I missed the latest announcement from Donald Trump this afternoon, as I was busy gawking at the full parking lots and empty shelves at the three nearest stores. What people were shopping for among the empty aisles, I can’t say: I managed to land some frozen fish, some crackers, and a box of Tastykake pecan swirls. And coffee. Two packages of coffee. Which means I made out okay. But this seemed to be the day that my neighbors here in Missouri snapped from “It’s just the flu” to trampling each other for any sign of a paper product.
Several people have made this suggestion, and it’s a good one: find a notebook. A physical notebook, and a pen to go with it. That art book where you started “getting serious” about sketching, before you abandoned it, will do. So will that daily journal you abandoned about the time your 2012 New Year’s resolution wore out. If none of the above is available, reach into your printer and grab a stack of blank pages. Find an actual pen.
Start writing. Write about the things that you see around you, and what you’ve noticed as this thing begins. Write about the feelings that you’ve had plunging into this, whether that’s fear, or frustration, or hope. Just make observations of your everyday life at this time—even if that means just noting how many episodes of Westworld you’ve binged. Write about the trip you took last summer before this thing started. Write about the trip you planned to take this spring, and had to postpone. Write about what you want to write about. Write about how fragile everything is, even when it seems so, so solid.
You’re not writing this for the benefit of some future historian or archaeologist looking back at the lost world (though, hey, how cool would it be to have people in 6413 quoting you when it comes to describing life in the early 21st century?). You’re not even really writing this for your kids, or grandkids, so they can catch up with what the ‘olds’ did back then. You’re writing this for yourself. So you can look back on this six months from now and say ,“We made it.” And so you can look back in six years and say, “Oh yeah. That was before.”
As usual, charts for the U.S. are a day behind. So this doesn’t reflect todays’ rise to 4,450 and 77 deaths at the time of writing. There have already been 650 new cases in the U.S. today, but expect that to be at least 900 by day’s end. As New York approaches 1,000 cases and Washington state passes 700, hospitals in the “hottest” spots are already starting to feel the stress—a stress that is compounded by the number of doctors and nurses who have already become infected.
The chart of total cases has been missing for several days but it’s worth taking a look, because over the weekend the number of cases outside of China passed where China was at its peak. In fact, with fewer than 10,000 active cases and daily new cases in the teens, China is on its way to becoming a footnote in this whole thing, as the entire world follows an exponential curve.
On Sunday, Italy reported over 3,000 new cases and 325 additional deaths. Both those numbers are terrible … but there may be a tiny ray of hope there, because both of those numbers were just slightly lower than those reported by Italy on Saturday. On the chart, it seems that Italy is continuing to shoot upward (because it is), but the strong steps that the country has taken toward isolating people over the past week may finally be starting to show up in the numbers. Italy’s overrun healthcare system continues to throw up a godawful CFR of almost 8%. Don’t expect that to get any better until they can make a serious cut in their active caseload.
Whether there’s any good news out of Iran is impossible to tell, since it would first require believing the numbers officials are providing.
Tolstoy wrote that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” but when it comes to COVID-19, it’s the unhappy curves that are all but identical.
The United States fits right into the mass of European nations that represent the third round of epicenters. The fact that these curves all look so similar, if shifted a day or two in either direction, shows that in all these countries infections by the novel coronavirus are increasing at more or less the unhindered rate of transmission. However, there’s also a lag between the infection being passed along and a new case being identified, so it’s possible that the actions taken in France or Spain will begin to flatten their curves … we just won’t know for a few more days. That same “self similarity” applies to the curve expressed in the United States. You can look back at any day in the past week, and what you see is a curve that looks so similar you have to check the scale on the left to even tell that things have changed. That’s what unchecked growth looks like. That’s what we have.
There will be an after. Let’s all try to be part of it.
Resources on novel coronavirus:
World Health Organization 2019 Coronavirus information site.
World Health Organization 2019 Coronavirus Dashboard.
2019-nCoV Global Cases from Johns Hopkins.
BNO News 2019 Novel Coronavirus tracking site.
Worldometer / Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak.
CDC Coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) information site.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Information on preparing yourself and your family: