Plague Diary 26: The Latin American Hot Spot

Covid-19 Still Rages in Latin America

I was disappointed to hear that Latin America is still considered a global hot spot for the Coronavirus, particularly Brazil, Peru, and Mexico. According to a bulletin issued yesterday by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City:

The number of confirmed and suspected cases is still increasing daily in several regions of Mexico. Mexico City, Tabasco, Sinaloa, Aguascalientes, and Yucatan currently report the highest incidence rates of active cases (incidence rate is the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days). Hospital occupancy rates are also increasing, with the highest levels in Mexico City, Mexico State, Guerrero, Morelos, and Chiapas. Mexican health authorities have reiterated calls for people to stay home during this time.

Since I would love to re-visit Yucatán and Chiapas, this comes as bad news if i wanted to leave the country for my vacation. More and more, I think I will have several short vacations this year in the Southwestern U.S.

 

Plague Diary 24: Zoom, Babies, and Barkies

Boredom Times Infinity

There are a number of stereotypes emerging from our months’ long quarantine: Zoom images of not altogether with it participants, small children, and pets—just to name a few. Being retired and not involved in alcoholism or recreational drugs, I am not into Zoom. There are zero circumstances which would call for a number of my friends and acquaintances being dragooned into meeting with me. Besides, I don’t have a camera on my PC at present. If I decide to get Skype or some other video telephony application, I might change my mind. Otherwise, nyet.

Pets and Babies Do Nothing for Me

It seems that most quarantiners have an irresistible urge to feature their pets and small children. That would have meant something to me decades ago, when I wanted to join that particular club. But having my pituitary gland and the chromophobe adenoma that devoured it removed at the age of twenty-one, I became ineligible to have a baby that looked anything like me. Nowadays, when I think of babies, I think of overfilled diapers. And I become comically allergic when I spend more than a couple hours with a dog or cat.

I would very much like to see my friends, but fortunately I am not going crazy from isolation. It seems that I am well-prepared for quarantining:

  • I have a library of several thousand books
  • I own hundreds of DVDs of classic movies, foreign and domestic
  • My cable TV gives me access to hundreds of free movies each week
  • I like to cook
  • I have a telephone

So I don’t have to shove pets and poopy diapers in your face, and I don’t need to appear on Zoom wearing nothing below my navel. You might call it the joys of sublimation.

Plague Diary 23: An Etymological Curiosity

A Look Back to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

I was scanning the channels early this evening when I made a surprising discovery. There seems to be a term from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic that has become part of our language. The “crawl” on one of the news stations casually mentioned that the term “slacker” derived from scofflaws during the pandemic that refused to wear face masks.

According to the Saturday Evening Post website, then, as now, there was an organized resistance to wearing masks:

[T]he Influenza pandemic of 1918, triggered a comparable patchwork of ordinances and ensuing economic fallout. Some Americans’ reactions a century ago took similar form, particularly a group of fed up San Franciscans who called themselves the “Anti-Mask League.” Although San Francisco saw one of the worst U.S. outbreaks of the pandemic, these dissidents opposed orders from the city’s Board of Health not because of the economic implications, but because they saw it as their right to walk the city maskless. Besides, they didn’t think the things were working anyway.

The more things change, the more hey remain the same. The members of the Anti-Mask League were referred to as slackers.

From the Enid Daily Eagle of September 25, 1918

There are, of course, some differences between the coronavirus and the outbreak following the First World War. All I can do is re-iterate the warning from the newspaper clip above:

Don’t get “scared.”

 

 

Plague Diary #22: The Shrunken Universe

In My Life, the Maya Stand for the Universe at Large

The first time I traveled outside the United States, it was to Yucatán in 1975, when I was thirty years old. The last time I traveled outside the United States, it was the same—just as I reached the age of seventy-five. Almost immediately after my return to California, the Universe shrank suddenly. There was my apartment with its books and DVDs (and, yes, VHS tapes); there were the grocery stores and pharmacies and doctors’ offices. and precious little else.

Now, as the coronavirus is pulling out with the tide, the Universe is slowly growing larger. There are changes: people are wearing face masks (or not), and the rate of growth is incremental, with promise of sudden expansion after Independence Day. I have this sudden urge to travel, even if it is to the nearby desert, which is starting to heat up as summer nears. I would be content to travel somewhere in the United States with Martine. Currently, she is uninterested in visiting any foreign country except perhaps Canada.

On my kitchen table is a small pile of Lonely Planet guidebooks which I look into from time to time to remind myself that my present reality is just a small subset of what exists. I would not mind returning to Yucatán to visit the Maya sites that have so far eluded me: Cobá, Chacchoben, Dzibanche, Kinichna, Oxtankah, Calakmul and the Rio Bec sites, Yaxchilan, and Bonampak. Then, too, there are the Maya ruins in adjacent Belize—a new border to cross.

In fact, every time I look, there are more Maya sites to see. Most of them are in jungle terrain, which would mean protecting myself from mosquitoes, garrapatas, and other baddies referred to in Mexico as bichos. I rather like the fact that there is always more to see, to know, to absorb. To quote the Tao Teh Ching, “From wonder into wonder existence opens.”

 

 

Rights vs “Rats”

End Quarantine Protest in Huntington Beach

They are both the same word, but “rats” (R1) is the Southern Confederate drawl version of “rights” (R2). They do not, however, refer to the same thing. R1 people are likely to insist that this is a free country, meaning they are free to do anything they want, even if it causes harm, like shouting “Fire!” precipitating a riot in a crowded theater. They are free to think that whatever they believe is true, such as that Covid-19 is a lie.

Myself, I consider myself to be an R2 person. I have certain inalienable rights, but these stop short when they cause harm. If I fire an AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd, the possibility of killing multiple people puts a limit on my “rats.” Likewise, going to a crowded bar, getting coronavirus, and passing the disease on to my friends and relatives, possibly killing several of them, is to my mind a criminal act.

Confederate Prisoners Fighting for Their “Rats”

I first stumbled onto the difference in a scene from the 1993 Ted Turner film Gettysburg, when C. Thomas Howell, playing the part of Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain, comes across a group of Confederate prisoners and asks them what they were fighting for. He doesn’t quite understand their answer, that it wasn’t for slavery that they were fighting, but for their “rats,” making him wonder why they were talking about vermin. It’s interesting to me that one person’s rights could be seen as another person’s crimes.

I see Trump in a difficult position. The disease is a serious one, and at the same time the economy is in dire straits. On one hand, his return-to-work policy could result in tens of thousands of deaths, especially of those misguided people who believe in him. On the other, it could lose him his presidency if his followers get so an inkling of what is really happening.

 

Plague Diary 21: Open With Restrictions

The Los Angeles Arboretum in 2017

Little by little, selected trip destinations are opening up s-l-o-w-l-y and with multiple restrictions. I can now visit the beach, but only if I am actively swimming, walking, or running. If I lie down and try to get a tan, or picnic, or even bring a cooler with me, the police would roust me. And of course, the water fountains are closed, together with the snack bars. Also the parking lots along the beach will be closed.

At the Los Angeles Arboretum, one can only walk on the paved paths in a park where half the paths are unpaved. And, of course, the benches are off limits, water and food are not available. I assume that if you sit down on one of the capacious lawns, you will be asked to move on.

Descanso Gardens is not closing down any of their unpaved paths, but again no benches or food, though water will be available.

The next time we get a heat wave, I will probably take a bus down to the beach and take a walk. I would like to lie on the beach, but I suppose a walk would be good for me.

I have this funny feeling that it will be many months before anything resembling normalcy will be restored to us.

 

 

Plague Diary 20: The Virus Mutates

As the Virus Mutates, the Symptoms Change

In a way, I hate writing about Covid-19. It seems that over 80% of the news on any given day is about the virus. One result is that most of us stay-at-homes are itching to get on with our lives. The pressure to do away with social distancing is growing from the top down, thanks to the current occupant of the White House. Suddenly, reasonable measures to contain the virus are being treated by protestors as violations of the constitution of of our God-given rights. (That last word, given a Southern drawl should come out pronounced as “rats”)

According to a CNN article released today, it seems the virus is mutating before our eyes and exhibiting a different array of symptoms, including:

  1. Aortic occlusions causing blood clots in the body’s main artery.
  2. Multi-system organ failure, when all the patient’s organs shut down at once.
  3. Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome in which a child suffers “persistent fever, inflammation, poor function in one or more organs, and other symptoms that resemble shock.”
  4. “Covid toes,” in which red or purple lesions appear on the bottom side of the toes.

Based on conversations I have had with people, most think a vaccine is on the point of being developed that will allow all of us to return to work shortly. Please note, however, that the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed to fight a particular disease is four years, I suspect that if the coronavirus is mutating, it will probably take longer.

My prediction: As a result of social distancing, coronavirus will die down and then return in sudden outbreaks when the controls have been lifted. The people who are supporters of the President will, upon relaxing social constraints, be particularly likely to catch the disease in one of its new, more troubling configurations.