At last, I arrived home on Monday. It was strange to be back after so much time. I actually missed my exit, twice, too busy looking around. My neighborhood seemed utterly foreign. I’d left it in the dead of winter. Now it was summer. Everything was so green and lush, like Eden on a good day.
As I pulled into the drive, my significant threw up the sash of the sunroom and popped a bottle of well-shaken champagne, dousing the car. Then he vanished. The cats looked on, from the comfort of their window seat, too cozy to wish to move. They’d see me later, yawn, stretch, “what’s all the fuss?”
As I got out of the car, I heard the back door open. Shortly after I was enthusiastically greeted by the dogs. Der went into the garage and grabbed a large piece of 3′ by 3′ plexiglass, put it between our (masked) faces and kissed it. So I kissed the other side, a la prison visitation.
It was weird to be home and not to be able to hug or kiss or even shake hands. But that’s how it is, at least till the 15th. Provided neither of us comes down with something. In the interests of health, I had to schlep my own bags in but, we could face to face at least talk. Sort of. Masked and 2 meters apart.
I entered through the backyard, as I was going to be staying the next 2 weeks in the basement. The yard was a riot of color. I’d missed the azaleas blooming, but the peonies were bursting. There’s a Canadian Peony Society, that typically has a festival in June. I had thought to go this year. But …. covid. Suck it.
Some things were still as per usual. Der had put in the dutch door for the summer. We have a backdoor that’s solid wood, but in the summer we put in the dutch door. Good ventilation, cuts cooling costs down, and the pets like to run outside as they wont in good weather.
Once you enter the back door, you find yourself in a postage stamp foyer, with a wall before you and wooden doors both right and left. Right, takes you into the back of the kitchen (and if you’re not careful, you’ll bang the breakfast nook). Left opens onto the top of the stairs going down into the basement.
What I didn’t expect was the doors into the kitchen and basement having been replaced as well. This was not usual. He’d put in glass doors so we could see each other frequently through the “air lock” and have meals and talk “together-ish.” It was brilliant. Only he would think to do something so pedestrian that would make so much difference.
Of course, too, only he would think it funny to use my transparent medium cad red acrylic paint to stencil a bar across the basement glass door that read Quarantine. Or to hang a countdown clock on the wall facing the dutch door, a clock which had apparently been started the moment I called to tell him I was over the border.
I went down to the basement, and found table set with a breakfast of pannekoek and a walkie-talkie. The basement is something we finished as a second living room / office / guest space. It has a three piece washroom, and a kitchenette complete with an electric cooktop, sink, and small fridge. It’s mostly a second living room.
We put in a wall unit that has shelves on each side and a large drop down desktop. But then the desk folds up and the middle section can pull down, as a Murphy bed, for guests. Or residents who might like watching really late or early live European sports.
We often have guests (or used to). Sometimes planned, sometimes not. It gets late, people are too tired to drive home. Sometimes we deem them too intoxicated. Sometimes the weather is bad and it just seems unwise to send them forth. So, we have this safe place to shelter those in need.
For a two-week stay, the basement is very livable. I can go out into the yard and garden, sun, read, play with the pets without putting anyone at risk. With my Gran I could never open a window, due to her asthma. I plan to spend a lot of my quarantine outside.
Decompressing and catching up on “me time seems” important. So yoga, meditation, and painting. Der scored me some fresh supplies from Rath’s, a really local excellent art shop. I’m also doing a 14-day Covid-19 Isolation Retreat, created by the Irish monks of Sacred Space.
I plan on lots of sleeping and listening to relaxing music. Minor attempts at finding employment will be made, but…. Major attempts at bird watching will happen. And I’m going to wok my heart out. My Gran abhors the smell of wok-ery, so I didn’t.
I feel bad that I haven’t been able to go to any of the protest rallies. And I doubt rallies will be happening two weeks from now, but you never know. Der went to rally at the local art museum with friends and coworkers on the weekend. It’s strange but when he told me, after the fact, I thought, “Wow, that was really brave.”
I wasn’t thinking about him getting beaten or catching covid. I was thinking if he’d protested in the US, as a green card holder, and been arrested, he’d likely have been deported and banned from re-entry. It didn’t used to be that way. But now, well…the US isn’t even allowing people who are qualified to be citizens to go ahead with the last ceremony to make it official.
In contrast to the US, Canada is going ahead with virtual naturalization ceremonies. My thinking is the current GOP administration in the US doesn’t want new voters registering, especially new immigrant voters who might value things like democracy, freedom of speech, and peaceful protest as a legitimate way to ask for change.
It’s interesting that white men with assault rifles standing in state capitols in an attempt to intimate governors to lift life-saving restrictions during a pandemic is ok and applauded by the GOP, but non-violent unarmed people asking for justice in the public streets for a murder of a black man in the public streets demands a violent military response.
I don’t think the media has really understood the administration’s objective of putting down protests is strictly political. It’s a matter of “the GOP wants to run on the economy but they can’t do that if the economy is closed down, first because of covid, now because of people protesting.” This is about reelection. Not justice. They don’t give a toss about that.
For GOP leadership, the only thing that matters is money. It’s government of and for profit, not government of and for people. It’s not like this is news to anyone though, is it? It’s not like this hasn’t been happening for decades within the GOP. Power to the profit, not power to people.
Is it really a surprise the Black Panther’s 10-point program is as relevant today as it was in 1968. Just look at point 7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people. This is the only point where they used all caps. Look at the capped words. We’re 50+ years on and the demand is still the same.
If I were a US governor, I’d call the National Guard out, to walk with the protesters, as their escort to ensure they are safe and un-harrassed. I’d want my NG to have medics there to help anyone in need, to pass out water and masks, to remind everyone of social distancing. Using the NG in this way would free up local police to be elsewhere handling any crime, ie, regular police work.
You can have a safe rally, march, sit in, die in, etc. It’s possible. And you can have an opened economy at the same time. If protesters social distance and wear masks, then being outdoors (dispersed viral load) isn’t that much of a danger. If the NG are with the protesters, there’s no need for police to be there or reason for police-protester engagement.
To be honest, I don’t understand why it’s difficult to say “it’s against the law for police to touch anyone from the neck up.” Or to “it’s against the law to sit, kneel, stand on any part of any suspect, who is handcuffed and on the ground.” Or “all forms of choke hold are illegal.” I don’t see why any of these actions are legal or need to be.
But then again, I don’t see the need to knock a frail, white, male, 75 year old protester onto the cement ground where he hits his head so hard he bleeds from his ear and all the police do is walk by. Over 30 police walked by and did nothing. It took 15 seconds for a National Guard medic to tend him. My bet? Swelling on the brain, possible death. Best case scenario? He’ll go from functional adult to brain-injured dependent in care for the rest of his life.
There are systemic problems in our society. But they are problems we can change as a society. I don’t believe all police officers are racist, out of control, murders anymore than I believe all Muslims are terrorists or all immigrants are rapists, or all conservative republicans believe in unrestricted gun ownership. But I do believe that all groups have problems, systemic cultural problems, that need to be dealt with.
Change is hard, it can be costly, and some people will not be able to make that change. That doesn’t mean we can stick with the status quo. For the sake of a future America, and future Americans, we have to change and begin work on a better kind of policing, economy, justice system, education system, government, society… or risk collapse.
Sometimes a building needs a light remodel. Sometimes it’s a total gut job. Sometimes it’s been neglected so long, you’ve got to peel back to the foundation and even that needs to be jacked and leveled and put on new footings. But it’s all okay, because it’s what you’ve got to do to make the house sound and usable for another 50 or 100 years.
(Sorry, I binged on Maine Cabin Masters the other day.)
At this point, I’m going to leave the foundational problems of race and police violence, and talk about another foundational issue facing the country, SARS CoV 2. I’m actually going to talk about contact tracing in the US.
As you may remember, I took the free Coursea Covid 19 Tracing course. I learned a lot. But perhaps my biggest takeaway was that if the US doesn’t up its contact tracing game, it’s game over.
In BC contact tracers are asking people about their contacts two weeks before onset of symptoms, to try and back track to how the person caught it. In the US? They don’t do bother. They’re only asking about who the tested-positive person might have infected.
And then we wonder why things are so bad?
China had a coordinated, national response based on coordinated and national standards of testing, tracing, and care. It had a mask-wearing public and lots of appropriate PPE. It had isolation hotels, so people didn’t transmit the virus inside or outside the home. It had hospitals dedicated to SARS CoV 2. It still has strict quarantine practices and supervision of people coming in from abroad.
On top of all of that, China had 81 contact tracers per 100K people.
California, a state that’s trying to be science oriented in its response, doesn’t have a mask-wearing public with access to lots of appropriate, free PPE. Or isolation hotels. Or dedicated hospitals. As for quarantine / supervision practices of people coming from outside the state?
As for contact tracers in California? We had on the order of 2.8K as of May 4 for 39.5M people. That’s about 7 people per 100K. Less than a 10th of China’s contact tracing force. The governor wanted to up the number of tracers to 20K. That’s about 50 tracers per 100K.
Let me math it out for you. To be where China was on contact tracing, given our state’s population, we’d need 32K contact tracers. If I were the governor, I’d be training an army of 50K volunteer tracers (because you know some will get sick or have drop out) to be mobilized by any county that needs them at the drop of a hat and by the state at large.
Why? Because contact tracing is the only layer of protection we actually have. Testing is out-the-window bad. We don’t do hotel isolation. We don’t have dedicated hospitals for covid patients, which is part of why the nursing homes have been hit so bad. And we certainly don’t have PPE for the public or even a public that will wear it.
In short, California, a progressive science-based response state, lacks all the foundational layers of protection nations that are doing well, like China, have used so effectively. And to make matters worse, and this is true of all states in the US, we have county level public health and each county public health office makes different decisions.
There are no coordinated standards. Not across California’s 58 counties. Not across the 50 US states. For example. One county in Iowa does contact tracing and considers only someone to have spent 30 minutes talking 6′ apart with a person diagnosed with covid as someone that needs to self quarantine.
That’s great. That’s what they decided. The CDC says 15 minutes of exposure and 6′. That means this county in Iowa is missing hundreds, maybe thousands, of people that should be in quarantine. They have no chance of stopping the spread. And they’re residents will spread it to other counties in Iowa and other states.
I guess if you’re a county in Iowa that wants the rate of transmission or cases to be low, because you have a county or state officials pushing to open the state economy, even if lots of people die, then having your public health officers choose to set their bar at 30 min and 6′ is a good way to do that. You can still pretend you’re protecting the public and display reassuring (but false) data to your citizens.
I’m pretty sure any country that’s successfully beating SARS CoV 2 has nationwide coordinated efforts and standards. Federal government exits for just such occasions. The CDC used to exist for just such reason. There’s going to be wildly different levels of success, if you have wildly different standards.
Yes, you can have some cultural factors that make a difference. Norwegians speak very quietly. That’s going to slow the spread. In Japan, you have to be apart to bow to another person, built in social distance and no touching.
But in the US, in a state like California, where 144 languages are spoken and cultures blend freely….not to have statewide standards? Wow. So, so wrong. And ultimately so costly in both lives and livelihoods. Worse, it’s all completely unnecessary cost.
Santa Clara county in California is an interesting example of forward thinking that’s going to protect lives and livelihoods. They put out the call for volunteer tracers. I applaud this.
The only way you can safely reopen a county within California, or the entire state to the rest of the US and the world, is through testing and contact tracing. But our budgets, state, county and city budgets, are already in financial tatters.
How do you put the little money you have left where it’s going to be most effective? Well, you start by not spending money you don’t have to. You start by not paying for a whole lot of employees you don’t actually need.
Santa Clara county, by taking on volunteers and training them to be contact tracers, made the smart move. They’re protecting the health of their community while freeing up their budget to put dollars towards other vital needs. When fall comes, they’ll be sitting pretty.
Once again, there is time to act, but that time is already slipping away, and people in charge are just pretending it’s all fine. It’s a repeat of the sequence of non-events and inactions that put us in this position in the first place.
You can see the water is pulling back from the shore. You know the tsunami is coming. Why are you just standing on the beach?
Without contact tracing to follow up on people who have been tested and diagnosed with the virus, there’s no way to stop the spread. Without national standards, and integrated contract tracing ability, there’s no way to safely open the country. And that’s economically a hit.
Even if you have your state under control, what about when air/sea/land travel once again picks up between states, or between nations? What if the US is virus free, but the rest of the world still has ongoing outbreaks?
How are you going to open up economically without having a handle on virus control and international travel? What’s your coordinated response going to be with other countries, or the EU, or Latin American states? Right now, it’s all a hot mess.
The only answer the federal administration has is “close the borders.” That’s not a plan. That’s not facing the reality that you need to face in order to make good decisions. People aren’t paying attention to what they need to do now, to prepare for A) resurgence or B) opening the economy.
And, believe it or not, A and B require the same solution. It’s not a “we only have to do this if A happens” scenario. Contact tracing is something that’s going to be needed on an ongoing basis till there’s a vaccine that works and the larger part of the world has had it or till covid burns through the world and burns itself out.
If you want B, you need to avoid A, and to do that, you have one choice, C, Contact tracing.
Building a volunteer contact tracing army now, is what’s going to keep schools with teachers, hospitals with doctors and beds, and emergency services with supplies and vehicles to respond to those in need. It’s going to save live, livelihoods, and budgets. It’s what’s going to help us reopen the economy safely, nationally and internationally.
Okay, switching gears. The Friday love song. Still happening, just closer to home. He went with Can’t take my eyes off of you. Which is a great song. But I have to point up we do have a Nest camera installed in the basement as a safety feature, so the choice struck me as a bit stalker-creepy.
I almost picked up my walkie-talkie and mentioned this to him, but I sent him back a song instead. Come to think of it, Rev. Hammer’s song is probably be what every American law officer’s should be hearing in their head when they see a nonviolently protesting fellow American.