Category Archives: Coronavirus

Five Months into the Pandemic

Here we are, five months into a pandemic that is ripping this country to shreds. It feels as though the Trump Administration is following advice from a book called 101 Bad Ways to Deal with a Pandemic.  Seems as though they’ve pretty much worked through the list.  Deny science. Check. Inadequate testing. Check. Encourage people to not wear a mask. Check, check, check.

Nevertheless, despite the disastrous leadership, Clif and I, like many others, have adapted. We’ve figured out how to order most everything we need online. (Thank  you, Instacart.) We’ve only gone to a store once since March, and when I hear tales about how too many people have decided that masks are for sissies, I’m not eager to go back.

In truth, I really enjoy having my groceries and other goods delivered, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to in-store shopping. We shall see.

Because of our age and our health issues, Clif and I haven’t strayed too far from home. Every few weeks, he takes rubbish to the Transfer Station. I’ve delivered cards to a friend. We’ve talked about having people over for a socially-distanced cocktail hour on the patio, but we haven’t done it yet, and I’m not sure if we ever will.

Because as it turns out, Clif and I are doing just fine at home by ourselves. We each have our various projects, and we are busy and engaged every single day. We are two introverted elders who think home is best, and this makes it much easier for us to self-isolate. And, we have each other. I really do feel for those who are alone and for extroverts whose joy comes from being around other people.

We are also lucky to have technology. While I know it has its dark side, for us technology has made staying at home not only bearable but also fulfilling and creative.

Because of technology, every day I start out the morning traveling around the world as I check out what my blogging friends are doing. I go to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and to many places in the United States. Always, I am inspired and moved by what these wonderful friends write.

Clif and I belong to a virtual film club sponsored by our library, and every other week we get together to talk about a movie.  What great discussions we have.

Our library also sponsors a virtual trivia night and book group. Clif and I are terrible at trivia, and last week we came in last. No matter. We still had fun. And book group is just as thought provoking as film club.

Once a month, I Zoom with friends from a media group I used to belong to.

Once a week, we Zoom with “the kids.”

Streaming services provide us with plenty of good entertainment—movies, docs, and television series.

NPR offers so many excellent Tiny Desk Concerts that I could listen for quite a while and not hear a repeat.

Naturally, if I were granted a magic wish, I would use it to dispel Covid-19, which has torn lives and economies apart.  I might be a homebody, but I would rather not have to be compelled to stay home because of a killer virus.

Plus I miss my kids like crazy.

But I don’t have this power so all I can do is adjust to the situation.

I hope you all are adjusting, too.

 

Taking Stock: Over 100,000 Deaths

As the grim title of this post indicates, covid-19 has killed over 100,000 people in the United States. The sorrowful weight of it presses down on me, and my heart is heavy. And rightly so. With no vaccine available and places opening all around the United States, it is likely the death toll will continue to rise. How far? To 200,000? To 500,00? Who knows?

Whatever the case, a staggering number of people have died of it in a short time.

Eliza Mackintosh, of CNN, puts it in perspective:

In less than four months, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans — more than in Vietnam, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan combined.

It is a story of lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, spouses and even children. An even bigger tragedy: They didn’t all have to die.

Stephen Collinson, also of CNN, expands on this:

A Columbia University study released last week found that had the US started social distancing a week earlier, it could have prevented the loss of at least 36,000 lives.

In the New York metro area alone, 17,500 fewer people would have died if the US had acted one week earlier, Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said.

Shameful. Yet recently on Facebook, a friend of a friend commented: “The cure cannot be worse than the disease… We must resume to live.”

I wrote back: “The cure is worse than death? For the 100,000 people who have died of covid-19 in this country? For the many, many more who will surely die as standards are relaxed?”

An argument ensued, and nobody’s mind was changed.

All the while, our president has put the coronovirus in his rear-view mirror, as though the virus is a pesky driver that can be passed and left behind. Onward to the 2020 election, which appears to be what is chiefly on the president’s mind. Suffering and death? Not so much.

There have been glimmers of hope. Not every country has behaved as stupidly as ours has. As the writer Umair Haque writes, “New Zealand… didn’t just flatten the curve. It ‘crunched’ it, as epidemiologists say. Do you know how many people died of the virus in New Zealand? Just 21. Twenty one….That’s a stunning accomplishment….Sure, New Zealand’s a small country. But being a big country doesn’t give you a license to just watch helplessly as thousands die. That’s just a rationalization for negligence.”

Can the U.S. learn from New Zealand and its admirable prime minister, Jacinda Ardern? Again, who knows?

Despite my heavy heart, I live in hope.

Soon

Today is May 4. Can I resist a Star Wars joke? No, I cannot. May the fourth be with you. After all, in these decidedly unfunny times,  a little humor helps leaven the grimness.

In Maine as well as in other states, governors are gradually reopening their economies—for businesses such as hair salons, barbershops, and pet grooming places. I get it. I really do. Unemployment in this state, in this country, has risen at an alarming rate. People are afraid that they won’t be able to pay their rent or buy food. Business owners are afraid that their doors will be closed for good.

These are real fears. But it would be a gross understatement to note that our government is ill equipped to help everyday people get through this crisis. For the past forty years, we have bought the line that government is not the solution; instead it is the problem. Now we are reaping the results of that philosophy.

In Maine, the virus has seemingly slowed down in terms of new cases and deaths. But the virus is still here, and infection has not reached the standard level of decline—fourteen days—that most experts recommend before opening the economy. As soon as people start gathering and going out in greater numbers, the virus will strike in force. I am worried that we are in for an even rougher time this spring and summer than what we have already had.

On Saturday, we spoke to our New York City daughter, and as we talked, there was a steady wail of sirens in the background. When we asked Dee about it, she said that there were more ambulances than ever rushing through the streets where she lives. I understand this is true everywhere in New York City. With so many people sick and dying, sirens are the primary sound of urban life in this time of the coronavirus. A chilling sound.

But despite the coronavirus, it is spring in Maine, and that means leaves must be removed from the various flower beds. It’s a relief to head outside and work in the yard, to take away the leaves and see what’s coming up.

I’ve made good progress. Since I took the picture below, another bed has been cleared. Weather permitting, I’ll have everything cleared by the end of the week. Then it will be time for moving plants around, a chore I really do enjoy.

Here are a couple of pictures before all the leaves are cleared. Looks like fall, doesn’t it?

Nothing in bloom yet, but the first flowers are in bud.

Soon.

I’m Dreaming of a White Easter

Yesterday, Mother Nature brought us a nasty little April surprise: A sizable snowstorm with wet, heavy snow. In central Maine, we got about a foot. The farther north, the higher the snowfall, with foot and a half in some areas.

That much wet, heavy snow can mean only one thing: Power outages. According to Maine Public Radio, 250,000 homes are without power, no small number in a state with a total population of just over a million.  Exactly what we need in this time of the coronavirus.

However, by some miracle, courtesy of the weather gods, we still have our power. We were ready with pots of water on the stove and a well-heated house. (Normally, we keep the temperature a little on the cool side. But it’s best to start out from a warm place if the power goes out.)

The pots of water remain on the stove. The forecast is for high winds this afternoon, which means we might still lose our power.

In the meantime, as I write this, Clif is out there with Little Green, cleaning the driveway yet again. We sure do hope this is the last time until next winter.

Onward and upward!

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine Public Radio

Around the state extraordinary efforts are underway to help care for people during the pandemic. One example is in Lewiston where high school students with the Regional Technical Center’s culinary arts program are making and distributing 400 meals a day to those who either can’t get around or who don’t feel safe going out in public. It’s a student-led initiative that’s being supported by donations of all kinds.

It took root in their tip jar. The 60 students in the culinary arts program regularly serve up lunches and sell to-go dinners in the Green Ladle restaurant during the week. They’d saved up $1300 in tips for an annual school trip to Portland for a fancy meal, but when classes were suspended a few weeks ago, their instructor, Chef Dan Caron, says a student came to him with a question.

“’How many community members could we feed with that $1300?’ And at the time it was 500 people. Within seconds we were communicating through text messaging. They all said, ‘Let’s do this chef! Let’s do this, chef!’ and they donated their tips.”

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 586  (Monday’s numbers: 499)

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19:  17   (Monday’s numbers: 10)

The News from All Over

From Dr. Sanjay Gupta

New York state now has more cases than any country in the world except the United States, but there is a glimmer of hope: the number of people hospitalized in the state is going down as deaths have gone up. The nation’s top coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says it’s a sign social distancing is working.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,612,646    (Monday’s Numbers: 1,280,046)

Global Deaths96,787       (Monday’s Numbers: 69,789)

My Own Take: A tiny sliver of hope for New York, but very small indeed. In Maine, at least, we are holding steady. Perhaps because of all the social distancing? Or the calm before the storm?

Something Approaching Normal

Slowly, slowly, my schedule is returning to something approaching normal.  I have resumed posting three times a week and am working on Book Four of the Great Library Series. (No title yet. It might be Library Regained. It might be something else. It all depends on how many Maya books I write.)

It helps that spring has come to our home in the woods. Yesterday, Clif and I put on our jackets and had tea on the patio. The temperature was 50°, but it felt fine to be sitting there.

Sherlock joined us. That chair was set out especially for him. Unfortunately, it seems that felines can contract covid-19. Even though we live in the woods, we do have neighbors, and we might have to keep the cats in this summer. Blogging friends, any thoughts about this?

On a happier note, there are lots of green shoots in the garden.

And I  was able to get a picture of this handsome goldfinch, whose feathers are returning to summer yellow.

But sadness is never very far away. As we sat and had tea, I thought of our daughter in Brooklyn who is confined to a small apartment that is somewhere between 500 to 600 square feet. Dee hasn’t been outside for two weeks or so. She doesn’t complain—that is not her way—but when I asked her how she was doing, Dee did mention that she wished she had a small yard so that she could go out on nice days.

What I wish is that Dee were right here with us, and then she could join us on the patio and watch the fluttering beauties that come to our yard.

Alas, the time for that has passed, and Dee will have to hunker down in her small apartment until the worst is over.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From my very own town of Winthrop

Charlie Gove, 90, continues to volunteer at the Food Pantry.  For over 14 years, I volunteered with this fine man. If you click on the link, it will take you to the Facebook page with the article. If you click on the article, it will enlarge, and you will be able to read the piece.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 499

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 10

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

This piece by Christian Controneo about greenhouse gases surely falls under the category of it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

We’re poised to see carbon dioxide emissions plummet to levels last experienced around World War II. That’s according to the Global Carbon Project, a network of emissions experts, earth scientists and economists, that tracks greenhouse gasses and advises policymakers on the issue.

From Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Another bit of good news.

As the US heads towards the peak, Europe’s numbers offer some hope. Fatalities and infections seem to be slowing in Italy, Spain and France, among the hardest-hit countries on the continent — and in the world.

And wise words from Queen Elizabeth

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,280,046

Global Deaths69,789

My own take: Queen Elizabeth knows a thing or two about how a country can suffer. I am specifically thinking about World War II and her own exemplary service, in which she should take a great deal of pride.

Inspired by Jackie

A day or two ago, my blogging friend Derrick posted a picture of the beautiful pie that his wife Jackie had baked. This, in turn, inspired me to make one of our favorite desserts, cinnamon pie knots.

It felt oh so good to doing something vaguely normal in these not very normal times.

It’s funny. Clif and I are extreme homebodies. Most of our time is spent in our own house working on our various projects. At night, we watch shows on a streaming network and then read before going to sleep. We are the opposite of gadabouts. And yet we feel the strain of sheltering in place as keenly as those who are used to going out on a regular basis. Part of it is because we have a daughter in New York City, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. And, yes, we worry about her. But so far, so good. We also worry about our North Carolina children. So far, so good for them as well.

But we also wonder what the future will hold. How long will it be like this? Right now, we are ordering food online to supplement our stockpile. When will we feel safe about the once simple act of going to the grocery store? Will we have to stay secluded until a vaccine is developed? For a year? For eighteen months?

We have a book—Out of Time—that will be published this fall. We already know that because we can’t go to various shows, this will not be a good year for selling books. We’ve accepted this, and we regularly give thanks that between social security and a pension, we have enough to keep the household running. But when will we be able to get out and sell books? Who knows?

Finally, we watch the news and see the suffering of various folks, those who don’t have jobs anymore; the brave workers who must continue to go out into the world, thus increasing their own chance of getting sick; those whose loved ones have died.

Our hearts go out to them. We feel the pain of not only those in this country but also around the world.

As I wrote in a previous post, there is no them. Only us.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine Public

Way up in northern Maine—land of my ancestors!—a good Samaritan, Hannah Lucas has come up with a unique way to deliver groceries to elderly folks who should be staying put. That is, by dog sled. Mush, noble dogs, mush!

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 432   (Monday’s numbers: 275.)

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 9   (Monday’s numbers: 0)

The News from All Over

From Wired Magazine

(Thanks to Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal for sharing this piece on her blog and bringing it to my attention.)

Laurie Penny’s humorous but sharp look at the coronavirus apocalypse:

I was not expecting to be facing this sort of thing in snuggly socks and a dressing gown, thousands of miles from home, trying not to panic and craving a proper cup of tea. This apocalypse is less Danny Boyle and more Douglas Adams.

From the New York Times

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,026,974   (Monday’s numbers: 732,153)

Global Deaths53,975  (Monday’s numbers: 34,686)

My own take: It seems my hopes of the coronavirus being contained in Maine were merely wishful thinking.

“Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure”

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but then on Facebook a friend shared this piece—Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure—written by Aisha S. Ahmed in The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Ahmed outlines how to deal with living in times of crises, in particular during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The piece is full of terrific advice for everyone, not just academics. If, like Clif and me, you have been spinning your wheels and have been feeling too much emotional turmoil to accomplish much of anything, then this piece is for you.

Ahmed writes “I have worked and lived under conditions of war, violent conflict, poverty, and disaster in many places around the world. I have experienced food shortages and disease outbreaks, as well as long periods of social isolation, restricted movement, and confinement.”

She advises us all to pace ourselves and to not expect life to return to normal anytime soon. “Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning, you will vomit on your shoes by the end of the month. Emotionally prepare for this crisis to continue for 12 to 18 months, followed by a slow recovery. If it ends sooner, be pleasantly surprised. Right now, work toward establishing your serenity, productivity, and wellness under sustained disaster conditions.”

Take care of yourselves, blogging friends, and allow yourself to feel distraught and disoriented. As Ahmed noted, you will recover, but you need to give yourself time to adapt to the new normal.

 

 

 

 

There Is No Them, Only Us

I am a fifth-generation Mainer on my mother’s side, descended from French Canadians who came to Maine in the mid-1800s. Many of them had dark hair and olive complexions. They were all Catholic and spoke French. (My own mother did not speak English until she was six.) My ancestors were part of a larger French-Canadian migration that spread out through New England as well as to other parts of the country.

I would like to be able to report that these hard-working French Canadians were eagerly welcomed to Maine, but I cannot. Our story is a sad familiar story of prejudice and discrimination. In 1889, according to the British-American Citizen (Boston), we were  considered to be “a distinct alien race.”

This xenophobic attitude continued to trickle down even to the 1960s. As a small child, I was keenly aware of an “us vs. them” attitude in Maine, with we Franco-Americans being “them,” and the Yankee population being “us.” It was understood that “them” did not really belong in Maine, while “us” somehow had a magical right to be here.

Merriam-Webster defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Because of my experience, I have an intense aversion to anything that smacks of xenophobia.

For example, this incident on Vinalhaven, an island off the Maine coast, where according to the Kennebec Journal,

an armed group of residents cut down a tree to block access to a road to keep three people from leaving their home on Cripple Creek Road.

Deputies investigated and learned there was a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents were supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19.

Deputies learned that the trio had been residing on Vinalhaven for about 30 days, which is outside of the guidance issued by state officials, and none have any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

Uh-huh.

And then on Facebook, an acquaintance shared this gem: “STAY HOME…Do Not Come to Maine. It’s just Not Fair. Go back where you came from and kill your Own People!”

As it happens, three of my “own people” live out of state.

While I completely agree that folks should hunker down and stay in place, I so object to the wording of the above sentiment. I made this clear to the person who shared it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case on Facebook, that person was unrepentant.

As the coronavirus rips around the world, hitting country after country, the high and mighty and the low, it is clear to me there is no them.

Only us.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 275

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 3

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

Does it seem like time has slowed to a crawl since you’ve been holed up in your apartment, riding out this pandemic? Well, time marches on all right — to the same beat it’s always kept. But these days, your brain may be processing time a little differently. In fact, according to David Eagleman, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, your brain tends to slow things down when you’re under extreme stress.

From CNN

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” President Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested last week that a win was near, announced yesterday that nationwide social distancing measures would be extended for another month, days after floating the possibility of getting Americans back to work as early as Easter (which is when deaths are currently projected to peak).

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 732,153

Global Deaths: 34,686

My take: I’ve already written enough.

Snow-Gauge Clif: Nearly Done for the Year

As you can see from the pictures, Snow-Gauge Clif’s job is nearly done for the year.

There is still a bit of snow on the ground, a holdover from the last little storm we had. Will we get more snow in April? Maybe, maybe not. This is Maine, and when it comes to the weather, anything can happen.

But we are definitely sliding toward spring.  Bird song swirls around our home in the woods, and when I go outside, it makes me smile to hear it.  No silent spring, thank goodness.

Our neighbor next door left eggs on our steps, and those eggs were very welcome as our supply is dwindling fast. She left a sweet, concerned note taped to the carton, telling me she had wiped the outside with Lysol and to let her know if we needed anything.

So very nice to get a note like that. Especially as Clif and I are now considered elderly by the CDC. (Us? Elderly? How could that be?)

Coronavirus News from Maine

From the Portland Press Herald

A Cumberland County man in his 80s was the first person in Maine to die from the coronavirus.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 168

The News from All Over

From CNN

The United States is now the epicenter of a shifting global pandemic. With more than 82,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, it has surpassed China, Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit countries to date.

So how did America get here? A series of missteps, and missed opportunities: a failure to take the virus seriously even as it brought China to its knees, a fumbled federal government response to testing that left the US in the dark about the magnitude of the outbreak, and a desperate shortage of masks, personal protective equipment and ventilators that has put both medical workers and patients at risk.

And in a stunning development, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today he had tested positive [for Covid-19.]

From NBC

The House on Friday passed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it quickly.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 549,604

Global Deaths: 24,863

My Take: No doubt the stimulus bill could have been bigger, better, and fairer. (When oh when are those at the top going to start taking responsibility and paying their fair share?) Nevertheless, many, many everyday people will be helped by this bill. For some, it could mean the difference between staying afloat and drowning. And that is no small thing.

 

 

Nature and Technology: The Reconciliation of Opposites

The late great Canadian author Robertson Davies once wrote that the Jungian definition of balance is the reconciliation of opposites. That has always stuck with me, and I am thinking about this a lot right now during this time of the coronavirus.

As someone who loves the natural world, I’ve done a fair amount of grumbling over the  years about technology, screens, and the Internet. From the time I was a teenager, a part of me has longed to live on a small farm with chickens, apple trees, and a big garden.

But I am married to a computer geek, and a small farm was not one of his wishes. Therefore, as it is with many marriages, we have compromised. We live on a rural road, surrounded by trees and nature and wildlife. But our house is kitted out with computers and all the technology that goes along with it. And I’ve got to admit that during this period of self-isolation, I have been ever so grateful for computers and technology as well as the woods outside my home.

Last weekend, in our very own living room, we “visited” with our North Carolina kids via our laptop, where we could talk and see their shining faces. We chatted for about two hours, and it was great.

Daily, I have been visiting with various blogging friends, and through posts and comments, I am connected with folks all around the world. How I value these connections.

At night, Clif and I watch something from one of our streaming services. Last night it was The King of Masks, recommended by our librarian Nick and available through Kanopy. This poignant film took us to China in the 1930s, where it examined poverty, gender roles, love, and generosity.

Yesterday afternoon, via the Internet, our library’s movie club—Cinemates—got together to discuss the 2002 film The Hours, a moving and heart-wrenching look at Virginia Woolf, mental illness, caretakers, and how a book can ripple through the ages to affect both readers and family. One member of our movie club noted how you can tell an awful lot about a person by the way they fill their hours.

Maybe, just maybe, going forward, our society can reconcile these two opposites—nature and technology—and twine them together in a way that in a way that honors nature while electronically connecting us to each other and the world.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 155

The News from All Over

From CNN

New York has become the national epicenter of the outbreak, as cases there are now doubling every three days, overwhelming hospitals. New York state’s hospitals have enough personal protection equipment for just two more weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said, while it’s in need of 180,000 more beds.

To help stave off a crippling recession, the Senate voted to inject a $2 trillion stimulus into the US economy, a move that now needs approval from the House. President Donald Trump has pledged to get the economy “raring to go by Easter,” a goal that experts warn is too ambitious.

A record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week…

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 487,648

Global Deaths: 22,030

My Own Take: Over this week, Maine’s coronavirus numbers have edged up ever so slowly. I am cautiously hopeful that with all the self-isolating and business closures, Maine will be able to stem the horrible  coronavirus tide. Only time will tell. Fingers and toes crossed.