A roundup of articles on the status of the Coronavirus and ways we can help….
Friendships in the Age of Quarantine
Kathy Gilsinin, The Atlantic, March 16, 2020
The hotel is a pleasant California bland—a yellowish four-story stucco number with a red roof and a fringe of palm trees. It’s about a half-hour drive from Napa Valley; it has four stars on Yelp even though one guest complained last year about bugs in his room. And for the past month, hundreds of Americans evacuated from cruise ships and Chinese cities have called it home.
For Yanjun Wei, the Westwind Inn on the 6,000-acre Travis Air Force Base looked like heaven last month after 30 hours in transit from Wuhan, China, the center of the coronavirus outbreak. She’d just been through hell trying to get back home to the United States. She had battled with the State Department for seats on an evacuation flight with her two toddlers. When her son, age 3, started “going crazy,” harassing his 1-year-old sister after the plane landed at Travis, she started crying and yelling at him; “I had a meltdown,” she told me.
A friend sitting nearby came over to hold and soothe her from behind a face mask; another person in her row took charge of her daughter so she could deal with her son. Finally Wei’s family made the short trip from the tarmac to the hotel that would serve as their temporary home. For Wei, the worst was already over, even though she wouldn’t see her husband, Ken, who was waiting for her in San Diego, for the next two weeks.
Staff members and evacuees who spent time at Travis described a period of friendly confinement, with intervals of normalcy, extreme boredom, and surreal reminders of the invisible danger. What those conversations also revealed was a sense of solidarity and affection among people thrust into the same bizarre situation, who struck up friendships and found ways to help and entertain one another even under enforced social distancing. There are not many good news stories in the relentless coronavirus updates, but here is one: In circumstances of extreme stress and uncertainty, people forged lasting bonds and took care of one another.
“It was a great group of people. Both staff and evacuees,” said Frank Hannum, who spent two weeks in quarantine at Travis. His wife, Hope, who was also quarantined, put on ball gowns she’d brought with her to entertain the kids. Frank, an engineer, borrowed a laptop charger every morning from a stranger who left it outside his hotel-room door. They never met in person. “We were all kind of in the same situation, and we were just, you know, biding our time, making sure that we weren’t sick, our families weren’t sick, that we didn’t, of course, expose anybody else,” he said.
Base hotels such as Westwind are generally reserved for military members, veterans, civilian defense officials, and their guests, whether they’re moving among bases or on vacation, looking for a discount rate to see the sights. In many ways, the Westwind looks like any normal hotel, as you can see in videos from the Defense Department and evacuees—the rooms with their TVs and coffee makers and mini-fridges, the dim hallways with patterned carpet.
It’s just that the guests are wearing masks or keeping six feet apart, fenced in on the grounds and guarded by U.S. marshals, and getting their temperature checked twice a day. The Java City café in the lobby is closed; the hotel staff are now Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services personnel. It’s much the same at the other three military hotels turned quarantine centers in Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere in California, which are taking in nearly 1,000 evacuees from a cruise ship this week.
Given the restrictions on social contact, forming a community required being inventive. Many of the evacuees used WeChat, the Chinese messaging app, to offer comfort, encouragement, and news to fellow guests they hadn’t even met, since many kept to their room for fear of infection.
That’s also how Frank Hannum coordinated with his mystery laptop-charger benefactor. Some guests shared their notes from the daily CDC town hall to allow others to skip it, or alerted fellow evacuees when snack supplies were restored (since, as one of them told me, “those went by fast!”). Some staff members arranged a religious service by teleconference; participants, a CDC spokesman told me, could push pound-six to request a prayer.
For exhausted mothers like Wei, some of the kindness came in the form of child care. Several families with children wound up at Travis after evacuating from China. Wei and her kids, for instance, had been visiting relatives in Wuhan during the Chinese New Year when the government locked down the city and much of the surrounding province.The staff organized outdoor activities for the children—catch and soccer games—in part to allow mothers a moment to take a nap or shower. “Think about it, the children are jet-lagged too,” Hannum said. “So for the first week, nobody’s getting any sleep.”
Both history and current events make it clear that fear of “the other” can permeate communities during an outbreak. As Jonathan Quick, a doctor and an adjunct professor at the Duke Global Health Institute, wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, during the Spanish-flu outbreak of 1918, “Chileans blamed the poor, Senegalese blamed Brazilians, Brazilians blamed the Germans, Iranians blamed the British, and so on.”Racist incidents have been reported in Europe during the current pandemic; both the New Jersey governor’s office and the human-rights organization Amnesty International have recently felt compelled to remind people on Twitter not to be racist.
Despite the close relationship between disease and xenophobia, Quick told me that “the reflex to help one another is actually more common than one might expect.” In his article for the Journal,Quick cited the book Pale Rider, by Laura Spinney, which explains how the Spanish flu brought out good Samaritans: “In Alaska, 70-year-old Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy came out of retirement to fight the flu; in Tokyo, doctors went out at night to give free vaccinations to the poor; in Germany, the Catholic Church helped to train young women as nurses.”
He told me that in his own medical work in crisis-hit areas, whether in Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “I was always struck by these people who had been through awful things. When they had a chance … they really maintained a positive attitude and worked together, despite the tough times that they’ve had.”
At Travis, this meant that Hope Hannum and another woman broke their boredom by drawing SpongeBob SquarePants and Pokémon characters on the walkways for the quarantined kids. Frank Hannum recalled one staffer who teared up after walking by a drawing of a virus with the caption “THANK YOU FOR SAVING US FROM CORONA.”
Another evacuee, pining for red wine, got a gift from a staffer, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter who was herself quarantined at Travis: “four miniature bottles of vodka hidden in latex gloves.” Kristin Key, the comedian on the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship, who is currently in quarantine at Travis, told me that she heard there’s a ukulele circle, which she plans to join with her guitar.
At another quarantine site, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Matthew Price entered a haiku contest set up by the staff. His poem includes an affectionate nod to the staff’s personal protective equipment (PPE), which included masks, gloves, and medical gownsfor when they got close to patients:
Please don’t spit on me
I’m wearing PPE
Love the CDC
This is not technically a haiku, and Price did not win the prize: Thai takeout, a respite from the monotony of the catered meals otherwise served three times a day.But the rules weren’t strict, and it was still a staff favorite.
The Hannums are now back in their small hometown outside Portland, Oregon, and oddly, Frank Hannum admits to feeling a touch of nostalgia for being in quarantine. Sure, it was boring, the food was so-so, and he and his wife were stuck together in close quarters for an average of 20 hours a day. But, he said, “we didn’t kill each other, which is great.” (He noted that they didn’t really have much choice but to work out whatever frictions arose over, say, clutter, because neither of them could actually go anywhere.)
He hopes to put together a reunion for the evacuees, maybe a picnic next year. As he learned when he left quarantine, those people were special—not everyone is so welcoming during times of crisis. One night back in Oregon, when Hope Hannum was too tired to cook, the couple went out to a local Chinese restaurant. The proprietors knew where they’d come from. They asked the Hannums to leave.
An older couple in Oregon was too afraid to get out of their car at the grocery store amid coronavirus. She helped them
As the number of known cases of coronavirus continues to grow in the U.S., so does public anxiety and fear about the virus.
Older adults are among those most at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and, in Oregon, a woman stepped in to help an elderly couple in need.
Rebecca Mehra, a 25-year-old professional runner, said she was walking into a Safeway in Bend after track practice when she heard a woman calling to her from a parked car. She went over and found the woman and her husband in their 80s who asked for her help.
“She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store,” she wrote in a tweet that has since captured national attention.
Mehra said the woman told her that Bend had just had its first case of coronavirus and she’d heard that coronavirus disproportionately impacts older people. Oregon health officials announced Saturday the state’s first death from the virus was a 70-year-old man.
The couple didn’t have any family nearby that could help them shop, according to Mehra, and they had been waiting in their car for 45 minutes for the right person to ask.
Mister Rogers said ‘look for the helpers’:Here’s how to help amid coronavirus panic.
As soon as she agreed to buy the groceries, the woman slid a $100 bill and a handwritten list through the crack in the window and Mehra went inside to do their shopping.
“There were certain things that were not very available. There was very little toilet paper,” she told USA TODAY. “There was basically no hand soap.”
Although certain aisles, such as the one for cleaning products, were completely empty, Mehra said she saw other acts of kindness inside the store.
“I needed hand soap and there were only two left and a woman grabbed two of them and then she gave me one,” she said. “In a weird way, this is kind of bringing us all together because it’s been so scary for everyone. I think emphasizing kindness and community and helping each other out is really important.”
Mehra bought most of the items, placed the bags in the couple’s trunk and gave them back their change. As soon as she got home, she wished she’d given the woman her phone number so that she could reach out if she needed help again.
Norwegians locked themselves down on March 12 to deal with a spike in positive tests for the new coronavirus. The government in Oslo moved quickly and efficiently, closing schools and universities, canceling cultural and sport events, shuttering bars, restaurants, gyms, pools, and personal care businesses such as hairdressers, tattoo parlors and the like. Most retail businesses except those selling food and pharmaceuticals also were closed.
All this took place before the country recorded a single fatality from the COVID-19 disease. The first death was reported later that evening, and as of March 16, two more Norwegians have died.
In addition, many workplaces have closed and arrangements have been made for people to work from home when possible. International travelers arriving in the country are to be quarantined automatically for two weeks, regardless of symptoms. As a result, thousands of flights to Norway have been canceled and most cruise ships are being turned away, except when they need to load provisions.
Similar protective measures were enacted in recent days by Sweden and Denmark, although those countries’ rates of infection didn’t spike as sharply as Norway’s.
As someone who has lived and worked in Norway, I see several ways in which the Norwegians’ prompt and efficient response draws on the advantages of what economists call “the Nordic model”—a design much different from that of the U.S.
Meanwhile in the U.S., a recent survey by the First National Bank of Omaha found that 49% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. What is to be done if those people can’t get to the jobs that keep them barely afloat? What does “self-quarantine” mean in that context? Or if employees receive no paid sick leave and can’t afford to stop working when they get sick? And what about the many who haven’t even had a job lately and find each day a struggle for food, including food-insecure college students whose colleges are closing?
Such conditions are nearly inconceivable in Norway, where the social safety net is intact. A century ago, poverty was widespread but mass movements waged a successful nonviolent revolution in the 1920s and ’30s. By the time I got there, 1959, poverty had already been nearly eradicated, with everyone’s basic needs being met.
Norway’s readiness for health emergencies comes from its choice, all along, to prioritize the well-being of the people as a whole. Norway was not a wealthy country until its discovery of oil, which didn’t begin to flow until the late 1970s. As it developed its universal single-payer health system in the 1940s, it couldn’t afford to include dental services. At the time, working class Norwegians were infamous for their poor teeth. Studies revealed that one cause was the lack of calcium because of the high cost of milk. The government then began to subsidize the price of milk, increasing consumption, and teeth got healthier. As prosperity increased in the 1950s, it became possible to raise taxes and include dental service in everyone’s health care.
That early investment in health care is now paying off. Norway today has more doctors per capita than the U.S., and that’s partly because medical schools are free. If a qualified university grad can’t find a place in a Norwegian medical school, the government pays for them to get their training abroad. And doctors in Norway don’t experience the high burnout rate of U.S. doctors, and that’s because the socialized system is not only patient-friendly, but also doctor-friendly. Doctors aren’t harassed by private insurers refusing treatments, and they don’t need a bevy of staff keeping track of bill payments. Nor do they have to worry about ordering needless tests to avoid the threat of malpractice suits: single-payer systems support cooperation and trust rather than grievances and retaliation.
As a direct result of this, the Norwegian health care system, with the single payer (the government) using taxes to administer the program, is more efficient and less expensive than the U.S. model, with its emphasis on private health insurance companies. This means coronavirus tests and treatment are free in Norway. Everyone’s on the same side: that of the patients’ well-being, and that translates into a level of trust in the government that is not shared in the U.S.
Building trust in the government and other major institutions didn’t come easily. A century ago, most Norwegians distrusted their government because it was run by the economic oligarchy, for the benefit of the oligarchy, much like the way the U.S. is today. After the revolution, the dominance of the elite was replaced by democracy. The transformed parliamentary institutions became transparent, incidents of corruption exposed, and government became the servant of the people.
The result of new economic policies was dramatically to reduce economic inequality, and Norwegians enjoy high levels of individual freedom from personal rights to the ability to launch new businesses. Studies show that people in more equal societies have much more trust in major institutions than unequal societies. The U.S. has one of the most unequal societies on earth, and—as we’d expect—trust in government is in the toilet. The U.S. government’s bungling of its early response to the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t helped.
Over and over, structures that support trust pay off, even on the financial side. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Norwegian health care system costs their economy less than 60% of what the profit-inflated U.S. system costs Americans. And the Norwegian system covers everyone (even me when I was a foreigner studying there), while the U.S. leaves out tens of millions of people.
As you’d expect, people in Norway live longer, with an average life expectancy of 82 years, and growing. The U.S. expectancy is 79 and in recent years was slipping. The OECD, which publishes statistics for its 35 member countries, compared countries by how many people die from preventable and treatable causes, the U.S. has among the most needless deaths and Norway is among those with the least.
Even in ordinary times, Norway’s system takes care of everyone with increased access to doctors, less stress, zero bankruptcies, and better outcomes. In ordinary times the U.S. system reduces access, burns out doctors, punishes people without money, increases stress, and results in more deaths.
Even parenting is less stress stressful, because all parents receive child support, parental leave, and paid days off to be with children who fall sick (and all employees also receive paid sick time off work). Those who care for special-needs family members get a respite with qualified workers being supplied. Norwegians benefit from strong unions and generally are paid well, so they can easily save money. Health care is a right, and so is elder care, either at home or in retirement communities.
In times of emergency like now, we can see how this political-economic design pays off. The narrative goes something like this: I know I have a remarkable degree of freedom to make life choices, in a polity where my voice can be heard, so I become a team player, and when we need unity to achieve a goal—such as overcoming a global pandemic—then count me in.
A great American, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, declared that everyone in the world should enjoy “four freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
As far as I know, the Nordic countries have come the closest to realizing those freedoms, enabling their societies to rise to the fore in meeting emergencies such as the coronavirus in a just and efficient way. Their public health systems, although excellent as shown by OECD statistical comparisons, do not exist in a vacuum. Mass movements had to arise, sweat, and suffer to gain what we see today. Americans can also be proud of our progressive social movements, but up until now we have not gone as far as the Nordic movements did. It’s time we learn from their example.
I include this article because Coronavirus is a bioweapon and the opportunity should not be lost to close down the bioweapon “industry.”
I think the explanation of its origins that Slate offers merits scrutiny, for those interested.
WEAPONIZED CORONAVIRUS IS AN ANGLO-AMERICAN PILGRIMS SOCIETY-ATTACK ON TRADE COMPETITORS IN AMERICA & CHINA
Slate, March 16, 2020
(MAR. 16, 2020)—This is one of the most important posts we have ever released. In the last 48 hours—just as the Coronavirus lock down was occurring in the US—researchers uncovered the likely culprits behind the Coronavirus bioweapon.
Despite the obvious U.S. Patent. No. 10,130,701 held by The Pirbright Institute (UK) operated by The Wellcome Trust, no one in the mainstream media is talking about this glaring fact. Even the alt-media is mute. We believe because the culprits are using every propaganda trick in their playbook to prevent a light being shined on the British Privy Council and the Queen.
China has been blamed, sort of, although the specifics are vague. We have shown that just a four-hour drive from Wuhan is Nanchang and the Merial Animal Health Institute manufacturing vaccines for The Pirbright Institute.
The decision by The Pirbright Institute (Wellcome Trust) to move their Merial Health vaccine manufacturing plant offsite was taken after a virulent foot and mouth outbreak at their Merial plant.
On Oct. 12, 2009, Merial moved their plant to Nanchang, China and slapped a new “Boehringer Mannheim “shingle on their Merial Pirbright UK plant, then carried on merrily. Same plant, different name, same controller: Wellcome Trust.
This means the British have, right now, a Merial (Wellcome Trust) vaccine manufacturing plant just four hours away from Coronavirus ground zero. But, why is no one pointing out this obviously suspicious FACT. All it would take to release the Coronavirus in Wuhan is for an employee at Merial to get in the car a vile of Coronavirus vile, and sprinkle it around in Wuhan.