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Life in the Time of Coronavirus

March 23, 2020

Gabriel García Márquez's great novel Love in the Time of Cholera inspired the title of this post.

Much has been written about Covid-19 though I'm having trouble finding much basic science about the virus. It's apparently an RNA virus comprising 30k base pairs, which is pretty fascinating. I have nothing to add other than personal observations.

Marybeth and I are mostly hunkered down at home in Finksburg, Maryland. As of this writing the governor has not imposed a stay-at-home order, but many businesses are closed. We did go out for a new battery for the tractor this morning as I have a huge load of logs I'm breaking down for firewood. If we'd been ordered home I would have let the tractor stand idle, but absent that it's hard to know how much of life to suspend.

Grocery shelves here are bare. We visited our local shop late last week and there was no meat (exactly none), no paper products and nearly no vegetables and fruit. (I don't eat fruit as an orange, say, is messy. A cookie is the perfect food as you can eat it while working without making the keyboard sticky).

I have been sporadically going to the boat, which is currently on land in Pasadena, where we're doing a big refit. This time of year there's nobody there so I feel this is social distancing. But the season will start up soon and I remain unsure how to deal with this going forward. Some Maryland marinas are closing so I anticipate not much of a sailing season, hardly a tragedy but disappointing. This will be a blow to the State's economy as the Chesapeake Bay is one of Maryland's big attractions. (If you've never had a Maryland crab feast, you've missed one of life's great delights. There are four ingredients: blue crabs, Old Bay seasoning, beer and friends).

One of our kids is working from his home and doing well. The other two are now out of work; one, in San Diego, is under California's lock-down order.

We're both in the vulnerable over-65 age range but are reasonably healthy and I think that we'll be fine as we're taking suggested precautions. I've canceled all of my travel (I was supposed to be in Europe this week, and just three weeks ago we returned from Australia). My daughter told me today she could get a round trip ticket from Louisiana to visit us for $35(!), but I cautioned her against it.

Interlude: While writing this Marybeth snagged me as our governor was giving a presser. He just closed all non-essential businesses. I think that's a good idea as social distancing does strike me as the most powerful weapon we have to use against this virus. He also indicated that, though he won't issue a shelter-in-pace order, he's requiring/requesting/demanding (it isn't clear to me) that we all stay home starting at 5:00 this (Monday) evening. Again, not unreasonable. So we ran out, got some cash (always have cash on hand in an emergency), got some groceries for my parents who are in their 90s, and delivered those to them in their locked-down assisted living facility. I had a box of surgical masks for woodworking which we dropped off at Carroll County hospital.

We're staying home for the duration. I know how fortunate we are to be able to afford this. So many can't. I'm so thankful for those who are working to keep us fed, to tend to the sick, those who keep the power on, and so many more. I dislike the word "hero" as it gets applied to far too many today, but keeping the country going, often a great personal risk, is pretty heroic.

There's plenty to do here. I have numerous projects and am studying biochemistry. Our stack of unread books is high. Marybeth is always happily occupied with her many crafting projects. Netflix stopped working for us last night, presumably from high demand, but that's hardly a hardship!

When it comes to the politics of all this I remain ticked off. Not being a Trump fan (and I also couldn't stand Hillary) I'm unimpressed with the fed's response. As I write this Congress is debating a massive response measuring in the trillions of dollars. Those sorts of numbers terrify me as I have long felt the nation's debt is a looming disaster that will destroy my children's future. The fact that we ran a trillion-dollar deficit in a booming economy last year is, to me somewhere between insane and suicidal. However, I'm not smart enough to know if this virus bailout is wise, a mistake, too big or too small.

Anecdotal tales suggest that many are helping each other. People are delivering food to the elderly. We planned to donate blood but all of the local Red Cross facilities are completely booked for at least the next ten days. People seem to be stepping up.

Will this emergency be bad… or will it be a catastrophe? I have no idea. But it seems wise to listen to the advice we're getting. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can. Keep two meters of distance if you can't. Help others if possible.

And be kind.

How are you faring?

Feel free to email me with comments.

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