Outbreak: Something New Every Day

We watched in horror as the news came in from China, it seemed to be getting worse everyday. Everybody learned the word “corona virus” and “Wuhan.”

On January 21st, the first positive corona virus test was reported here in Washington in Snohomish /county. There was some drama behind the tests themselves, apparently Dr. Chu at the UW had a test ready to go, but, bafflingly, the CDC told Dr. Chu not to test. She defied the CDC, ran the tests, and sounded the alarm. We don’t know when the virus first arrived or where it had been spreading, we were in the dark until Dr. Chu ran that test.

On February 27th, I learned the word “Covid-19” from the news. Bothel High School closed for a deep clean after someone tested positive in the building.

On February 29th, the first novel corona virus death was reported in Kirkland, and we started hearing about positive tests around the Puget Sound area.

The following day, March 1st, more schools in the suburbs started announcing closures. By this point, we are talking about proper hand washing, covering coughs, and disinfecting surfaces. On March 3rd and the 5th our faculty starts having meetings about plans for a closure. Admin assures us that the first week would be digital learning, and following weeks would be synchronous virtual classroom.

Digital learning: we post assignments on our website by 10 am; students complete the work and submit it electronically by 10 pm. Synchronous virtual classroom: teachers and students do video conference calls over Google Meet, delivering our usual 80 minute classes, from 8 am to 2:30 pm. To be clear, delivering two or three 80 minute classes as a conference call sounds like a nightmare to me; with everyone on a screen for 5 and a half hours per day. We teachers quickly discover several ways that students could use Google Meet’s features to sabotage the broadcast.

On March 5th the big corporations in Seattle (Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc.) told employees to start working from home. The following day, events started to be postponed and cancelled. Emerald City Comicon, WWU Winter Graduation, etc. College and university campuses announced that all classes in the quarter would be completed online, no more meetings on campus.

On March 9th, there was the first stock market hit the emergency brakes after a plummet. Ireland cancels St. Patrick’s Day parades, Italy the country goes into a hard shutdown.

On March 10th, Washingtonians voted in the presidential primary. I cast my voted for Bernie Sanders. Super Worm Moon. All kinds of amateur and professional sports start announcing cancelled events.

March 11th, my school announces that we won’t be returning the following day, or they day after, and that digital learning starts March 16t (today). The WHO declares that this outbreak is a pandemic. Governor Inslee bans any event of over 250 people. The archdiocese cancels all public celebrations of the Eucharist until further notice. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announce testing positive for covid-19, having been tested in Australia (they probably wouldn’t have been able to get the test in the US due to unprepared labs, due to the federal government dragging its feet). The president gave a rare oval office address and botched all the information, announcing the ban on travel from Europe and calling the virus “horrible” and “a foreign virus,” and congratulating himself for keeping America on top of the situation. For some reason, the UK and Ireland are not included in the travel ban.

March 12th, I had the day off, used it for some planning. Governor Inslee closed all schools in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. Stocks were halted again. Libraries, museums, and zoos closed.

March 13th, Friday, Governor Inslee ordered all schools in the state to be closed. State health officials put hospitals on warning to get ready for Covid patients. Mayor Durkin orders a moratorium on evictions during the crisis. The stupid president declared a national emergency, “two big words.”

March 14th, the stupid president includes the UK and Ireland in the travel ban, in the media briefing room. He was wearing an ill-fitted USA cap and no necktie. More and more cancellations. The Safeway across the street is out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipies, eggs, and is very low on spaghetti. Plenty of fresh produce, though.

March 15th, yesterday. Governor Inslee announced that restaurants, bars, and other entertainment had to stop dine-in services. People are starting to understand that by being exposed, they might be killing other people, even if they themselves don’t get sick. The Governor limits gatherings to 50 people. Restaurant take-out and delivery are still allowed. The Safeway across the street is restocked with eggs.

March 16th, today. The president recommends gatherings of no more than 10, and warns of a recession. People are trying to stay 6 feet from each other. Grocery stores are hiring. The Fed cuts interest rates to zero. Certain stores are allowing senior citizens to shop for supplies during early hours, just after the store is freshly sanitized, as a way for them to avoid younger virus carriers.

I spend most of the day inside today, with my first synchronous virtual ukulele lesson. Made a loaf of bread, cooked rice, baked a salmon filet. I posed my classes’ assignments in the morning and did some emails. Took an afternoon nap.

This month has been crazy, and it’s only halfway over. Something new is developing every day, and we’re no longer thinking of those fired Kennedy teachers or the presidential election. All we can think of nowadays is self quarantine and isolation. Tomorrow may bring new restrictions.

I relied heavily on this timeline article for this post, as well as my own facebook feed and personal messages.

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