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Saturday, March 28, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 13: King Lynch


Pandemic Log: Saturday, 28th March 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 9: Covid Takes Gotham

Pandemic Log: Tuesday, 24th March 2020

A Panamanian friend sent me this cartoon. It has been circulating among her friends as the virus has started to tighten its grip on Panama; impacting young and old, healthy and infirm with impunity.

This cartoon felt appropriate for New York City, also known as Gotham, as we were informed yesterday by the White House task force that the New York region has now become ground zero for Covid-19 infections in the country.

According to the CDC, the infection or “attack rate” for folks living in the greater New York metro region is at one in 1,000 people, which is eight to ten times higher than the rate of infection anywhere else in the US; making New York the new global epicenter for the virus. 

Right after we finished watching the White House briefing, Murphy followed through with inimitable timing to cement his Law and explain why its has been around for centuries.

My wife’s friend who lives across the street, texted to tell us that her husband has symptoms and four people in their building tested positive. This simply put the exclamation mark on the fact that Covid was not only wandering freely through our neighborhoods but now actively knocking on doors on our street.

New York now accounts for 5% of all cases, worldwide. The total number of confirmed cases as of today stands at 23,000. The Governor believes that we have not yet seen the peak of this infection and that is likely to occur sometime between 15th April and 1st May. 

The good news is that these facts have made New York the cynosure of all eyes and aid nationally, and our state will get higher priority for everything from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, to much needed ventilators for high-risk patients. 

The army corps of engineers is hard at work turning The Javits Convention Center and other local venues into 1000 bed hospitals, which will be operational later this week. 

What can you do to help? STAY HOME. 

Especially, if you are older, or of any age with underlying health conditions, you must not leave your home under any conditions. For the rest of us, the more time we spend indoors, the less chance the virus has of spreading and infecting our friends and neighbours.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 7: Sunday Bloody Sunday

Pandemic Log: Sunday, 22nd March 2020

Our first Sunday with New York on lock down did not feel slow or lazy but more like a surreal dream that for the moment feels never ending one.

At 9am our laundry lady was on the phone asking us to bring our clothes in because her boss decided to close the laundromat; starting that evening. They had remained open in the first days after the September 11th attacks, during the great Manhattan blackout and through the 2008 financial crisis but were defeated by an invisible an insidious virus. 

When I asked if someone had gotten sick, she said that was not the case and that all the employees had lobbied to remain open, but the owner was adamant that he did not want to risk anyone getting ill. 

Just last night millions of Manhattanites had breathed a collective sigh of relief, when the Governor issued an executive order stating that all non-essential businesses would be required to close, but classified laundromats as an essential service; allowing them to remain open along with hospitals, pharmacies, delis and grocery stores.

This is probably a hard thing for most people to get their head around but many people in this city, especially those who live in walk-ups and pre 1970’s buildings do not have a washing machine in their apartment or laundry services in their basement. 

Granted that running out of clean underwear might not be at the top of anyone’s concerns, but it does become an additional inconvenience for many of us who will now have to add hand washing clothes to our list of things to do.

Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 5: Six Degrees of Covid


Pandemic Log: Friday, 20th March 2020

Woke up this morning to find this text message waiting to greet me; before my first sip of coffee.

The day I met my friend for lunch, you ask? Friday 13th of course!

I am not someone who panics; in fact I am the person everyone seeks out in a time of crisis. Yet, for some reason, perhaps due to Covid-19 news overload, I read the text as saying that my friend’s colleague and his girlfriend had tested positive.

Needless to say that almost automatically the pain I felt in my lymph nodes, the day before, suddenly took on greater urgency. What was yesterday clearly a symptom of seasonal allergies took on a more ominous dimension.

I woke my wife up and said “good morning jaan, you will never guess the text I got this morning.”

After discussing it, we decided that I would call our GP and get his guidance on how I should proceed.

My GP’s office manager said I should self-isolate and wait for him to call me after 7pm that evening. I had no intention of trying to get tested for Covid-19 because I knew there was a shortage of tests, and people who are visibly sick with far more severe symptoms need them.

As the day progressed I started to feel soreness all over my body and also began to feel feverish. The power of suggestion with the passage of time is quite remarkable.

By the evening I was genuinely feeling like my energy levels had dropped, while the pain in my throat persisted. My doctor did not call that evening, so I went to bed reasonably sure that I did not have Covid-19 but not entirely convinced just yet.

In the morning, I re-read the text with a fresh set of eyes and noticed for the first time that the co-worker and his girlfriend had not in fact tested positive; they had just exhibited symptoms.

A few minutes later my doctor called.

I explained the situation to him, confessing that I might now be putting 1 and 3 together. He assured me that I had done the right thing and explained that unless I was also experiencing pain in the center of my chest, shortness of breath and running a fever of 101 degrees or more, it was unlikely I had Covid-19.

Further, he said that since I was also past the four to five day limit, when symptoms start to show-up, the odds were even lower. He added it was still worth keeping an eye on and to keep him posted if anything changes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 3: Social Distancing in a Time of Crisis.

Pandemic Log: Wednesday, 18th March 2020

Today, we took our dog into the vet to get her glands released (I will spare you the details) because if we did not, they are likely to get infected. Veterinarians, like most hospitals and Emergency Rooms, have also cancelled all routine visits and procedures and are only treating emergency needs.

As we walked into what is normally a warm and inviting atmosphere, we were greeted with a sign on the front counter. It was a very strange feeling to come face to face these words, even though I have been hearing and getting acquainted with the term ‘social distancing’ for a few days now.

What makes this notion hard to enact and come to grips with, is that fact that it is asks us to do the exact opposite of what we, as humans, do to deal with any crisis.

The day after 9/11, a good friend and I made our way down to within a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, and we spent the entire day doing water runs for fire, police and other emergency service women and men, who were working to find survivors and remove bodies.

We ran up and down those streets all day long, collecting and passing out bottles of water donated by big companies, small businesses, delis and ordinary people. There were many others like us who volunteered because they needed and wanted to do something to help their city in this dark hour.

The streets were lined with people of all stripes; standing arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder - cheering every service woman and man coming out of Ground Zero. I cannot count the number of hands I shook or strangers who hugged me that day, or the number of pats we gave and received as a show of solidarity.

I remember thinking - I have no doubt our city will not only survive this reprehensible attack but we will come back stronger than before. We will show the world that a cowardly group of men can never break our will, our spirit, our unity and our sense of shared humanity.

In times of hardship, grief, panic and fear we find respite and calm through comforting each other physically. Couples hold hands, friends hug, grandparent’s stroke heads and we all squeeze our little one tightly to our bosoms’ to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.

We are being told that we must not submit to our most innate human instinct, to reach out our hand to someone in need, because doing so would be nothing short of catastrophic. Succumbing to touch will only serve to prolong this pandemic and worse yet, spread the virus and kill many more people.

More than words, it is these acts of physical assurance that let people know that we are there for them, and that we will stand by and support them us no matter how bad things get.

During this crisis we cannot. We will need to find new ways to comfort each other and navigate it.

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID SIDE OF LIFE. Day 1: Job Today. Gone Tomorrow.

Pandemic Log: Monday, 16th March 2020

On Friday the 13th I was a contract employee at a global agency, finishing up a new business pitch. We had just been informed that everyone was being asked to work from home, starting that day.

That evening before I left the office I was told that I was being put on a new project. It was to start the following week. I ventured into the weekend grateful that my gig was being extended and that I would have a paycheque a while longer, during this uncertain and turbulent period.

Cut to Monday morning, I emailed my boss to discuss the new project and asked about my new contract. He suggested I speak with the HR head as they were responsible for sending my contract.

I contacted HR and they told me they would need to get final sign-off from the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and would then get the renewed contract back to me.

All good.

About twenty minutes later I got an email from the head of HR saying the CFO said that because numerous clients had cancelled or postponed ongoing projects, the company was suddenly stuck with excess staff capacity and would be unable to take on an external resource.

Not good.

The world was still pretty calm when I left the office on Friday evening.

Yes, people were preparing to work from home and getting used to a strange new normal, but as the weekend progressed things got dire.

The number of cases in New York State continued to rise. Panic started to set in among state and city  officials, as the Federal government woke up to the fact that they needed to deal with this crisis on a war footing. It could not be business as unusual.

The stock market crashed; again.

Oil prices plummeted; again.

States started mandating that all restaurants, cafes and bars close.

Gatherings of 500 people or less, allowed on Friday, became no more than 10 by Monday.

Primary elections in a number of states were postponed.

Lines at grocery stores continued to grow; even as their shelves continued to empty.

I had a gig on Friday. Everything changed the following Monday.