QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

Covid-19, Day 85


Today, finally, the IOC caved to reality. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are now going to be the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Cancelling was too much, no way were they going to have events without spectators, so that was the option left.

Things in New York are getting dire. Today's news has 25k+ cases in that state, which is more than half of all US cases (about 43k). Projected needs for hospital beds there is 140k; currently available beds are 53k.

The markets are happy with an "expected" $2 trillion rescue package from the Feds. Trump is eager to make Wall Street happy because he thinks that will mean his a good president or something. I don't think Trump is really looking at, say, the New York numbers. Also in today's news: the WHO is warning the US will become the next "epicenter" of the disease.

This https://twitter.com/harikunzru/status/1239396964392935425 has an image that reflects what I'm seeing now in San Francisco.

Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks' updated

From @harikunzru on twitter.

It used to be lively at night. Now everything is shut down early and there's almost no one at the streets, even as early as 10pm. Last night on the dog walk, at around 10pm, it was quieter than the streets on the usual slow days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I saw only two businesses open: Walgreens and Hot Cookie. All the other places still in business under "restaurants can do take-out" have reduced their hours, most closing 8pm or 9pm now. The bars are all closed, most boarded up. The theatre remains closed. The bookstore that used to stay open until ten is closed. Knobs, self-proclaimed "gayest store in the city," a clothing shop which used to be open until midnight, has joined the boarding-up crowd. Like the dog wash place, they have the curious choice of "boarded-up, but left the lights on".

Knobs with well-lit front plywood

I didn't get close enough to see the decorations on the wood.

Mud Puppies doesn't have an exposed store name anymore

So bright inside...

There were a couple of other dog walkers out, a few people hurriedly moving along, and a fraction of the usual homeless population. It's starting to resemble a sleepy suburb now.

Covid-19, Day 79


San Francisco went into "shelter in place" rules yesterday. Walking the dogs, I've seen the streets eerily quiet. Restaurants are open for take out only. The bars are all shuttered. Many businesses are closed or reduced hours. Hardly anyone is walking or driving anywhere. To judge by this Reuters photo collection, it's not just San Francisco but world wide.

Yesterday there were anouncements that taxes will be postponed and there's talk of a $1000 check for every taxpayer in the US. Details are still thin, but:

March 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index tumbled 7% on Wednesday, triggering a 15-minute trading halt of Wall Street’s main indexes for the second time this week, on fears that stimulus measures may not be enough to avert a coronavirus-driven recession.
(From Reuters today.) Here's the "trading curbs" (aka "circuit breakers") that have happened recently:

datewhat happened
March 9, 2020Dow fell 7.8%
March 12, 2020Dow fell 10%
March 16, 2020Dow fell 12.9%
March 18, 2020Dow down 8.3% so far today

That's 34% down from the high of 29,551 on February 12th.

It was days ago that I went shopping, but it was crazy then. In these fast moving times, what's true one day might not be true the next. Still, last Saturday I went to seven stores of various types. Normally I shop on Sunday, but I wanted to get it over with sooner. In order:

1 Pet Food Express: no crowds, no noticible shortages (even in the cleaning supplies). I got pet food.

2 Discount Builder's Supply: they are rationing masks, and short on some cleaning supplies. I got some wood (for baseboard) and weatherstipping. I looked at doormats but did not get one.

3 Bed Bath and Beyond: Terrible, terrible line. I went in wanting a new doormat, I left without even looking at their stock. I did not see much of the shelves. This is a store that manages to make four customers waiting for three registers seem to take forever. When the line snakes to the back of the store, yikes.

4 Trader Joe's: Crowded and empty, empty shelves. Basically no meat, frozen food, canned food, or jarred food. I wanted hot dogs, tomato sauce, and nuts from there. I got nuts. Line was short. They had someone going around and sani-wiping the counters by the cash registers after every customer.

empty shelves at TJ's

I was far from the only person snapping pictures of empty shelves here. As I took this, a worker said it had been full on Monday.

5 Rainbow Coop: This is were I usually do the bulk of my grocery shopping. It is a vegetarian store, so I need to go elsewhere for meats. Otherwise it usually has a good selection of the stuff I need. I couldn't get some stuff because the bulk foods were closed.

papered over bulk bins

And then the non-bulk versions had sold out. Mostly not empty shelves, the canned beans were mostly gone, and (eg) no basmati rice (normally I buy from bulk); there was specialty stuff like paella rice. The bread section however was a blank slate.

empty bread shelves

My guess is they were not getting bread deliveries. The lines were insanely bad. I've never, even in Thanksgiving peak, seen lines longer than about three or four people there.

in a line to the back of the store

All of the staff, and many of the customers, at Rainbow were wearing disposable gloves. One staff member and a few of the customers had face masks.

6 Smart Food Service: I usually hit this up about once every 4 to 6 weeks. It's open to the public but aimed at supplying restaurants. It's my Costco substitute these days. They had hot dogs, but not a brand I knew and only in 48(?) packs. I got a pineapple and a big can of peaches in syrup. A 3kg can, I'd have gotten jarred ones from TJ's or Rainbow if they were available there. I used to buy them from Costco, where they came as a four pack of jars probably totalling 3kg, but I've let my membership lapse. Very few empty shelves, but the parking lot was full, something I'd never seen before. On the other hand, the line was shorter than usual.

7 Molly Stone's: this is my normal walk-to grocery, but it's expensive, so I don't get much stuff there. The soup section was pretty thin, and some veggies and cleaing supplies were out. No bakery bread there either, but they had some plastic bagged bread. I also got hot dogs (two $9 packs, Niman Ranch) and a whole chicken (organic free range, $24). I ended up spending about $98 there, possibly a record for a day I'm not buying booze. They do have a nice liquor aisle. I have seen people rack up over $1000 purchases in that store, with most of that spend alcoholic.

I didn't take pictures of the stores that were normal or near normal. Now I'm regretting that.

Covid-19, Day 74


Last night Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office. Today's news has the DOW taking it's worst one-day loss since "Black Monday" of 1987. Quoting Reuters end of market day summary:

The S&P 500 Energy index .SPNY lost 12.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 2,352.6 points, or 9.99%, to 21,200.62, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 260.74 points, or 9.51%, to 2,480.64 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 750.25 points, or 9.43%, to 7,201.80.
Basically the markets hated Trump's plan to bar Europeans from entering. It is, after all, not the way to address the disease as it currently exists in the US. Congress is trying to pass a stimulus package but the paid sick leave portion is causing Republicans to balk, so no bright hope there to help calm the markets.

Also in today's news: NBA ending the season early; hockey and baseball seasons look cancelled; New York is banning congregations of over 500 people, so all of Broadway will be shut down; Disneyland announced it will be closing starting Saturday. The local school district has cancelled school until after spring break (three weeks).

I don't have handy the known cases and known death figures world wide, (UPDATE: see next paragraph) but Italy alone has had over 15,000 known cases and 1016 deaths. Italy being the country with the most deaths outside of China. Generally the medical advice has been to do everything to slow the progress of the disease under the hope that even if N people get sick, with N being 10% or more of the population in total, the number at any one time will not exceed the capacity of hospitals. Hence closures of things that bring people together, like sports and theatre.

Today's numbers, from an updated 3pm ET daily article at Ars Technica: over 127,800 confirmed cases world-wide with over 4,700 deaths. In the US, 1,300 confirmed cases (but lack of testing means that's surely an undercount) and 38 confirmed deaths (similarly undercounted); only five states have no known cases.

As of yesterday, though, IOCCC was still optimistic for Tokyo 2020 this summer. I am not optimistic international travel will be comfortable for most people by then.

Covid-19, Day 63


On 30 December 2019 a doctor in Wuhan, China, described a SARS-like virus for the first time. The first news I saw of it was one day later in a story I saw in netnews. At that time there were 27 known patients and no sign of human-to-human spread. Shortly there after the disease was linked to a meat market where live animals were traded (and slaughtered) and popularly called "Coronavirus". The name COVID-19 was coined later.

Today's news has more than 86,500 known cases in sixty countries, 8,700 of those cases outside China and over 125 deaths outside China.

That's pretty impressive work for nine weeks.

It's a bit surreal living through this. I don't feel particularly worried, but a lot of people are very worried. When I went grocery shopping yesterday, a lot of shelves were bare. People stocking up on non-perishable foodstuffs, in particularly canned goods. I read about face mask shortages and misuse daily now.

I take public transit to work, am attending a gathering of ~350 people tomorrow, many of whom travelled internationally to be here, I'm almost incapable of not touching my face frequently (a bad thing, apparently with this particular disease), and I'm weak-of-lung. By rights I should be panicking. I have started to make a point of washing my hands more often, such as as soon as I can after going outside. So there's that.

I am distressed that our Trump-led government seems to be hell-bent on making a mess of this. Trump just seems incapable of standing aside for others to do work, and considers himself quick to become "expert" in too much. Urg. A lot of people are getting sick or dying, and there's not much hope of this getting under control soon. At least cities and states seem to be stepping up rapidly.