MID 2020 In COVID-19 Land, USA

 In my last posting I wrote of being coughed upon by a shopper in a local store; I developed no subsequent symptoms that could not be attributed to a rough allergy season. Lucky me!  😊

Some Countries, States and Counties are re-opening to less restrictive pandemic-related conditions. All associated news is fueled by either strongly approving or condemning opinion. Emotion rules selectively presented facts; contradictory critical details and insights are typically discarded without presentation.

It seems that large City dwellers want much delayed re-openings and those more scantily infected (and usually less populated) regions plead for (or take) the most rapid route to normality that’s possible.

A few, high-profile Bay Area (and San Francisco) companies are making moves toward fully remote on-line operations deep into 2020. Results from early re-openings and their own empirical findings will likely influence these intentions.

News Agencies continue to push the agenda of their owners, investors and financial partners; nothing new here since politicized graffiti was first regularly scratched on stone walls.

The endless stream of News hyperbole has numbed those who continue to watch and read.

It’s reasonable to hope that a viable vaccine may be developed before mid-2021; given the history of success in this area it is not at all inevitable and still cannot be assumed by those needing to carefully consider their personal plans.

Regardless, its best we all make our own personal determination of how we will in future follow COVID-19 health and social guidelines. Each of us has our unique age, current health and prior illnesses to consider along with those with whom we desire (or, have) regular contact.

If you are not working, days quickly become repetitive. Even the easiest circumstances with idyllic surrounds become tedious and monotonous unless you actively insert new schemes, experiences and interests in your day. Artificial constraints can make a prison of the best situations.

Most people in Western Countries struck by the virus are far less comfortable than I suggest above. And underdeveloped continents fare far worse; peoples savings deplete, money evaporates and basics of sustaining housing, shelter, transport and food become troubling or impossible. With this comes stress, anxiety, depression, desperation and conflict.

Most pandemic victims do not have their burdens effectively eased or shared in any way.

Poorer countries offer people much less or nothing in practical support and often additionally demand a shelter-in-place compliance that burdens their populations unbearably.

There are few places on the planet that escaped the Coronavirus. Even if you fled early most desirable locations eventually suffered similar, burdensome restrictions.

Where many fled disease followed, perhaps often accompanying the traveler.

Where I live in Santa Cruz (CA, USA) the pandemic has had mild consequences; less than Southern (CA) or Bay Area Counties. Regardless, we are all umbrellaed with burdensome restrictions deployed for surrounding communities.

Visitors are not wanted here; parking lots are taped-off, beach access controlled and public bathrooms selectively closed. Sheriffs persistently check beachgoers residency.

It is amazing how quickly interlopers are driven off when toilet doors are locked. And it’s an odd new norm having residents complain about people visibly urinating alongside closed public restrooms.

Yet the surfers still come. Pleasure Point and Steamers are busy; world famous and still open, but basically only to locals (with Driver’s License checks often being made as surfers exit the beaches).

A few local restaurants and bars are still open in Capitola Village and provide take-out. The operators seem stressed and wary of visible policing and changing rules while customers appear increasingly frustrated and annoyed.

Last weekend I made a daytrip up North, just passed Placerville (3.5 hrs. drive away), for some fly fishing. This is also a particularly low-infection County. Essential merchants (gas stations, take-out food, grocery stores, etc.) remain open but they have little interest insisting customers sport mandatory masks as is monitored further South and required throughout the entire State.

Fishing was predictably poor with big early-season run-off disturbing flow on the American River. Bites were scarce, people very distanced, but the sense of freedom was enormous. I doubt the words Coronavirus, COVID-19 or Pandemic passed through my mind a single time; release was palpable.

A few days earlier, I ran my sailboat out of Alameda. Other than a distanced, masked conversation with the Dock Manager I never passed within 40’ of the only other person on the docks.

Spent several hours on the water, one of which was between the Bay and Golden Gate bridges, below Alcatraz Island; never saw a single vessel of any type in that arena. I will probably never repeat this first.

Following sailing, purchased food at a local bar offering take-out. They let me wait and have drinks while the meal was prepared. No masks were involved. Apparently, local police stay away accepting (I was told) that people must make a living.

Days at home in Santa Cruz feature bike rides or walks for most of the population. The latest beach restrictions outlaw stationary beach setups between 11.00am and 5.00pm. I do not currently go on the beach, but these rules seem unnecessarily punitive hereabouts as beachgoers seem to attend in small groups, typically spaced very much more than 15 yards apart.

Every 5 or 6 days I am Mr. Shopping for our household. Local grocery stores are not too crowded and only occasionally depleted of essentials.

Checkouts have splatter guards since late April and everyone around Santa Cruz is now masking-up per latest CA requirements. For shopping I use a mask, disposable gloves and wipes. Purchases still get wiped off at home.

Continued (and sometimes increasing) restrictions are being received as burdensome. If you are NOT AT RISK, I can readily empathize with your growing frustrations.

And when formal restrictions finally ease even those least at risk must choose WHEN they can comfortably (say) allow a stranger close enough to cut their hair, stop using masks for shopping, reduce incessant hand-washing and discontinue wipe-downs of touched items.

Sadly, the AT RISK population will likely carry Pandemic Restrictions and associated baggage far greater than another year.

And, the current understanding of the imperfect, long-term protection afforded by antibodies in those recovered from COVID-19 is another disappointment in outlook.

Nevertheless, I wish you good fortune in mapping your personal route through the pandemic. I hope you find a convenient path that respects government-imposed social restrictions and more importantly supports your needs, health, financial and relationship responsibilities.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.




My Coronavirus Diary: When The Infection Hits Your Home

Since my last posting the Virus has moved through our house. Three residents, one case and now we return from OUR in-house quarantine to the regular shelter-In-Place restrictions.

We were lucky. Problems centered around high, rising fever, a dry cough, modest breathing discomfort below the sternum, general tiredness and weakening during the first six (6) days of symptoms.

The two-week sickness necessitated personal space and separate bathroom restrictions for the three of us with lots of changes in cooking, shopping, movement, laundry, monitoring and cleaning arrangements. There was constant hand-washing and endless wipe-downs of, well, everything. 

Our Doctor was working 17 hr. days and called us later the first evening… after we had basic temperature controls underway. I got inputs on how to achieve this earlier by standing in front of local Hospital ER and speaking to helpers outside the front door. Nobody wants less than critically ill people inside there, either spreading or getting infections.

Turns out a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen dropped the (102 deg.) fever to under 99.5 in about 4 hrs. Our Doctor confirmed the probable Coronavirus diagnosis by phone; there were zero tests then and being without real distress we pursued our self-help regimen.

The real concern was to first monitor that temperature remained down, stable and the there was no escalation of breathing problems; these can occur quickly, so 24/7 observation was essential.

After a week, things were clearly going in the right direction with appetite, strength and breathing returning to normal several days before the two weeks of restrictions were complete.

Only one in-house case so far and a good outcome. One infection and three people; we were lucky, THIS time.

I since related this story by phone to an insurance agent helping with an auto-renewal. She said she came from a third-world country, sadly noting similarities in her current experiences, my story and her past.

Now our life is returned to the new norm. Today our shopping excursion finally got us routinely inaccessible eggs, toilet paper and paper towels. Re-supplying hand sanitizer and sterilized wipes remains a dream.

The numbing news drags on endlessly and lockdown arrangements are extended until the end of April.

It seems there are numerous missteps that will define local and national contamination outcomes. Many States chose not to order pandemic supplies despite the virulent 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu’ (61 Million US infections and 12.5k deaths) and recent 1980’s (HIV), 2003 (SARS) and 2013 (MERS) experiences. Basic re-ordering was actively ignored at all government levels; tax revenues were often capriciously diverted to more interesting investments and projects.

It seems the New Orleans Mardi-Gras celebrations have backfired into infections and fleeing residents of plagued States (like NY) have quickly dispersed themselves across the nation, frustrating and I’m sure inevitably in some cases, contaminating others. Many Governors are trying to reject these incursions and inter-State infighting is underway; this will continue and worsen before it calms.

St. Patrick’s Day came a little later. Several regions were already locked down so many associated gatherings were cancelled, but by no means all.

A quick glance backwards tells me that annual flu seasons typically inflict about 35K deaths and 25 Million cases of infection annually. Hopefully the dramatic National and Regional restrictions and support underway will keep this virus to similar or hopefully much-improved levels. The current, very recently advertised (100K!) outlook for potential deaths is both troubling and surprising.

There are diverging opinions evolving about China’s role in this latest Coronavirus episode. Oddly, one side sees a responsible friend, very capable and well-intentioned; the other suspiciously eyes a regionally expanding Machiavellian villain.  Take your pick.

Local outdoor activity here (in Santa Cruz, CA) remains high. Cyclists and walkers are increasing in numbers. The surfers are allowed across Pleasure Point and congregate in regularly strong numbers.

A couple of beaches are closed with make-shift notices that dangle and flutter in the breeze and occasional drive-byes of police with bullhorns. The beach closure off 26th Avenue was because of a shark-bite to a paddle-board which had strayed into known shark territory beyond the kelp that stretches 100’s of yards off-shore.

Shopping can be an alarming experience. Some larger stores are strictly controlling access by setting restrictions on numbers of shoppers admitted simultaneously and are allotting timeslots for older (and so, at-risk) residents.

There seems to be a universal lack of understanding about what constitutes a medically safe shopping environment. Shopping Cart handles are not cleaned, and self-applied cleaning wipes have often run out. Cashiers handle all the goods wearing plastic gloves they seemingly use all-day, or bare hands. Cash and Credit Cards often pass back and forwards between shoppers and cashiers at checkout. All goods are hand-placed on shelves by a large, diverse group of workers.

Distancing in stores is mixed. It’s not unusual for collisions to occur, yet often people turn away and shun each other as the space between them closes. The learning has begun for some.

The Phase 3, $2 Trillion (+$4 Trillion) funding is passed; there should be shame in how that proceeded, but I doubt there is. The squabbling about distribution and oversight has now begun.

I have spoken with several local businessmen (mostly restauranteurs) about this relief package. NONE believe they will see a penny to benefit them; a common explanation is that there will be too many hoops to jump through to receive any help. Their low expectations paint a troubling picture and their staffs are already long gone.

I live in a world where this viral tragedy is a political weapon. Regardless your politics it should not escape anyone that a safe, effective and minimized health and economic outcome favors one side and a rather more disastrous and tragic outcome benefits the other. And the pig-in-the-middle that can do naught yet but suffer likely consequences, are the citizens and companies that fund these warring factions.

News channels sickeningly align themselves with the sides. One side broadcasts more happily than the other; some seek, want and need gloom, conflict and derision. Viewers are simply battered and flung about by the results.

It’s sadly naïve to expect there be no sides. One can only Hope.

I recently had to drive up North (+60 miles) and check on a boat docked in Alameda. Travelling through the heart of Silicon Valley the traffic was light both ways. I passed near nobody outside of a vehicle; docks were devoid of human traffic and only one or two live-aboard couples were out for walks.

Upon my return there were unusual numbers of Highway Patrol cars parked off-road as light traffic passed by, typically moving 15 mph above an abandoned speed limit. One car was pulled over; he must have been driving very fast, indeed.

Gas prices have tanked across the nation as the Russians and Saudi’s war on. Strategic reserves are being loaded up. I heard of <$1.00/ gallon pricing somewhere in the Mid-West; my local California outlets mostly remain with even the best pricing in the $3.20 range… the tax burden here hangs on.

And what I miss is a Starbucks coffee. I want to get a beer at a local bar. I want to sit in my favorite restaurant. Turns out the (now) take-out food from my local isn’t what I miss, it’s the people, ambiance and belonging.

A couple of days ago I got coughed into by a shopper at a local market; fortunately, I blocked all her splatter from others in the store. There were no apologies, the person then moved up close behind and started poking me in the back, talking into my neck. She wanted to regain her abandoned place in line. I let her pass and kept my distance, as did others.

She then stood bended over the large counter festooned with goods as she inspected them at close-range, while coughing repeatedly. Never once did her arm or hand manage to reach or cover her mouth. She had a dry cough. The server seemed unperturbed. I saw her emerge from the store a few minutes later; her brow appeared fevered, perhaps she was just stressed? I hope so.

These events make all my precautions and care seem meaningless. Nevertheless, I will continue my practices and hope. It will take me three more days to see if any classic fever and breathing symptoms develop from THIS event.

I related this story an hour after it occurred to someone met while I was resting on my bike ride. The person backed away an extra step early in the tale and yet another before I’d finished. Not sure if she even knew she’d drifted some 15’ away by the time the story ended.

So much for the observations and experiences. On the happiest note of all there’s still three of us in this house and we’re all currently safe and healthy!

So far, so good. It’s again time for a daily bike ride. Need to take care that if the coughing lady doesn’t get me, I continue to dodge other bullets that will inevitably come my way.

Good luck to you in your endeavors and outdoor excursions. Stay safe and Socially Distanced, using whichever recommended distancing you choose.



Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.





My On-Going Coronavirus Diary

I live in a Global Pandemic.

A perceived lack of control permeates my life and a wave of overreaction washes across everything.

The latest News brings updates, mostly of the Virus’ spread.

It’s yet too early for even minor promotions of Hope and Promise to go unmolested.

Today, a little more ground was again lost to the Pandemic’s hold.

There is an overarching sense of loss and helplessness in the community. People wait.

And actual instances of the virus hereabouts number but a single case; this carried in by a now self-quarantined cruise ship traveler.

A SINGLE local case and all THIS.

I live in Santa Cruz, California; upon the coast known elsewhere since the 1820’s for its perceived flakiness and more recently, Liberalism.

Life around here has changed.

By 5.00pm the usually increased rush-hour traffic down 41st street is less. There are fewer people around.

The high-speed frantic commutes to Silicon Valley are diminished. Companies are stressing working from home.

When I venture out in the evening, restaurant traffic is light and quiet. The onset of bustling activity fueled by freshening Spring weather has stalled. Parking is available and convenient.

Hereabouts, waiter service is quick and readily accessible. Servers are keen to chat about their slowed business and its sudden decline though last weekend and now more so each passing day.

Last Saturday I ran by Ferry from Alameda across the Bay into San Francisco. Visible human activity is massively diminished.

The streets there are open, barely sprinkled with pedestrians. Ghirardelli Square seems unpopulated. Cable cars leave the Terminus half-filled yet bathed in sunlight. The eternal lines and waits for trolleys are gone.

The temporary Saturday market at the Ferry Building was unusually quiet; it packed-up and disappeared without trace well before 4.00pm.

A State of Emergency was declared by a somber San Francisco Mayor a couple of weeks ago. An Emergency without a single incident of the virus on record.

Declarations of Emergency quickly earmarks available funds for those who raise their hands early. It’s hard to know the difference between selfish grabs and wise proaction. We can only hope for the best as there will be typically poor oversight of follow-on spending.

Hyper-vigilantism to Pandemic risks is the norm. OVERreaction is generally SAFE to promote, as only UNDERreaction is historically retroactively scrutinized or Proven Wrong.

Immediately the virus was announced in Wuhan, it’s prospects for Global spread seemed clear.

Withing days, maps of China lit up recording new cases blossoming within and throughout her borders. Containment immediately seemed an improbable dream.

Concurrently, disconnected contamination cases sprouted in Europe, epitomizing uncontrolled spread.

International (Six Nations Rugby) sporting events were soon and suddenly postponed in Italy and France. Gatherings of 5000+ people were then outlawed in France.

Italy appeared to head the list of Virus activity. Soon France shut down all gatherings, Germany had reported problems and borders with reportedly highly infected Iran were being closed.

South Korea soon emerged with proactive and accelerated mass testing. Their readiness likely stems from recent post-pandemic experiences and fears of their immediate neighbors’ incompetence.

Just a couple of weeks ago I made a personal journey back East to Delaware. It seemed reasonable to get in a trip before things broke loose on domestic travel restrictions; timing proved about right.

After being gone just six days my return flight through Denver was enlightening. Bathrooms had rows of sinks filled with soap bubbles and residue with used paper towels piling up in corners.

Usually, many male travelers don’t ever wash their hands during bathroom visits. Not so much now.

The original journey out East from San Jose was enlightening, too. Blue-gloved TSA Security agents handled hundreds of Drivers Licenses as they checked ID’s; endless touching, 100’s of plastic cards.

From the outset of this pandemic what I seem to notice each day is the complete absence of viable transmission suppression protocol. Opportunity to contaminate and spread germs abounds.

However, there is still only ONE confirmed Coronavirus case in the district I reside. Perhaps necessity will clean up behavior as the virus spreads?

In fairness, most people have never been exposed to rigorous protocols and medically clean processing.

We rely on simple, repeated hand washing and checking spray from coughs. Minor measures are all we typically support.

Fortunately, even these basic steps are reportedly adequate, THIS time.

Highly communicable airborne pathogens require MUCH more care. How will we fare when future Pandemics require such levels of diligence and know-how?

Each day brings news from fighting political factions and blame. There are SIDES taken; each believes and continuously implies only THEIR folks knows what to do and how to save the people. Politicization is the game, Nationally and Globally.

Government figures routinely take the stage and make their plays.

Yesterday brought on more major sporting event closures and delays. Independent countries are isolating from others who might worsen their pathogen flow.

A new strategy is to Delay the Peak of the outbreak nationally; to skew the (hopefully diminished) heart of the crisis to Summer months when medical services are better prepared and less seasonally stressed.

Where I live there is testing newly on-line to check only suspected carriers. Without speedy, broad-based testing yet readily available the exact extent of Community contamination remains fundamentally unknown.

My two most local Hospital Emergency Rooms have tent facilities set up outside. The idea is to test people there and not allow uncontrolled building entry.

Guards stationed at the door ask every visitor if they have basic symptoms such as elevated Temperature, Coughing or Breathing Difficulty before permitting entry. Those offering affirmations are sent to the tent(s).

It now seems the death rates for this Pandemic should hold below seasonal ‘flu’s, but it’s spread may prove more prolific. At risk are currently expected only those with compromised immune systems, especially older people.

Still, there is only one local (self-quarantined) virus carrier testing positive.

And each day my neighborhood seems just a little quieter, except for apparently undiminished numbers of surfers at Pleasure Point.

Over the weekend in San Francisco a Fisherman’s Walk waiter told me his bus journey through China Town was uncharacteristically deserted.

Chinese restaurants are experiencing slowdowns. I’m guessing more than other businesses.

Last weekend the large, thriving Alameda Chinese waterfront restaurant I pass regularly showed clear signs of depleted activity.

During recent weeks the transportation industry has been preparing for what has now occurred.

Flights are cancelled, others lightly loaded. Deals for future fares and cleanliness assurances abound.

Countries continue to disconnect from one another; protected borders potentially bring a level of control to mitigate internal infection rates.

People still travel to work. Public transportations promote their hygiene and cleaning practices.

Most folks know that even perfect cleanliness is compromised as the first passenger steps aboard.

Past Pandemics have progressed in phases. First, perceived slowdowns in new cases, success of treatment(s) and quarantines, then survivors return to business as usual.

But setbacks occur. There can be flare-ups in numbers of new cases; sometimes the next wave is more overwhelming than the first.

The 2009 H1N1 flu Pandemic hit the US hard. There were over 60 million cases and 12,500 deaths on the heels of the 2008 financial collapse. Yet this disaster passed almost invisibly with minimal media coverage.

As I write there are presumed 1,500 Coronavirus cases and 40 deaths, Domestically (US). And this is fronted by the frenzied face of global, media-driven panic.

Sadly, The Reality and Importance of Events is defined by deliberately Promoted Agendas. It has always been the case.

Today there is no national News of decline in new Coronavirus cases. There is no palpable, immediate hope or promise. Perhaps tomorrow?

Still, there IS extensive on-line guidance about protecting oneself during the Pandemic. Use this info and help/ guide those in need of sensible instruction.

It certainly seems the worst is yet to come.

Yet many people are already suffering indirect consequences of this Coronavirus. It weighs on us. It can sap joy from our lives.

Hopefully these are the ONLY consequences and inconveniences we experience.

It’s wise to hold on to optimism during this Pandemic. There WILL be an eventual decline in sickness incidents. The Emergency WILL ultimately end. This too shall pass.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.