note in their report that the patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be an actual possibility.

Vaccines have not been found useful for Plague. Vaccines work best for diseases that are stable and don’t mutate such as smallpox and polio. The Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they can find an effective vaccine is a big question.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

This article from The Washington Post by Mary E. Fissell, Professor of History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains what we are seeing today with histories of previous pandemics and epidemics. It is shockingly similar to past events. Here are quotes. If you can read the entire article, please do.


“Just as today, a global economy was a key driver of the English epidemic. Bubonic plague, which is bacterial rather than viral, is typically spread to humans by fleas who have fed on the blood of infected rats. Earlier plague epidemics — such as the Black Death of the 1300s, which may have wiped out half the population of Europe — came to Europe via merchants traveling back from Asia along the Silk Road. In the same way, contemporary observers reported that the 1665 epidemic may have been brought to London by Dutch trading ships; the epidemic had already spread there a year earlier. In the months before it reached England, authorities had tried, obviously without success, to quarantine ships from the Netherlands and other plague-affected places.

Another conspicuous resemblance is socioeconomic. In the United States, we’ve seen that covid-19 is disproportionately affecting poor people, as well as blacks and Latinos. Overall, these groups tend to have poorer health and less access to health care, and they are more likely to live in crowded, unhealthy conditions and to work in jobs that require them to come into close contact with others who may be infected.

In New York for example, the death rate among blacks is twice as high as it is for whites; for Latinos, it is 60 percent higher. In Louisiana, blacks make up a third of the population but so far account for almost 60 percent of covid-19 deaths. About 5,000 meatpacking workers, and perhaps many more, have tested positive for the virus to date, largely because of a lack of safety measures and the industry’s cramped and grueling working conditions.

The situation 350 years ago in London was similar. During the epidemic, the London city government counted the dead, tracking how many people died of plague in each parish. This work was performed by “searchers of the dead,” who were often older poor women. These parish lists, known as Bills of Mortality, were printed up and sold weekly, a kind of early version of Zip-code-by-Zip-code health reports from state health departments.

Examining these lists, both 17th-century readers and historians have found that, no surprise, the poorest neighborhoods tended to have the highest death rates from the plague. The reasons for this are probably similar to the causes of today’s disparities — the poor were already less healthy, lived in dense, unsanitary neighborhoods and did the city’s dirty work.

They could not leave. Even without our current scientific knowledge, people knew the disease moved from place to place. And once it reached English shores, people practiced social distancing as best they could, by getting away from the worst disease hot spots. Just as we are seeing today, those who could afford it left the cities for the countryside, where there was less disease; the classic medical advice of the time was “leave quickly, go far away and come back slowly.”

…  Today, as we face another disease, one that we still don’t understand very well, 17th-century England reminds us that despite the enormous leaps we’ve made in science and technology, humans themselves remain in many ways the same: imperfect, not always rational and still deeply vulnerable to novel nasty microbes.”


Thus we can see that human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay the full price.

People believe rumors. Others spread them. In the end, life goes on, but not as it was before the plague came. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before the plague. It’s a social return only and it doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care how you feel about them.

Economies do not recover in a month or two. Not ever in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Is this one over? Probably not. Wait. watch and we shall see.

STUPIDITY REARS ITS UGLY HEAD – RICH PASCHALL

The View From Here, by Rich Paschall

Living Fearlessly

You have probably seen plenty of examples of this. There are those who need a haircut no matter what the risk. Some must have a party, no matter what stay at home orders have been issued. Others absolutely have to go to the beach, even if it is crowded. Those dying to get out and about don’t believe that they will be dying because they went out and about.

This week I saw two grade-school kids riding their bike down the street. They had no masks on. I did not recognize them as living nearby so perhaps they were just riding around the neighborhood. A day later I saw two different kids riding up and down the alley behind the house. They had masks but were not wearing them across their faces, just hooked around their ears and across their necks. They were probably told not to leave the house without them, so they didn’t. The two boys in the alley stopped to talk to an older girl. She did not have a mask on either. Recently I have been to two different convenience stores. As I went into one, a man was coming out sipping his coffee. He did not have a mask. A postal worker was buying a batch of Lotto tickets. She had no mask. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the checker that every single customer in that store did not have a mask. She and I were the only ones. A guy without a mask behind me in line got a piece of my mind. He did not say anything but he did back up a few steps. At another convenience store two young guys behind the counter were not wearing masks or gloves. I walked out.

I have seen the same sort of thing at the supermarket and the pharmacy. I tried to go to them in the first hour on a Tuesday or Thursday when it is Seniors only. Despite the signs on the doors, people enter who are not wearing masks. Some are not even Seniors.

You may have seen on the news, if you have the stomach to watch the news these days, that there are plenty of people out protesting for their right to congregate any way they wish. They even intimidate lawmakers by showing up at the state capital with automatic weapons. Many do not seem to think that any of their fellow protestors might have the coronavirus.

On our local Chicago news, we saw that business in neighboring Wisconsin had reopened. Despite bars and restaurants being encouraged to maintain social distancing, scenes from a crowded bar were broadcast. One of the people interviewed was a nurse from down here in hard-hit Cook County, Illinois. She has seen plenty of COVID-19 patients. Now she’s sorry she was interviewed at a bar.

Instant Karma

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead – John Lennon.

Perhaps you heard of the Virginia pastor who vowed to keep his church open unless he was in jail or in the hospital. He’s in the cemetery. He preached to a crowded church on March 22 and died on Easter of the virus. Parishioners and preachers have died of the virus because they thought they would be safe in a crowded church. An elderly priest died in Texas recently, but they seemed to dismiss this because he was old anyway. Some of his parishioners tested positive.

A Texas mom of two boys who declared the virus a “media hoax” died from it. So did an evangelical pastor who went to Mardi Gras. There are plenty of such cases. Some who contracted it have recovered after attending Mardi Gras, or a crowded party. Some didn’t.

Survivors of near-death experiences think we are moving too quickly to reopen businesses. “People don’t really understand how serious this is until they know somebody who’s going through it,” one survivor’s girlfriend claimed. I have seen enough of this type of interview on the news. In general, the survivor is very sorry for attending____________ (insert crowded event here).

In red counties that had strongly supported Trump, and have pushed to reopen businesses, the virus is on the rise. Four days after the Republican governor of Maryland started opening up businesses in the state, they had the largest number of positive tests for one day so far. Coincidence or karma?

Living In Fear

The sort of thing you see above in “Living Fearlessly” are the reasons that so many of us who are older or have suppressed immune systems live in fear. We can not count on going to the store and have all the patrons follow the rules. Some of us qualify to go to the store during the Senior hour, but that means nothing if the store is afraid to enforce the rules. I shop at stores that have large signs posted to wear masks, and certain hours are Seniors only, but it doesn’t matter.  If people are so willing to violate these rules about the store, we can probably guess that they are willing to break other rules too. Do we want to be in the store with them?

The lieutenant governor of Texas may believe that Seniors are willing to lay down their lives for the economy, but I have news for him. He can go out and take risks, but we don’t feel that way. We want to be around long enough to vote that sort of politician out of the political office or keep them from getting in.

I live in a two-flat house. My much younger neighbor upstairs had been very careful, wearing a mask and gloves to the stores. He was always cleaning and sanitizing. He gave me a special mask around Christmas time that not only covers nose and mouth but ears too. We had some bad winters in the past. I use it a lot now.

He has contracted the virus. He’s had girlfriends over to spend the night. There is more than one, I think. He probably trusted they were just as safe as he was otherwise. He was obviously wrong. Now he is sick. We have a common front hall and front door, common basement area with a common washer and dryer. We could touch a lot of the same surfaces in a day. He is not intentionally trying to kill off his older neighbors. Sometimes people just don’t think about it until it is too late.

Instant Karma Sources: “VIRGINIA PASTOR DIES FROM COVID-19… 3 Weeks After Holding Packed Service,” TMZ, tmz.com April 13, 2020.
Parishioner of Louisiana Church That Defied Virus Lockdown Dies From COVID-19, But Pastor Claims It’s a Lie,” by Rachel Olding, Daily Best, thedailybeast.com April 17, 2020.
Texas church cancels masses following the death of priest possibly from coronavirus,” by Meredith Deliso, ABC News, abcnews.go.com May 18, 2020.
Family Of COVID-19 Victim Who Criticized ‘Hysteria’ Around Virus Faces Online Attacks,” by Kelly McEvers, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 15, 2020.
Texas woman claimed COVID-19 is a media hoax & can be stopped by “faith.” Days later she died.” by Bil Browning, LGBTQNation, lgbtqnation.com April 7, 2020.
After enduring ventilators, body aches, fever, coronavirus survivors say states shouldn’t be reopening.” by Rick Jervis and Kameel Stanley, USA Today, usatoday.com May 18, 2020.
COVID-19 continues spreading into counties with strong Trump support,” by William H. Frey, Brookings, brookings.edu May 20, 2020.
Maryland Reports Largest Rise Yet In Coronavirus Cases 4 Days After Reopening,” by Bill Chappell, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 19, 2020.
See also: “Absolutely No Absolute Rights,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com April 8, 2020.

MY DAY AT THE HOSPITAL – Marilyn Armstrong

After a day during which we got up early because I had a hospital appointment, the day after Bonnie quite literally barked all night, it made this into a very long day. Garry hadn’t driven in so long, we missed the turn into the hospital.

When we finally backtracked, they had the entire parking lot roped off and there are a lot of places you can’t go. Like the front door to the buildings. Since they won’t let the caretakers of people in, Garry had to wait in the car. It turned out he could have waited in the lobby, but when we asked, no one knew anything about anything.

One building was all COVID-19 cases — it used to be an extension of the daycare/heart unit and presumably will be again. I fell on my way in, really because those shoes have a ribbed sole that has a tendency to catch on cement. I scraped my knee, which was only a very small part of the problem. The rest of it was getting up from the ground. I can do it myself, but I need something to grab.

And suddenly, there were nurses and doctors and lawyers everywhere. “She fell on hospital grounds!” they said. I guess they assumed I was ready to call a lawyer.

I said, “If this is the most serious problem I have this week, it’ll be a great week.” They still had to check me out, realized when I said it was no big deal, I meant it really was no big deal. They cleaned it, didn’t bother to bandage it. Tomorrow everything will hurt, but in the meantime, they checked my battery (I sometimes sound like one of my electronic devices) and unlike the last time they checked it when I had maybe two years of battery left, this time I had 6-1/2 years left. I guess quarantine got me fully charged.

There wasn’t much traffic but there was more than I expected. A lot more.

The nurse explained that they aren’t worried about people who need help because basically, everything is closed. I pointed out that I didn’t hurry for this exam. They called me because it had been more than a year since I was checked. Which is a long time for someone following heart surgery, especially with so many implants.

She looked at my records and said, “Oh. yes. I can see.” She then pointed out that the mess they’d made at the hospital was way above her pay grade. And she reminded me that they have a building full of tests for Coronavirus, but they aren’t using the tests because they are saving them.

I didn’t even bother asking what they were saving them for because I already knew that was  WAY above her paygrade and maybe the head of the hospital’s paygrade.

Outbound road

They sent me the test results and I have to say I have no idea what they mean. None. The only thing I could say for sure is that there were no “flags” indicating a specific problem. So that battery works and there’s nothing terrible going on.

As we turned into the driveway, I asked Garry to stop so I could take pictures of the garden which has gone from a dead, muddy pile to something resembling a garden. Amazing what sunshine can do. I’m supposed to get a box soon, when our very backed up post office manages to hire a few more deliverers who can find their way around the Valley. It will — via Bluetooth — continuously interrogate my Pacemaker and send the information electronically. I may not have to go to the doctor more than once a year, but it is a bit creepy.

HOW COME THERE AREN’T ENOUGH TAKERS FOR TESTS? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE GET TESTED?

Have any of you tried to get tested and been told you can’t get tested if you don’t have a heavy cough and a high fever … and because you are over 70, you know this information is not true? Apparently, you are more knowledgeable than the medical people to whom you are talking.

I had that kind of a day today.

From The Washington Post:

He was talking about this story on the front page of The Washington Post this week that found at least a dozen states have more tests than patients taking them. Health officials aren’t sure why — maybe people don’t realize there are more tests now after months of scarcity, or that you can get a test now in some states even if you only have mild symptoms. African Americans, who are being hit hard by the coronavirus, tend to be wary of medical professionals, one expert said.


If any of you have tried to be tested, you’ve run into the same barriers. If you don’t have a specific set of symptoms, you can’t get tested. Never mind that they have plenty of tests, they are hoarding them from the people who need to be tested. The point of getting all these tests was to track the disease. See who has it, had it, where are the hotspots, and are you living in one of them. Where is the virus going and are you wearing a target?

Or are you one of the people who have had it, but had different symptoms? If they are going to trace, they are supposed to be testing everyone, not just those people that happen to have the specific initial symptoms that were typical of the disease.

All the children hospitals are finding who have had heart attacks after having had the disease. Which isn’t supposed to kill children, but its after-effects are killing children. Of the people who instead of coughs and fevers get gastrointestinal problems. Diarrhea, vomiting. Or instead of coughing got severe aches and pains that go on for weeks.

Garry and I that problem in January and no one knew what was wrong with us. We went to the doctor. We didn’t have anything anyone could figure out and we went home. Some weeks later, we were better. I wrote about it at the time, but officially, there was no Coronavirus in the U.S. The virus wasn’t supposed to be here but I’m sure it was. Now, researchers at hospitals are discovering people who had it in December.

So when did it arrive? November? December? Definitely by January. How long was it lurking in China and how many people traveled back and forth to China on business, vacation or to visit family?

The symptoms for people over 70 are not the same as symptoms for younger victims or older victims. This virus is not well understood. The high fevers and coughs are less common, especially high fevers. People our age rarely run high fevers for any reason. Since I passed 65, I don’t think — even when I had pneumonia and was recovering from heart surgery. By the time I hit 99, that’s a serious fever for me because my normal body temperature is around 96-point-something-or-other. By the time it hits 99, it is a fever.

The virus shows up in with a boatload of symptoms that may or may not be the officially listed symptoms. If they actually want to get everyone tested, get the vans ready. Go into neighborhoods — rich, poor, and otherwise — and TEST people. My son has been trying to get tested for months and has yet to be tested.

In Massachusetts, we only test people who are near death. We miss the rest.

In Australia, they sent vans around to give tests to everyone they could find. I was on the telephone with a woman at our hospital and she wasn’t sure how you got a test unless you had a heavy cough and a high fever and thought maybe you would die.

So why aren’t there more people who want testing? Everyone wants to get tested, but they refuse to give tests to people who don’t meet their very specific criteria. What a waste! They aren’t even trying to track the disease and I’m pretty sure they are guaranteed an autumnal jump in cases that will be worse than the first round. Because they aren’t doing what they promised to do.

Sometimes, if you want the answer to a question, ask regular, frustrated, pissed-off citizens who have been trying to get tested but no one will order the tests, even though our insurance (Medicare) covers those tests 100%.