Monday, May 04, 2020

Covid-19 Journal - Week 8 Begins

Well, another week is in the books. Good, bad, or indifferent, at least we have another one behind us. Whether or not that really means we are any closer to the end of this pandemic-induced shutdown is something that I doubt anyone really knows. In fact, I've read conflicting news articles all morning - often from the same source - and I'm more confused than ever. 

This would be terrible enough if we were only dealing with a virus that has the potential to kill millions of us and change our daily lives far into the future - if not forever. But it's not that simple. Instead, we also have to survive the meddling of those, be they cheap politicians or be they cheap businessmen, who are more interested in personal gain than they are in solving the devastating problems the world faces right now. I am fast losing faith in the world leaders tasked with getting us through this truly historical moment in our lives. Most of them, I suspect, will be harshly judged by future historians. 

On a personal note, I'm still trying to deal with my father's hospitalization via telephone and email. It's impossible to judge his recovery progress this way, of course, as all I can do is rely on the professionals I speak with every day. One way or another, I have to place him in a new care facility within the next eight or nine days. The clock is ticking, virus or no virus.

Virus Stats from Johns Hopkins:

In the last week,

Worldwide cases increased from 2,995,456 to 3,534,367,
United States cases from 968,203 to 1,161,804, and
Texas cases went from 24,968 with 651 deaths to 31,998 with 878 deaths.  (So Texas appears to have just had its worst week since this all started, and today is the day that our governor has set to start opening things up again. I hope that I'm not reporting a huge increase in Texas infections and deaths two or three weeks from now.)


Our early summer weather has a tight grip on the area. We are reaching temperatures in the high eighties every day, occasionally pushing past ninety, with very little rain in the forecast as a change of pace. The walkers, even the children playing in the neighborhood streets, seem to have almost disappeared in the last week or so. We are down now to that core group of regular walkers and bike riders I was used to seeing before the stay-at-home orders were issued. I find this a bit curious, but maybe it's because some people are going back to work now instead of working from home. 

Reading/Watching/Listening to:

I'm about 90 pages into I, John Kennedy Toole now and I'm still not sure what to think of it. The book is supposed to be published tomorrow, so I haven't seen any reviews of it yet and don't know how others are reacting to it. It's a novel written in third person about the author of A Confederacy of Dunces, a man who killed himself before that Pulitzer Prize novel was ever published. It reads more like a biography than a novel, at least so far, and I'm afraid it will fall somewhere between untrustworthy biography and poorly presented novel. I suppose I'm disappointed because I was expecting so much from this one.

I'm about halfway through the audiobook version of My Sister, the Serial Killer and I'm still not entirely sure where this one is headed. I am, though, impressed that it's a lot more than the "serial killer thriller" that its title implies. Instead, it's as much about sibling rivalry as anything else. One sister is tall and ordinary looking, the other (the killer) is short and so beautiful that men can't keep themselves from staring at her. How long will the less attractive sister be willing to help her sister hide the bodies - especially when it appears that her doctor/employer might be her beautiful sister's next victim?

Despite already having a high stack of books on hand for reading and reviewing (and being way behind), I added two new ones at the end of last week. One of them is Run with the Wind, the second novel from 84-year-old Jim Cole, a fellow Texan I "accidentally" met in a Kroger store a few months ago. The oddity of that meeting is that Jim lives down in Victoria, about 150 miles from the store, and I live about 6 miles from it and seldom shop there. I enjoyed his first book, Never Cry Again, and I'm looking forward to this new  one - even though it will probably be sometime in June before I can get to it. 

I also added In West Mills to my stack because the library unexpectedly made it available to me as an e-book. Just yesterday, they were predicting that I would have it in approximately 4 weeks, so this one catches me by surprise. I haven't downloaded it yet, but I can only postpone the download for three days or I will lose it. This is the first real crack in my May reading schedule - that sure didn't take long. I've heard great things about this 2019 novel, so I don't want to squander the opportunity to read it now despite of the weird timing.

Netflix provided us with some good stuff last week, especially two of its own productions, a film called Marriage Story and a limited series titled Waco. The two are very different, but both of them pack strong emotional punches. Marriage Story is about the end of an almost decade-long marriage that neither party (especially the husband) really wants to see end. But circumstances dictate otherwise, so the two agree that if their marriage is to end it will be as amicable an experience for them and their young son as possible. And then the wife gets a lawyer. And then the husband gets a lawyer. And then it's no longer in their hands. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, and Adam Alda. It's brilliantly done. 

Waco is a six-part miniseries about Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and his followers who died in that tragic fire near Waco back in 1993 during an FBI siege of their Mount Carmel compound. 78 of the faithful still in the compound, along with Koresh, died in the devastating fire although a few did escape the flames. Almost 30 of the victims were children, and more than a dozen of those were fathered by Koresh. The series is based on two books about the event, one written by a Koresh follower who jumped through a closed window to escape the flames, and the other written by an FBI hostage negotiator who worked so hard for two months to get Koresh to surrender everyone to authorities. From what I can tell, it's historically accurate to the event.

Listening To:

I've been listening to the pioneers of bluegrass music this week, those first generation artists who helped create a brand new genre of music that is still alive and well some seventy or eighty years later (depending on where you start counting). Hazel and Alice were two of those people, working class feminists who took on the bluegrass establishment by joining together to make their own music. Theirs was one of the very first bluegrass band to be led by women instead of men. Their voices blended beautifully together, and what they left behind is simply wonderful. 

In the Kitchen:

No improvements on the grocery or shopping front, I'm afraid. In fact, parts of the state are now seeing limits on the amount of beef or chicken that shoppers can purchase on any one trip to the grocery. Meat packing plants in other parts of the country are faced with high numbers of covid-19-infected workers, and that's starting to have an impact even on a beef-producing state like Texas. I haven't personally run into that yet, but my brother in Austin tells me that his grocery store limits a customer to two packages of beef or chicken, no matter the cut. 

The Outside World:

Texas is officially open. Well, it's open if businesses can figure out how to keep everyone "socially distanced" and limit customers to 25% of their pre-virus capacity. That sounds difficult, but I'm not expecting a real rush of customers to test that capacity limit right away anyhow, so maybe it's doable. Personally, I'm going to give this gradual opening thing at least a couple of weeks to see what kind of spike in virus infections comes of it before I venture out. I'm of the opinion that it's too early to do this, so I'll leave it to all the volunteers to get out there and see what happens to them and, ultimately, to our hospitals. 


  1. Utah is loosening some restrictions and cautiously opening up a few more businesses and state parks this week. (Except for the libraries where I live!) But I'm like you, I'm not ready to venture out quite yet. I'll be holding my breath for the next two weeks hoping our numbers don't spike up suddenly, forcing them to shut everything down again. I'm not sure people are going to be as careful as they need to be as things start to go back to "normal". Because life isn't normal right now, and won't be for some time. Not with this virus. Fingers crossed things don't get worse before they get better. Good luck and stay safe in Texas!

    1. I'm nervous about all of this reopening, too, Lark. If what happened on Texas beaches this past weekend is any indication, people are just going to rush back out there and pretend that none of this ever happened. That's a prescription for disaster and a quick spike in cases and in deaths. People are just too reckless - and stupid - these days to do it right.

  2. Nice to read your update, Sam. Best of luck with finding somewhere for your dad to live, feel for you with such a limited amount of time and trying to do it over the phone.

    We're still in lockdown here but there are rumours of a loosening of restrictions in a few weeks. We'll hear on Sunday apparently. Personally, I'm not going anywhere (apart from food shopping) until I know it's safe and polls are suggesting that a lot of people feel the same way.

    1. Funny you should mention polls, Cath. I just saw one saying that 80% of people say they won't be going to theaters any time soon, 70% say the same about public gyms, and 60% about restaurants. I'm going to take it very, very slow myself.

      Getting closer on a place for Dad to move into next week...but the cost is shocking.