The Pandemic Diary: April 6

Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.

Follow this Category for all entires.

 

April 6: A lot of readers of this diary have told me that my words here are helpful to them. That my putting what many of them are feeling down in writing is therapeutic.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to help some people cope in all of this, but I don’t think today I’ll be making anyone feel better about anything. Indeed, today I’m in a pretty dark place and there seems to be no light to be found at all. And I felt that way even before I heard that the most significant baseball figure of my youth died today.

 

We passed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19. Or maybe we did days or even a couple of weeks ago? In yesterday’s entry I speculated the numbers of COVID-19 deaths will greatly exceed the official numbers reported, primarily because of political or economic incentives to downplay the totals. There are simple practical barriers to counting them too, and like clockwork this came across the feed this morning:

New York City will be burying their many dead in temporary mass graves in public parks, ten to a row. One outlet reported that Riker’s Island inmates will be offered $6/hour to dig the graves. “It will be done in a dignified, orderly–and temporary–manner,” says the New York City councilman who announced the plan. Nothing says “orderly and dignified” like mass burials of plague dead by sub-minimum wage-earning prisoners. UPDATE: The councilman who said this has apparently backed off the claim. It happens. I leave it here just to let you know what was coloring my mood as I wrote all of this yesterday.

Meanwhile, states’ efforts to get protective equipment for medical professionals has hit a snag: the “free market.” The governor of Illinois calmly explained tonight that the Trump administration is importing tons of masks and face shields and things from China but, rather than distribute them to where they are needed, they are giving them to private companies who are then having states bid against one another for the equipment. This is a country that, in my parents’ lifetime, performed an unprecedented, massive airlift that saved West Berlin from the Soviet Union. We’re now unable to airlift medical supplies to our own states in the middle of a medical crisis without ensuring that there is ample opportunity for profiteering from rent-seeking corporate middlemen.

One would hope that business interests could be set aside in all of this, but given that our nation’s foremost experts in infectious diseases are being angrily shouted down by fringe conservative economists who insist they know more than the experts about what medical treatment is best as a pandemic rages, I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon.

Let’s look locally, shall we? At least my home state of Ohio has been something of an island of sanity in all of this. Oh, wait: gun sales surged in Ohio in March. In part because, “[a]lthough Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued a stay-at-home order, effectively closing all non-essential businesses in the state, the order considers firearm and ammunition suppliers to be essential.” I’ve had a lot of nice things to say about Governor DeWine, but there is no basis for that other than political ideology, so we know if and when push truly comes to shove whose interests will be served first, even in Ohio.

Anything better overseas?

 

On March 3 Johnson, in an effort to downplay the seriousness of the measures required to combat the pandemic, said “I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know. And I continue to shake hands.”

I take no pleasure in seeing anyone suffer, but I take even less pleasure in seeing that Johnson’s foolish stance last month continues to be asserted by a large number of political and religious leaders here at present. Everyone wants to be Churchill. Everyone wants to pretend that if they keep calm, carry on, and act defiantly, that they’ll prevail or, more likely, benefit politically. Our leaders do not seem to appreciate that a virus is not impressed with your composure and that the only thing one can do in the face of a pandemic is to take sensible precautions. I guess sensible precautions aren’t assertive and manly enough. I guess it’s worth thousands more dying if it means those in power can get a good quip or photo op inserted into the news cycle of them appearing undaunted and resolute.    

Not that all leaders are choosing style over substance. Things are going far better in Germany than they here or in the UK. Why? Because . . .

“Beyond mass testing and the preparedness of the health care system, many also see Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership as one reason the fatality rate has been kept low. Ms. Merkel, a trained scientist, has communicated clearly, calmly and regularly throughout the crisis, as she imposed ever-stricter social distancing measures on the country. The restrictions, which have been crucial to slowing the spread of the pandemic, met with little political opposition and are broadly followed. The chancellor’s approval ratings have soared. ‘Maybe our biggest strength in Germany,’ said Professor Kräusslich, ‘is the rational decision-making at the highest level of government combined with the trust the government enjoys in the population.'”

It’d almost be better if I didn’t know that. It’d almost be better if it were not so clear that we’re choosing so much of what we’re doing to ourselves because we have chosen to put the worst people in charge and have chosen to follow them into Hell.

 

I tried to unplug and relax in the evening but it didn’t really take.

Anna works for a music school that has gone to online lessons and learning. Her job is to supervise small children as they do various music and musical theory-related exercises on computers, answering whatever questions they have. That translates pretty well to online work, so she can do it on her laptop from her bedroom. She worked a shift this evening, so I just brought her dinner to her upstairs. Since she was allowed to eat in her room I let her brother eat in his room too. Allison was at the barn, so I ended up having a bowl of soup by myself in the kitchen. Without anyone else around there was nothing to distract me from stewing on all the negative news of the day. I probably should’ve just turned on the TV and turned off my brain instead.

One of my cats is kind of a mess. She needs meds to keep from having seizures. She also needs special food because either the seizure meds or her just generally being difficult made her stop eating what she and the other cats have been eating for years. Before all of that she had issues with throwing up and dropping weight, and since one of her sisters died from a disease that caused that dynamic last year, I am always watching her closely and I get kind of stressed out when she doesn’t eat. Like anything else you just roll with it, so each evening consists of me getting her special food out, making sure she, and not the other cats, eat it, and then remembering to give her her anti-seizure pill. Most days it’s fine and it’s become a pretty automatic routine. Tonight she ate, I gave her her pill, and about a half hour later she barfed it all up.

The weather was nice today. At least there was that. Some days that’s all there is.

 

A reader sent me this song overnight. I first heard it around the time Carleen and I were splitting up. I spent most of that year feeling like I was helplessly watching the world happen so this song, which puts me in mind of someone remembering their whole life as it flashes before their eyes, helpless to do anything about it other than remember, stuck with me at the time. It also reminds me a lot of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” at least structurally speaking. Dylan wrote that during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he thought the bombs were going to start dropping. He wanted to think of every big, life-defining, world-ending vision he could and get it all down before he couldn’t any longer.

Feelin’ ya today, Sam. Feelin’ ya today, Bob.

 

Featured Photo: Taro Taylor, Wikimedia Commons

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the national baseball writer for NBCSports.com. He writes about things other than sports at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.