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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Covid-19, Day 244

Latest numbers: dispensing with the state numbers now. US overall now over six million cases and more than 183,000 deaths. As "back to school" kicks in, new outbreaks, particularly at colleges are appearing. World wide cases are over 25 million and deaths stand over 844,000. In recent weeks some states have started to scale back testing, following Federal guidance that seems based on Trump's fewer tests will mean fewer cases fantasy. Rapid testing is still a burden to find in the US.

Increasingly I'm seeing bars and restaurants put in outdoor seating, using the "parklet" model San Francisco has. Basically this is the conversion of on-street parking to protected space for people.

Three parklets for outdoor seating

Here three separate businesses have three parklets at one intersection. One is simply metal barriers for now. If it follows the practice seen elsehwere, the walled wood platform will be there soon.

Prior to covid-19 very few parklets were all wood construction, and some had very artistic designs. Consider the "Deepistan National Parklet" created in 2011, with a topiary dinosaur.

The triceratops topiary at Deepistan Parklet

When it was created, Deepistan National Park(let) was the only parklet sponsored / in front of a residence.

But now rapid and cheap is the name of the game, and basic wood boxes are springing up around the city. This is all fine and well on good days, but rainy weather will be coming, and right now San Francisco is in the midsts of it's longest ever streak of "Spare the Air" days, where certain activities are discouraged and some are illegal due to bad air quality. (Discouraged: driving, at risk people spending time outdoors; illegal: wood fires including beach bonfiles.) The air is so bad because of blown in smoke from wildfires around the state.

It's a bad year for wildfires. The current batch was started by a rare series of August lightning strikes, months after the last rain. Many small fires started and grew until they combined into a few huge fires. Two out of the three largest wildfires in California history were burning simultaneously, and Covid-19 hindered both response and shelter options for people evacuated.

There have been a few days that the smoke layer sitting on the city has been very unpleasant for me. As I've gotten older, wood smoke causes my nasal passages and lungs more and more distress. When mask wearing started for Covid-19, I first began using my "Vog" brand N-95 mask which I had purchased for dealing with wildfire smoke in the city in previous years.

But more distressing than than the disruption of the disease or the suffocating smoke has been the politics. Trump's rejection of reality and outright stoking of racism, his obvious attempts to thwart voting, his destruction of norms and the US Postal Service, all of that is becoming a dispiriting drain on my mental health. Trump didn't accept the election results when he won, I have no illusions he'll accept a loss this time. And I have no stomach for imagining how it will shake out.

Covid-19, Day 170

Latest numbers: New York State has 389,900 reported cases and 30,700 deaths, 292 of those in week ending June 14th. California has 159,200 cases and 5,200 deaths, 432 on June 14th week. US overall 2,158,500 cases and 117,200 deaths, 5,175 deaths that same week. World wide deaths stand at 444,500 and infections at at 8,270,000. It is widely believed US numbers (and some world numbers) are undercounts due to testing shortages and delays. Looking at graphs, some parts of the US have seeminly recovered, while others are staying flat or getting worse. New York looks like it is long past the worst; California looks flat; Nebraska, Georgia, Arkansas all seem to be getting worse and worse. But don't worry — "If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any" President Trump told us on the 15th.

Today I had my first dentist appointment in covid-times. The dental office called earlier in the week to reschedule the time of visit. Apparently the one hour appointments are now staggered throughout the hour so that there is less overlap in waiting room use. I did not sit down at all in the waiting room, since I was a little late for the appointment. This week also saw alternate side parking enforcement begin again in San Francisco, and I had trouble finding a space.

In the waiting room I had my temperature taken with touchless forehead scan and a health survey taken. In the room with the dental chair, I was given hand sanitizer and s special mouthwash. The chair had disposable plastic sheath. The old style rectangular bib with a neck chain was gone. Instead a large bib with a shape like the x-ray blankets was just balanced on me. Hygienists and doctor wore both face masks (cloth over nose and mouth) and face shields (clear plastic over whole face).

The cleaning was mostly the same. There was a new suction tool, which the hygienist called a "leaf". It was a flat bulb with preforations on one side to create a distributed zone of suction. The leaf was used during ultrasonic scaling and polishing. The old style suction straw was still in use for other parts of the cleaning and exam. (During polishing both suction tools were used.) In response to my questions, the hygienist said they they had not been using the ultrasonic scaler or the polisher before they had the leaf. It's supposed to reduce the aerosols from those activities, but I still saw the spray of mist.

Besides street sweeping enforcement beginning again this week, bars and restaurants in San Francisco have also begun limited reopening. Places with outdoor seating can now use that. It's somewhat controversial in that it puts a burden on waitstaff to be extra cautious handling stuff and often puts diners in close contact with non-dining public (eg sidewalk seating). I was never one to eat out much, and have not availed myself of this new opportunity.

Immediately after the dental cleaning I went to a bagel shop for breakfast and coffee. No one was using their outdoor tables. I got my food and left to eat it at home.

Covid-19, Day 135

Today's numbers: New York State has 345,045 reported cases and 26,981 deaths. California has 71,051 cases. US overall 1,375,542 cases and 82,030 deaths. World wide infections are at 4,280,000 and deaths stand at 290,370. It is still widely believed all of these numbers are undercounts due to testing shortages and delays. In particular, the US is leading the world in cases and still hasn't gotten a handle on testing.

I hear (well, read) lots of speculation that Trump has stopped caring about the death and destruction. Rich people can better isolate themselves and pay for treatment, so it's only poor people seriously affected. Force them back to work so people who run businesses and people who invest can get back to making money. It's easy to believe he's that callous and self-centered based on his frequent public speaking in which he denies any responsibility and lazily tries to blame others.

The Supreme Court is back in session, but now with all remote cases. Just today they heard arguments in a group of cases all trying to get access to his tax records. His being Trump's. The cases involve, eg, New York State having subpeonaed his accounting firm to investigate tax fraud with the Trump Foundation, his dubious charity.

I have been cautiously going back in stores and getting takeout food again, but am still getting the bulk of the shopping done by services. Several restaurants have switched over to repacking restaurant sized ingredients for consumers and selling that. Buy through their website then pickup at the door.

store sign demanding people wear masks

Around here, mask wearing is done by the majority of people most of the time. San Francisco requires shoppers to wear masks, and compliance has been good. Other parts of the country are not like this.

Overall the differences from last year's normal are less jarring day by day. Some people have been complaining that it's hard to tell Monday from Tuesday from Saturday from Wednesday and are still counting days, at least humorously, in March. May 12th is March 73rd. I'm not having that trouble. I have noticed wildlife in the city seems different. Pigeons seem scarce and song birds seem louder. Last week I heard coyotes. A first for this neighborhood, where there are no wooded parks for them to live in. It's not all bad.

Covid-19, Day 95

Today's numbers: New York State has 102,900 reported cases and 2,935 deaths, 562 of those in the last 24 hours. California has 11,000 cases. US overall 257,500 cases and 6,551 deaths. World wide deaths stand at 54,500 and infections at at 1,034,000. It is widely believed all of these numbers are undercounts due to testing shortages and delays. Comparisons of newspaper obituaries, crematorium business, etc, show around twice as many extra deaths than reported covid-19 cases alone.

Speaking of obits, the occasional reports of famous people infected have started to give way to occasional reports of famous people dead from covid-19. You can expect statements to the effect of "this was covid-19 related" or "this was not covid-9 related" in such news story obits. It's reminding me of AIDS obits in the 1980s.

The Supreme Court reports all justices still healthy, but it is postponing all April oral arguments, as it post-poned March ones last month. The FDIC today announced the first bank to fail under covid-19, First State in West Virginia. Failure-in-Chief's son-in-law failure, Jered Kushner, is now taking a leadership role in FEMA, all but ensuring that Michael Brown's leadership during Hurricane Katrina won't go down as the worst FEMA disaster response.

Life goes on for me. My March 14th (Saturday) shopping was the last time I went into a grocery store. I think March 15th was the last time in any store. Since then food, and everything else, has been delivery only. But I still see stores on my daily walks. My local grocery has installed plastic barriers between the cashiers and the customers. The flower display outside has been replaced with a portable rental handwashing sink. The last 24-hour business in the neighborhood has stopped that, and closes at 9pm now. That business, by the way, is a drug store. Lines outside stores, because they are limiting the number of people inside at any one time, are common now.

Round the corner line to enter a store

Seen today (April 3rd) during the 8:30 am dog walk, the longest store line I've encountered during "social distancing".

Someone I know tried to get a test yesterday. After going to a drive through testing facility, answering a lot of questions through a closed window in her car (using a cell phone), and then getting a quick exam through the open window by a suited-up doctor, she was turned away with no test. The questions along the lines of "are you a health care worker?" and "do you work with elderly or immunocomprised people?" led her to believe that the testing center wasn't going to offer a test to anyone with less than extreme symptoms or serious risk of spreading the disease. We are seriously triaging even testing, no wonder the numbers are apparently low.