life in a modern pandemic

We have been here in pandemic land before. Spanish Flu 1918. I remember being told as a child how it killed a lot of my maternal grandfather’s family.

It’s oddly prophetic that this past fall an exhibit at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia opened about the last Philadelphia area pandemic called “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia”

We are all being introduced to coronavirus. Our pandemic for modern times. A reminder that while we have come so far in many aspects in society, we as humans are still vulnerable to disease and pestilence. Hunker down, it’s a global pandemic. Literally.

Now we know why things like the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia is cancelled. In Philadelphia pretty much all big events are being cancelled. All colleges and universities seem to be going to virtual/online learning modes and emptying schools. Some school districts are closing schools. This is also why annual traditions to us in Chester County like the Chester County Antiques Show which was to open tomorrow with a special preview party.

I received notice of other things being cancelled that I was attending. My friend Andy King had a show scheduled at The Living Room in Ardmore. He’s been postponed until June, and the venue is closed until May 1st . A pop-up dinner by Peachtree Catering we were going to at the end of this month is also postponed indefinitely.

Last night it was announced flights from Europe weren’t coming to the U.S. for 30 days – a 30 day ban starting Friday I think it is. Ban thus far doesn’t extend to the U.K. as of now. Unless passengers were U.S. Citizens or U.S. Permanent Residents. Residents returning to the U.S. will be expected to self-quarantine upon return for about two weeks. It’s all very confusing, even to CNN.

Our financial markets are having big time issues. The U.S. markets have always been driven in part on emotion, and it’s 2020 but starting to feel like 2008. And people can weather that, what we don’t want is 1918.

I was doing a little gardening event and that is being postponed too. I can’t help it. I am still a cancer patient, which means I am in that lovely class of the immunocompromised. We are all supposed to practice social distancing – AKA minimizing close contact with people. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Those precautions involve “social distancing,” meaning minimizing close contact (defined as within 6 feet) with other people. While big gatherings increase the risk that lots of people could be exposed to infection — especially events where cheering could mean saliva flying — there may be no safety in small numbers.

“There’s no threshold. This is a time when if you’re invited to a dinner party with five people, you should say, ‘No thanks,’ ” said Carolyn C. Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine….Cannuscio at Penn was dismayed by city officials’ implication that gatherings of fewer than 5,000 are low risk.

“They need to walk back that number,” she said. “That number will be talked about in public health classes for decades to come. Everybody is vulnerable to making mistakes in communications, but I want our leaders to recognize that we need to reduce social contacts. I know I might sound hysterical, but I recognize the public doesn’t understand the importance of social distancing.”

People, for the time being, it’s time to practice our nesting instincts and just stay home and enjoy each other’s company. Even Broadway, yes as in New York City, is going dark for a couple of weeks:

People are bitching left and right because things like NCAA March Madness is CANCELLED to live audiences. The tournament will go on, but the teams will be playing for the ghosts in the stadiums only. The NBA has suspended it’s season altogether. The NHL has suspended it’s season and MLB is delaying opening day.

This is actually no joke, yet on social media I see otherwise intelligent people saying that coronavirus is a “liberal conspiracy”. Seriously.

I am not in the mode of panic, but honestly? I am concerned. It’s taking people down in Europe and elsewhere and there seems to be no solution. It seems like pandemics before it, it must run it’s course?

Of course what also bothers me is we are still ill prepared for these disasters. Today Governor Tom Wolf basically started the wheels turning for PA shutdown. Montgomery County in particular on lockdown.

But what really gets me other than the mass confusion is how will this affect small businesses and hourly workers? Our economy is not as dandy as everyone would like to play make believe about. A friend of mine with a small business recently posted the following:

Governor Tom Wolf…now that you have taken our kids out of school, how are you going to help all the parents who work full time and have to work full time but have kids in school?
How are you going to help small businesses who have moms or dads as employees and now they can’t come to work?
What are you doing for the 1,000,000 small businesses in PA that are losing work but still have to pay mortgages, bills, employees?

What’s your game plan? You wanted to be our leader and I respect your position…I just need answers on what your are proactively doing for us.

For a lot of us if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Those in the millionaire category will grumble about their various inconveniences… and survive.

And what about the testing? How do we do it, how do we get them? That seems to be about as clear as mud. HOW do you get a test? Who decides if you should get one? What kind of games will insurance companies play with this? (See Inquirer’s Coronavirus testing in Pa.: state lab is not following CDC guidelines to get more people tested by Marie McCullough, Updated: March 12, 2020- 1:26 PM)

Another thing that bothers me is the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cardiologist who is last media report in really bad shape in the hospital with Coronavirus. I really hope he recovers as he has a family and friends and colleagues who love and care about him. BUT….what the HELL was he thinking? He knew about Coronavirus and he saw patients? Children under the care of a cardiologist? So he’s sick, someone else in his house is sick, and so many schools and school districts had to close because of virus fears and why? Because he saw patients when he came back. He’s a DOCTOR. Shouldn’t he have known better?

Sorry not sorry, it really bothers me.

And oh this:

Philadelphia Inquirer: A Philly teacher had known exposure to a coronavirus patient. The district isn’t notifying parents.
by Kristen A. Graham and Wendy Ruderman, Updated: March 12, 2020- 2:03 PM

A Philadelphia School District teacher gave the grim news this week: A relative had tested positive for the coronavirus, and he had been in close contact with the family member recently.

The Randolph High School teacher informed his students on Wednesday, then the principal sent the teacher home to isolate for two weeks.

What followed was panic: Staff had questions, students had questions, but it seemed no one could provide answers. Students panicked, some donning rubber gloves, many asking if school should be closed. Eventually, most of the student body walked out. But parents were never notified about the close contact the Randolph teacher had with the coronavirus patient.

I am so at sixes and sevens about this. I don’t know what to think. As far as society progresses, we can’t escape the natural correction caused by disease is what keeps floating through my brain. I know, I am being repetitive.

Cancel Everything
Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus. We must start immediately.

MARCH 10, 2020
Yascha Mounk
Contributing writer at The Atlantic

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now.

The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.

The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.

Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today…..

The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.

This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.

Well it’s a good thing I like being home I suppose. But then there is the other thing: you can’t even get food/pantry basics in some places because people are just wiping out stores. Some hoarding and I am sure the people who will re-sell at astronomical levels will surface more and more (Just look at trying to get supplies on Amazon.)

My mother just called me. She lives in Philadelphia. My stepfather had just gone to Trader Joe’s for some basics. Their shelves are literally bare, and not just for toilet paper.

One of my friends has a husband who is very immunocompromised – she’s been buying cases of rubbing alcohol.

What is the right answer? Everything in the US is a study in confusion. To me it feels like a somewhat rudderless ship. (See CNN)

The Philadelphia Inquirer is providing pretty good coverage. So is the New York Times. The CDC has a whole section about coronavirus. But there is so much condradicting and confusing information out there, isn’t there?

Vox has this interesting chart and notes the following:

The Spanish flu of 1918-’19, the most horrific pandemic in modern times, focused mainly on the young. It had biological similarities to a flu pandemic in the 1830s that gave some older people in the 1910s limited immunity.

Most common symptoms in China, up to February 22, 2020

So PhillyVoice had this amazing article in 2018 about the Spanish Flu in Philadelphia:

SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

(Part 1) 100 years ago, ‘Spanish flu’ shut down Philadelphia – and wiped out thousands
Some 12,000 people died after the city held infamous Liberty Loan parade
BY JOHN KOPP AND BOB MCGOVERN

September 28, 1918 was to go down as a great day in Philadelphia.

Some 10,000 people were expected to watch the latest Liberty Loan parade – a patriotic spectacle designed to boost public financing for World War I.

But amid growing excitement that the war was nearing an end, 200,000 people flooded Center City, loudly cheering as thousands of military personnel, industry workers, relief workers, scouts and veterans marched down Broad Street.

That so many people came out astounded the local press, which did not hold back any praise in its coverage. The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded the parade for its pageantry and the enthusiasm of its onlookers, often in flowery prose.

“The energies of the city – its wealth, its brawn, its intellect, its patience, its skill in the works of brain or of hand – these were seen, as they never had been seen before in such a time and under such stress,” The Inquirer wrote in a front-page story. “Yet in every stride and in every voice there was to be seen and heard the first premonition of – victory.”

The Evening Bulletin, published later that afternoon, was more succinct but no less laudatory in its parade coverage. “This is a great day in Philadelphia,” its front page story began.

But tucked deep inside the newspaper was a story about Thomas Harlacker, a 30-year-old city policeman who was one of influenza’s latest local victims. The account, which noted 118 new cases of the disease in the city in the last day, carried a warning that, 100 years later, reads prescient.

“The epidemic is assuming more serious proportions,” the story cautioned, citing a warning by the city’s health director, Dr. Wilmer Krusen. “If the people are careless thousands of cases may develop and the epidemic may get beyond control.”

(Part 2) SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

In 1918, Philadelphia was in ‘the grippe’ of misery and suffering
The dark days of influenza epidemic: bodies piled up with no way to bury them

BY BOB MCGOVERN AND JOHN KOPP

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote in 1859.

Nearly 60 years later it was an apt description of life in Philadelphia.

World War I was winding down, victory in sight. The city had proudly and vigorously raised millions of dollars to support the local soldiers on the battlefield. The patriotism and excitement was palpable: the boys would be coming home soon.

But in late summer 1918, the city was in “the grippe” of a second wave of a Spanish influenza epidemic sweeping the United States. The city was quickly plunged into misery. Illness and death and decay was everywhere. Dread and despair tormented the living. Unspeakable indignities visited the dead and alive.

For two weeks in September and October, from the start of the epidemic through some of its darkest days, the city’s newspapers chronicled the misery in the streets of Philadelphia. But they also shared tales of heroism, hope, frustration and evil.

Here’s how the epidemic played out – day by day – for days immediately after the Liberty Loan Parade that many experts say led to the explosion of influenza in Philadelphia. They were some of the darkest days this city and surrounding towns have ever seen.

09282018_police_stricken_headline

We need to learn from the past. But it would help if information wasn’t conflicting or seemed to omit things wouldn’t it?

Government does not want full scale panic.

Hell, no one does. It won’t kill us to practice “social distancing” but we need to live our lives.

And I don’t think individual people should be able to clean stores out of cleaning supplies and more, do you?

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Trader Joes in Tredyffrin. Facebook Photo

I guess there is a reason we didn’t have any snow days with schools this year other than global warming, right? Because snow days are becoming coronavirus days but what of the parents of all these kids being told to stay home? Are we all supposed to stay home?

I was told this afternoon all of the schools and colleges/universities in Ireland had closed down.

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor
ACME market in Paoli. Facebook photo

So our ultimate takeaway? Hunker down I guess.

But I still do not know how I feel about this. Other than don’t hug, don’t spit, and PLEASE wash your hands.

Image result for spanish flu 1918 philadelphia
From PhillyVoice via U.S. NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND/VIA LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

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