New resource: https://www.howardluksmd.com/sports-medicine/covid-19-update-3-14-2020-concerned-physicians-unite/ This one has pretty good explanations of how the virus spreads, and why as a country we need to act now. #CancelEverything #SocialDistancingWorks
If you missed yesterday’s post, it’s here: Don’t Panic, Do Act Responsibly.
How About That Last Week??
Greetings from not-quite Ground Zero, West Coast. When I first started this post (which is now a series of posts) I had no idea how annoying I would find this new block-based WordPress editor. (We hates it.) At that time, OHSU had just announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 (short for “COronaVIrus Disease 2019,” also known as the novel coronavirus) in Multnomah County, and Oregon had 14 confirmed cases. Oregonians who had a legitimate reason to believe they had been exposed to COVID-19 were just starting to learn about the frustrating inability to get tested–our whole state can currently process 80 tests per day–and reading stories like this one.
Testing capacity is still pretty limited, by the way. This means there are not enough test kits to go around, and not enough lab facilities to process them. Do not expect test-on-demand any time soon. These facts mean we also do not have an accurate count of actual infections. First, people who die who may have had COVID-19 but are unlikely to be tested. Second, people with “milder” cases (those who are not sick enough to need hospitalization) are unlikely to be tested, at least for now. Numbers from Italy and other western European countries indicate we should expect to see exponential spread unless we practice social distancing PRONTO. Please read this article in The Atlantic, and start to be St. Louis.
Law firms and courts started getting nervous last week. Well, more nervous–my firm’s Seattle office is closed. Early in the week, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington effectively shut down the Seattle and Tacoma courthouses. (Logic: these are relatively high-traffic spaces, people travel to them from all over the place, with many high-touch surfaces, where people are in close-proximity to each other.) Email from the Washington Supreme Court (deferring to the counties) soon followed. As you likely know Seattle’s King County has the largest number of COVID-19 cases. Monday they had a 50% no-show rate for summoned jurors. That means the there were not enough jurors to cover the criminal trials (which have priority due to the Constitutional right to a speedy trial), and the court warned us that no civil trials would go forward until further notice. I don’t blame the jurors, as the seating arrangements don’t allow for even 3′ in between seats. In the Pierce County Superior Court last Friday, I noticed an abundance of boxes of tissues and hand sanitizer everywhere, plus a giant bottle of Clorox wipes on the shelf (though I didn’t check to see if the bottle was empty). Defense counsel greeted each other with fist bumps, not handshakes. I started tracking Washington and Oregon numbers, since we have upcoming trials and therefore need jurors. Various legal news outlets reported office closures and even the death of a Washington paralegal.
The Day-to-Day Impact on Actual People
Some of us can work from home; others cannot. My Seattle friends who work at Nordstrom HQ and at Fred Hutchinson who shared their work restrictions two weeks ago (e.g. no air travel, no meetings of 5 or more people) are on mandatory work-from-home for the remainder of the month. My own Portland office is on a “Level One” plan, which means if you feel you’re at risk you can work from home, and the firm will pay for parking if you usually rely on transit but feel unsafe. Cancellation of large sporting events means that the hourly-employees who work there are out of work and going unpaid (think large basketball arenas). While some team owners (Mark Cuban, for example) and NBA players have stepped up and pledged to cover some of the lost wages, not all have. Baristas, bartenders, and waitstaff cannot do their work at home. Neither can drycleaners, hairdressers, and many others,
Many races and events are cancelled. In my personal universe, the Mercer Island Half Marathon and Portland Shamrock Run were canceled. The Oregon Brewery Running Series postponed all of their March events. My friend Jim Diego has started a spreadsheet of distance races (half marathon and longer, with some inherently famous races of other distances). You can access it too. In the rest of the fitness world, the IHRSA trade show was canceled, and SCW’s California Mania event was canceled. While COVID-19 is not transmitted through sweat, larger gatherings pose an inherent risk.
Independent contractors are taking a hit, especially in California. The spread of the coronoavirus hit my friend “Alex,” an executive business coach, with a double-whammy. First, she’s fighting California’s #AB5, a law that labor unions promised would target gig-economy workers but threatens the livelihood of all small business owners from certified interpreters to entertainers. The Grinch AB5 even took away Santa’s job! Worse, the federal government is trying to replicate it, which would run Alex out of business. Alex has a California LLC. She’s worked a corporate gig, but prefers the challenge and flexibility of project-based work. California companies are afraid to hire her and run afoul of AB5. Out-of-state companies are less excited than usual about bringing in someone from California, a state hit early by COVID-19. With the self-quarantine and social distancing recommendations, Alex isn’t thrilled about getting on an airplane and living in a hotel, either. Yet when she doesn’t work, Alex doesn’t get paid.
Outside of California, contractors also suffer. My friend Jennifer Canale is a professional spokesmodel who works trade shows and promotional events as an independent contractor. While she wasn’t scheduled to work the recently cancelled Natural Products Expo West–a gathering of 85,000+ people in Anaheim–every single one of her March shows has been canceled. This means Jennifer is losing a significant chunk of her income each time a spring show is canceled or postponed indefinitely. Jennifer and her colleagues often book shows six months to a year in advance. As independent contractors, they make and pay for their own hotel and travel reservations, and don’t get reimbursed for until a month or so after the show. In addition to losing income today, some of them are also eating big cancellation fees.
Act Practically, Act NOW.
There are things you can do to help everyone affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m assuming you are already on board with social isolation (see The Atlantic), washing your hands like your grandma’s life depends on it, and not hoarding resources. So now what?
STAY HOME. I know not everyone can do this (because we have systems of employment and education that make that impossible, and even in ideal situations we’d still need first responders and medical personnel). The best thing you can do is prevent the spread of the virus, and the best way to do that is to stay away from people. Please take a minute to read the article linked at the top of this post. #CancelEverything #SocialDistancingWorks
Again, DO NOT SHARE FAKE NEWS. I can’t say this often enough, as so much bad information is circulating. (So much that entire cities went out partying for St. Patrick’s Day, putting huge swaths of the population at risk. COVID-19 can stay alive in the air for up to 3 hours, and lasts for days on hard surfaces.) My last post had a brief list of resources generally, but you can also pay attention to your local and state department of health. Your governor may also have a website with the latest recommendations and protective measures locally. Don’t panic, be informed!
Share knowledge: What’s for dinner? Jennifer Canale has been posting photos of her creative (and super cheap!) dinners. A recent Mexican-inspired dish was under $5, and could have been stretched to feed more people inexpensively by adding tortillas and more vegetables (more steak optional). That was a splurge dinner, too–several meals have been $3 or less per serving. Not everyone has mad cooking skills, and what Jennifer is posting are easy-to-cook, non-fussy recipes that don’t require measuring. Check out twitter and the #QuarantineKitchen tag for more ideas.
Share knowledge: Where are the resources? Locally, I’ve seen many people share what is available and where via social media. Even better, I’ve seen people post that they need something specific (e.g. hand sanitizer) and watched people who have extra respond and offer to share. I’m not an expert on how to apply for public assistance programs, but maybe you are, or have time to help a friend or neighbor figure it out. Same with unemployment–which sadly lots of people may be facing.
Look out for your neighbors. Not everyone is financially able to stock up on the supplies you need to stay home for two weeks, especially if they are facing cuts to their income. If you can help, please do. You can cook extra food for people you know (it’s not hard to make two casseroles/lasagnas instead of one). You can help your elderly neighbor sign up for Meals on Wheels. (You can also donate cash to your local food pantry or food bank–they can stretch dollars better than canned goods. I can pretty much guarantee that every non-profit that feeds people needs help.) Depending on what’s going on where you live, your neighbors may need help removing snow from the walkway so it is safe to collect the mail.
PLEASE Support food charities. If you can only give $5 to help others, please give it to a charity that will fill empty tummies. Food insecurity is still a big problem in the US. Many kids rely on federally subsidized school lunches–and for some that is their only meal of the day. Others have school breakfast too. When schools close, those kids go hungry. It’s not just a few kids: 22 million children rely on free or reduced-price school lunches. Some schools and area food banks have a backpack program that provides kids with food so they don’t go hungry over the weekend. Check Feeding America to see if your area has one. In Oregon, please give to the Oregon Food Bank.
Give blood if you can. (Yes, I understand our blood donation rules–set out by the federal government and not the Red Cross–are outdated, and that sucks, and now would be a great time to leave the 1980s behind and learn to science.) If you can give blood, schedule a time and do it. The Red Cross has a website that makes this really easy. In general, very few eligible people donate blood even though blood has a limited shelf life, there is no substitute for it, and the need for blood is constant. The donation network suffers any time there is a major illness (as the need increases, and fewer people give so the supply decreases). I’m terrified of needles, and I signed up. You can do this too.
Call, email, or write to your friends, family, synagogue/church/temple/coven members. This is basically free, and can make a big difference in someone’s day. Introverts are joking about how they’ve been preparing to self-quarantine since birth, but your extrovert friends are probably going nuts. Reaching out to the senior population is something a Girl Scout troop could do remotely–and so can you. People who live alone are at a higher risk of feeling depressed or anxious due to social isolation. Reach out and let them know you care. If they are struggling, please point them to virusanxiety.com (if it is COVID-19 specific), or to other appropriate resources (USE GOOGLE!) including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Support your local businesses and small businesses. This one is more of a challenge, perhaps, as you’re supposed to be staying home and engaging in voluntary social distancing. Think creatively. Can you shop online? Order dinner for pick-up from that local restaurant? Place an order for pick-up over the phone elsewhere? Big box stores are going to lose revenue too, but for most of them your business is not a matter of life and death–but for your local wine shop, no income means no business. P.S. if you like the stickers I’m holding up, those came from Pixelated Science on Etsy.