Not Over Till It’s Over

This is not meant to scare anyone.  But here are some facts.

The U.S. is about THREE TIMES the geographic size of India. 

Yet India is home to 1.3 BILLION people as opposed to the U.S. population of just 333 million. 

That means FOUR TIMES as many humans live in India in about ONE-THIRD of the space we have.

To put it another way:

Imagine if EVERY U.S. STATE IN OUR EASTERN TIME ZONE suddenly vanished and EVERY PERSON WHO LIVED IN THOSE STATES instantly materialized into the states that remained.

That’s how much physically closer we would all be and that’s how socially distanced we would all be, mask mandates be damned. 

Okay, are you with me so far?

Uhhh…. yes?

Good.

Now even though none of us want to think about this, let’s briefly look at the latest statistics about Covid infection rates and deaths.

U.S. infection rates are now 50-60,00 per day, which sounds like a lot but actually is pretty great considering in early January, prior to the Biden-Harris administration taking office, we were at an all-time high of just over 300,000 per day.

Know what the infection rate was last week in India – OVER 400,000 PEOPLE PER DAY.

Putting it mildly

Yup, after enduring a first wave of infections surprisingly well considering its size, India is now exploding with Covid disease and deaths, so much so that crematoriums have been overrun and mass groups of corpses are now being burned in the streets.

I watched one news report that showed 44 ambulances with dead bodies lined up at one site with nowhere to go.

Sad, tragic but, um, thank god (Note: Our whoever you believe Her to be) WE’RE safe.  Right?

You can go ahead and press that

India survived surprisingly well in the first wave of COVID infections but it is now in the midst of a much more deadly second wave.

Why?

Because the second wave in India is due to a NEW COVID VIRUS VARIANT that is much more lethal and virulent than anything that came before it.

This is what viruses do.  As they get eradicated or slowed, they mutate to survive.  Sometimes they do this ineffectively and, other times, quite efficiently.

Not so fast everyone

For instance, I recall vividly being told in the last half of 2020 that the UK variant of COVID was starting to be found in California and today, mid-2021, it is now, by far, the dominant variant.

See how this stuff happens?

This might all seem potentially manageable if the Indian variant behaves like the UK variant.  But there is not yet ANY EVIDENCE of that.

In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave an interview on NBC this weekend where he unequivocally stated that, according to early research, in terms of the current science and the vaccines available, the India variant was so far PROBLEMATIC.

Now after decades of going to doctors for various medical conditions for myself as well as for my elderly parents, let me translate to you what problematic means from a physician.

Me, hearing the word “problematic”

 It means not good, it means we don’t have an answer, it means this can be worrisome.

At the very least it means, you are by no means cured or even out of the woods.  It means this is SOMETHINGOr worse.

Q: Oh come on, Chair, wait.  Why are you sending us into mass panic? Will the India variant even be here?  I mean, I just read that the US has restricted all air travel from India.

A:  You mean that edict this week, after we’ve intermingled aerially for several months when their cases were only 200-380,000 per day?  Right.  No reason to think an airborne virus from another country overseas could possibly get here and take over.  (Note: See several paragraphs above)

Sigh

In the interest of fairness, let’s note that the head of one German biotech company that helped develop the Pfizer vaccine, said that his vaccine was “clever” and “would hold” against this new variant.

Well, let’s hope it’s VERY clever because even though Mr. Biotech noted he wasn’t worried” he also let it slip between press sound bytes that they were “still testing” its effectiveness in combatting this new strain.

Meanwhile:

INDIA: 19.2 million Covid cases; 212,000 deaths.

U.S.: 32.5 million Covid cases; 580,000 deaths.

Yes, we’re still in the lead but soon they will soon be nipping at our heels.

 Literally.

My summer plans

And through no fault of their own.

Because the sad truth in all of this lies in something I heard one Indian doctor say live on TV this weekend. He spoke it in his native language but then translated in hopes that the rest of us might hear and then take action.

If it affects some of us, it affects all of us.

What to do?  Well –

– Getting the vaccine and any inevitable booster would be a start.

– Following CDC guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing could also help.

– Listening to science and facts vs. political dogma and conspiracy theories from your favorite cable TV news host or dark web site definitely wouldn’t hurt.

Lighting this nightly

-Donating a small amount of money, time or attention to help out someone/anyone/anything in support of any of the above would also be noteworthy.

And when all else fails, be kinder to others, even yourself. 

Because you never know what’s just around our MUTUAL corners.

Ben Lee – “We’re All in This Together”

Virtually Everything

As I sat working from my bed this week in my sweatpants, because why bother to get dressed or sit at a desk at this point, I vaguely remembered a movie character called the laziest woman in the world.

This woman was sort of blathering, complacent and yet somehow smart and all knowing because she managed to figure out an entire life where she never had to leave her bed.

.. and it’s Swoosie Kurtz!

Pretty sweet deal, I recall thinking, probably because I was young, tired and had too many other options.

Well, be careful of what I wish for.  All of you.

As it turns out this character was actually called The Lazy Woman and she was one of many strange people populating the 1986 movie True Stories, directed by former Talking Heads front man David Byrne.

Of course it was the eighties and of course it was David Byrne.

You know… the guy with the suit #slimming

Where else and by whom else could time be elevated, while laziness and selfish inertia was viewed as among the most coveted of commodities in the world?

Or perhaps Mr. Byrne and the eighties were just playing with us and giving us their own post-modern take on self-indulgence. Propping up an unenviable situation to enviable in order to comment on the ridiculousness of our human situations.

Well, right now it doesn’t matter, does it?

Time is meaningless

This is because in many American cities these days there is real reason to stay inside and not intermingle with the world.  It’s taken almost 40 years but when The Talking Heads first admonished us to Stop Making Sense, well, who knew they were correct and this would be where we’d eventually wind up?

Still, staying inside these days does not necessarily mean we don’t intermingle.  What we’re all discovering, well those of us in the majority of American cities where it’s advised you don’t freely run out into the streets without a mask or perhaps a Haz-Mat suit, is there are quite a lot of ways to interact with each other without actually moving more than a few feet from your literal comfort zone.

Thanks, Silicon Valley.

And congratulations for knowing in advance a way to give us the tools to do what we’d so desperately need while making your selves even filthier rich at the same time.

Ruh Roh!

I do have to hand it to technology, though.  Just when you write it off forever is when you realize its immense advantages in the real world.

This week I attended a virtual college graduation of students I’ve taught over the last few years and rather than it being the intensely — let’s all face it – droningly DULL affair it can so often be (Note: Unless you snag the likes of Michelle and/or Barack Obama as keynote speakers) it was instead fun, familial, touching and, yes, meaningful.

Much better than this would have been

That was because in forcing us to do everything trapped in our homes, where each graduate was seen onscreen for 10 seconds holding up their diplomas or making a virtual toast to the rest of us with their beverage of choice, we actually got to see them INSIDE their homes.

And yes, some of them were even in their beds.

This is not to imply any of this was done in a lurid way.  Instead, it was open season to take the 10 seconds and do EXACTLY what you, the graduate, wanted to and with whom you wanted to when your cue came up.

Pretty much like this for 2 hours

You had no script, nothing was rehearsed and all the heavy lifting was done.  Instead, it was each graduate’s choice to interact with us and each other in that moment.

What wound up happening was each virtual moment was about as more alive and real than any graduation I, or you, have likely ever attended.

I will never forget the young woman holding her pet guinea pig on her shoulder while it lovingly snuggled against her, nor the myriad of pet cats and dogs doing the same.

Woof!

Equally memorable were the parents, many of them my age, enthusiastically jumping up and down and throwing confetti on or near their graduate in sheer and utter joy, usually cracking up their child into laughter (and probably for the first time in years).

There were also the virtual toasts with champagne, beer, wine and assorted other beverages because hey, everyone’s home and, even if they weren’t, what the heck do you think college students REALLY DO to celebrate even the removal of a hangnail?

This is just a gross stereotype, right?

That said, someone even reached for a dope pipe, though he quickly and aptly had his time shortened. (Note: Yeah, some things never change).

There were simple hand salutes, the traditional moving of the tassel from right to left and even one very inventive young man who, outside his picturesque house, nodded thanks to the screen and then proceeded to cinematically walk towards the lake into the distance under the setting sun.

I mean, you couldn’t do anywhere near that well were this live on some academic quad or inside one of those many overly hallowed campus halls.

I DID IT!

Sure, there were some inspiring Zoom speeches from the elders, particularly from a host of WORKING alums from all over the country providing words of encouragement and promises of survival to the class of 2020  (Note: Hey, imagine YOU are the one virtually graduating this year during a global pandemic and all the promise that would hold for your young twenty something self).

Not to mention a short virtual video each graduate would later see from none other than pandemic expert and current pop culture icon himself, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made specifically for the health science graduates of our school.  In it he urged them all to please hang in there because we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character to get through this difficult time.

Suddenly they, and by extension us, were personally being invited to join Team Fauci!  It might have been virtual and could seem canned in the writing, but in this particular reality it actually felt more real than the liveliest of live rallies.  Not to mention, A LOT safer.

In fact, as I think about every virtual image I saw on my laptop sitting on my bed that day it occurred to me that laziness is not about where you are at any given time but what you choose to do with whatever time you’re allotted.

Imagine how ingenious we could all get simply staying at home if we put our collective minds to it.  It’d be the exact opposite of lazy.

Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime”