Thursday, April 2, 2020

Covid Times

Some notes on how things are different now. I just want to get these down, so I remember, when - if- things go back to normal. In addition to all non-essential businesses being shuttered, and all schools closed for the rest of the school year:
  • The governor has decreed that no one shall ride in a vehicle with a person not in their immediate household
  • All large stores, like supermarkets and big box stores, have a sign at the front saying there shall be no more than 100 people in the store at one time. How we are supposed to know how many people are already in the store, I don't know.
  • At the grocery store, there are taped-off spaces leading up to the registers, to keep people spaced 6 feet apart. 
  • Everyone who can sew is making protective masks, to help prevent the spread of the virus
  • Through most of the panic buying is over, the toilet paper aisle is still pretty sparse, and you can't get hand sanitizer. 
  • All professional sports are cancelled. 
  • Beaches, public parks, playgrounds, and trails are closed. 
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.
  • We wash our hands many times a day, especially if we have been out of the house. We wear rubber gloves if we have to go out in public, then we wash with the gloves on before we take them off; then we wash out hands again. 
  • Weirdly, almost all spam phone calls have ceased. 
  • There are field hospitals in Central Park. There are 18-wheelers parked at New York Hospitals to take away the dead. 
I don't know how long we will be in the corona times. Governor Mill obviously thinks it will be at least until the end of this month, because her executive order extends that long. I don't know if things will ever go back to the way they were in the before times. I still remember the last conversation I had with students, at the end of the last class I taught - I had no idea it would be the last, no idea. 

The Days of Covid-19, 20

I went to somewhere other than the grocery store, for the first time in three weeks. I went to Lowes and bought supplies to do some small repairs around the house. Yesterday I began patching some cat-damaged walls; I'll finish those today. I already replaced a missing strike plate on a bedroom door. I have two broken light switches that I hope to get to today - with any luck I won't get electrocuted.

So, it took about three weeks for me to get past the weird zombie feeling of this confinement; three weeks to get my mind around the idea that normal life is not going to resume any time soon, and start planning what I want to use this time for.

I spend part of the day yesterday trying to help my mom figure out what she needs to do to receive the economic impact check included in the CARES act. At this time yesterday, the IRS was saying that people on Social Security or disability had to file a tax return - but they couldn't mail out a tax return, or accept a tax return with zero dollars of income electronically. This seemed crazy to me, not least because I only found out about it by accident - how are seniors supposed to navigate this, when they are not supposed to be leaving their homes? I verified that it was true with a friend who is a tax preparer, then set out finding someone who had a printer who could mail my mom a form.

All that turned out to be unnecessary, as, in response to a letter from 41 Democratic senators, treasury secretary Mnuchin changed that rule. (I have to wonder - why would anyone have put a rule like that in the first place? ) As of last night, Social Security recipients will automatically receive the CARES act money.

Oh, and: ¿Dónde está el baño? Necesito un taxi! Mi maleta esta en el hotel. I'm getting better every day!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Days of Covid, 18

Two things to report today: I got my OK from the state for unemployment. It's not much! It wouldn't be enough no matter how frugal I was if not for the CARES act boost it will get. I mean, I get why: in normal times you don't want people feeling as comfortable not working as they are working, because there are, presumable, jobs they could get if they try - but it's very easy to not get a job if you don't really want one.
Anyway it doesn't matter, because this isn't normal times.

I also re-started DuoLingo. About five years ago I got my first & only smartphone. I got it so I could take use a credit card reader at art fairs, but as we all know, they can do a great deal more than that. One of the apps I got was DuoLingo. I've been pecking away at learning Spanish for years, not, honestly, making much progress - I know a lot of words, I can repeat back phrases, but I could never have a conversation. DuoLingo was great but my cellphone isn't! Being an artist, I do not have a bunch of money lying around for stuff like that, so I got a $70 Android, which serves its intended purpose well, but only has room for a couple of apps. DuoLingo was not one that I absolutely needed, so I deleted it and forgot about it. I have re-discovered it, for laptop. I should have known they would have a website! Will it stick this time? It's hard to say.

In virus news:
More than 30,000 people are expected to die from coronavirus in the US next month alone.

Before this is over we all will have lost someone we care about. I fear for my mother, her cousin, and my godmother, all ladies in their 80s, all with underlying health conditions. They are self-isolating but nobody can isolate perfectly. I fear for my husband, as men are harder hit than women, and he's never been an attention-to-detail guy, so things like "Wash your hands frequently" and "Don't touch your face unless you just washed your hands" don't make much of an impression on him. He tries! I think he's got some ADHD going on. I don't really fear for me, or maybe I just don't think about it as much.

Days of Covid, 17: Some Days I'm All...

It alternates, though imperfectly. Some days I'm all in to do everything that needs doing: make pots, cook well, clean the studio! Pedal 10 miles before breakfast!

Yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday I did manage to do my grocery shopping, but after that was all put away (dipped everything in plastic into soapy water with a splash of bleach; wiped down everything else with same) I just plopped into a chair and stayed there. I wasn't tired, exactly, but I was exhausted. If that makes any sense.

Today is one of the former, thankfully. The latter are not good days.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Covid days 15: One thing and then another thing and then another thing

That is how I structure my days: just do a thing. Then do another thing. Then another. No task has any more urgency than any other, for the duration. In this way I prevent myself from becoming a twitter zombie, desperately scrolling for some new piece of information (or, some new piece that isn't just more awfulness) or something that will make it make sense.

Today I am cleaning & organizing my studio. I keep seeing friends who are not artists posting "Think of all the amazing art that will come out of this period!" Yeahno.

I can't speak for everyone, but let me stomp a mudhole in the idea that hard times create better art. Artists, like everyone else, work better when they are safe, secure, and well-fed. I'm sure there are exceptions, but no more than for any other profession. We don't think scientists make more valuable discoveries if they are poor. We don't think money managers see market conditions more clearly when they are hungry. Artists are no different.

Some of this thinking is because many of us have home studios, and since we can't go anywhere else, we are probably making lots of stuff. That's not entirely untrue, but A) You need materials to make art, and art supply houses are not considered essential businesses and more importantly B) It's hard to be creative when your world is threatened. A couple of artist friends told me that just today they finally felt the cloud of fear and stress lifting enough to begin to create again. Maybe due to the passage of time, but I suspect just as much due to the passage of the relief bill - and a relief it is (even with its flaws), because if the economy collapses, the last thing people are going to spend on is art.

Which brings me full circle. The best way to save the economy is to defeat the virus. The best way to defeat the virus is to stay the fuck home.

In other news, I just read that the CDC is going to be updating its guidelines to state that people should wear masks in public spaces, after previously saying that masks wouldn't help. That was never logical to me: if a danger is inhaling droplets from someone's cough, a mask helps. If a danger is touching your face after touching an infected surface, a mask helps! If not a mask, then a scarf over your face. This is me, ready to go to the grocery store:

Friday, March 27, 2020

Covid Days, 14

Yesterday the US for the first time had the highest number of reported cases on Covid-19 of any country in the world. It is highly likely, of course, that China is lying, but in a way so is the US: we have had so little testing relative to the size of our population that the virus could easily be 10x as widespread as positive results indicate. You can't have a positive result if you never get tested.

I want to believe that this will be over by, say, mid-May. (I can't trick even my most optimistic self into believing it could be earlier than that.) I so so want to believe that, and maybe it could be, if people could perfectly isolate; but A) People aren't perfectly isolating - some states they aren't isolating at all!  and B) even if everyone were willing, it isn't possible. Doctors and nurses, for the most obvious example, must continue to go to work. Lots of less obvious cases, too: my brother works for a firm that prints the forms that hospitals use to write prescriptions and order supplies. They have to keep on going to work, too.

Only half my fear comes from the virus itself; the other is the ineptitude of the response. The president seems to be using access to resources to respond to the pandemic as a way to punish states that didn't vote for him, or whose governors have been critical of him. Just yesterday he claimed they didn't actually need 30000 ventilators in New York, which is utterly absurd. What possible benefit would come of lying about it? News out of New York is bad; they are already triage-ing who gets a ventilator. And the president of the United States is playing vindictive games about it.

If we had a competent president, this would have been nipped in the bud back in January, when they could have selectively isolated anyone who came in contact with an infected person. Now that isn't possible - there are just too many people infected. Now we all have to isolate. All because trump wanted to hide the numbers, thinking they would hurt his re-election chances. If there is any justice in the world the numbers now will DOOM his re-election chances.

But anyway. I'm not really here to be political, or anymore than I can help. I am journaling to help me keep my sense of time, and to help me make sense, in my own mind, of this strange, surreal experience.

For most of my life I had a great faith in the institutional memory of the government of the United States. It was not even a matter of who, at any one moment, was in charge. There have been presidents I admired, presidents I agreed with, mostly, and others that I didn't, but I always believed that any president would utilize the machinery of government - the expertise, the resources - to protect the country in a crisis. That this is no longer true - that this president is blatantly using the crisis to punish people who have criticized him - is frankly terrifying. It's like we don't have a leader.

That is where my fear mostly comes from. I don't know if we can recover from this in my lifetime without leadership. Try to imagine ANY recent president: Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, on down, behaving like this. Ronald Reagan, whom I despised at the time, would have worked with all his might to minimize loss of life. Bush One, who I also didn't like, would have handled this like a statesman and Comforter-in-Chief. Until the trump presidency such childish vindictiveness from the White House was unimaginable.

I fear for my country. I fear for the people I love who are more medically vulnerable. I see no leadership coming to help us, and no way out of this.

Whoops, guess I got political again. Oh well.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Days of Covid, 13

I am starting to adjust, I think; I don't run out of steam at noon or one now. When I can't concentrate enough to make stuff, I clean. Here is a thing I hope I remember when the world starts turning again: even when I spend all day cleaning, the house is still not as clean as I have it in my head that it should be. No wonder I couldn't get there when I still had classes to teach.

My May order canceled - no surprise there. They can't buy pots they have no way to sell.

It's Thursday! A new episode of Star Trek: Picard tonight! Funny but that's a big deal, now, something I look forward to.