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Ridding Ourselves OF The Unwelcome Guest Something To Be Thankful For

One of the things I’m most grateful for in life, day in, day out is good health. It’s a cliché, but its true,,, if you don’t have health, you don’t have anything. Granted, if you’re sick and have a lot of money, you can perhaps get enhanced health care and buy more remedies. But that still doesn’t make for a good life. The list of rich and famous people taken down by cancer or heart attacks is a lengthy one. So having decent health, along with a few people who care about you along for the journey, are really the things that matter. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a middle-aged guy and I have issues like almost anyone else. I have to check the ingredients of almost everything I eat because of food allergies; there seem to be some kind of pollens in the air for about eight months out of the year that keep me making allergy pill manufacturers richer. But all in all, I feel good most days and that I celebrate every day. Now even more so now that we had the unwelcome visitor of Covid come to our house last month.

I remember when Covid first made the news – over two years ago, when it was being called the “corona virus” and there were only a dozen or so cases known over here. When it was largely confined to one or two Chinese cities – I rather thought it was overkill and hype from a bored media. But as pro sports began cancelling months of their schedules, awards shows were canceled and the daily death count in the U.S. began to rise, I took note. And took it seriously. So too did my sweetie, and the “kiddo” , her daughter who’d just joined the workforce not long before.

We did things we were supposed to. Mostly, we all wore masks every time we went out into some store or enclosed place. And we did that a lot more sparingly than before. Recreational shopping became passe; trips to Walmart or the supermarket for necessities, which we navigated as quickly as possible were about the only such excursions for us for over a year. we tried curbside deliveries. We helped make Amazon richer by the month; if it wasn’t at Walmart or the HEB (the local supermarket) and we felt like we needed it, it was coming through the mailbox via Jeff Bezos & Co. We tried to watch those little cutout footprints on store floors and keep our distance from other shoppers. Sitting in a restaurant became as distant a memory as thinking leg warmers or parachute pants were cool. I became a habitual hand washer; the ladies went through jug after jug of hand sanitizer. And it worked.

Thankfully, for two years or so, we avoided Covid. Personally, I felt like I was healthier than almost ever before. I went a full winter without anything resembling a cold or flu, something of a rarity. But it eventually caught up to us a couple of weeks back. Because of course, no matter how careful you are yourself, you’re fighting a losing battle unless you also jettison everyone from your life who doesn’t take the illness threat as seriously as you do. That we didn’t do. Suffice to say some members of the extended family had grown tired of things like masks or hearing the news tell of the death toll topping one million from the illness in the States; they figured the threat was over, if there ever was one to begin with. They lived their lives just like before the pandemic.

So Father’s Day weekend came around and we spent a little time with a family member who had a bad throat. We tried to keep a bit of distance, but didn’t think all that much of it, especially since they’d had some dental work days earlier and had been having oral problems from it. We even went over to my sweetie’s eldest. He and his wife cooked us a lunch. When we left, sweetie and I both felt a little short of breath, wheezy, but that wasn’t unusual since there are friendly – but free-shedding – cats there who do set off our allergies.

When we got home, my sweetie was worn out, and slept for most of the rest of the day. That night was hellish. She began coughing. I was dead tired…but couldn’t get to sleep. I tossed, turned, sweated, and had a headache like never before. A pounding sinus headache, periodically interrupted by lightning-like jolts through my head. Finally I got to sleep mid-afternoon Monday. Napping is something I normally do about once a decade, but it was the only option this time. My sweetie coughed some more. Neither of us felt like eating anything.

I got a good sleep that night, for maybe 12 hours, alternately sweating like a sauna visitor and shivering, it seemed. Indeed, the next day I could barely pick up a plate to take to the kitchen because I was shaking so much because I felt cold. It was over 100 outside, and the AC wasn’t set on “Arctic” by any means, but I pulled on a sweater. Then pulled a winter blanket over top of me. Meanwhile, my sweetie’s cough was getting worse and more continuous. Thankfully she took my advice and called her doctor.

Turns out her doctor was off then…with Covid himself. But they set up a teleconference with an associate of his. He had her take a test – one of the government-issued ones – and she quickly tested positive for the dreaded illness. Not a surprise given the symptoms and that we’d heard the other family member and his wife, had gone from bad throat to having Covid too. The doctor prescribed her Paxlovid, something a doctor friend of ours had said was the best thing out there. They were probably right. She started to take the med that night, and by mid-day next day, she was coughing a whole lot less…something to really be thankful for.

Around that time the kiddo came down with the symptoms too. And so it went. For four or five days, I had almost no energy. Walking to the kitchen was a chore that required lying down for ten, twenty minutes afterwards to recuperate from. The shivering/sweating cycle continued for days. Miraculously, I didn’t develop much of a cough, but my nose was running a marathon for several days.

In time, it ran its course. Now, two weeks later, we’re all back to normal-ish. We’re lucky for that, and for maybe not catching it until now. The dominant strains – BA4, BA5, I think – are a little less lethal than the first round of the illness which killed many of the 1 050 000 people in this country who’ve died from it so far. We’re all getting back into the daily routine, work and chores and everything else that you miss more than might expect when incapacitated. Even with that, things aren’t quite the same as before. “Covid brain is real,” my sweetie’s commented. The mental fuzziness many have described hasn’t been severe for us…but has been real. She’s needing more notes to remind her of some routine things at her work. I have this blog, but also post a daily music one. I’ve put over 3000 posts up on it so far. Writing the blogs takes a little thought, of course, but actually publishing it is something I could normally do in my sleep. But several times this past week, I’ve had to stop and ponder how to do something dead simple – post a link to a video , eliminate excessive space between paragraphs. And there’s that taste loss people talk about. Real too.

My sense of smell, or lack of, is a family joke. We can drive by a poor dead skunk, and I’ll see it but not smell it. One of the ladies will ask “what’s that burning smell?” and I’ll respond “what smell?” It’s not acute, and nor I presume is my sense of taste. Hot sauce on everything basically. But for all that, I do have a sense of smell and taste. Or at least, did. After a few days of Covid, it became noticeable to me I couldn’t taste some things I used to. For instance, coffee. I drink a lot of coffee, often quite strong. I can taste that. But suddenly, it began to seem like just warm water to me… a whole level of flavor had disappeared. I added more grounds to the brews, but nothing. I’d stick my nose in the coffee jar and inhale…and smell nothing. Likewise, some IPA beers I had on hand…quite strongly flavored. But not now (curiously, the light lagers which always have little flavor taste the same as ever to me.) I can detect sweet, and spicy hot, and a few other basics but all in all, my sense of taste is probably half gone. Hopefully it will come back; even today I noticed I could taste a little of the meat and hot sauce in a sandwich I had, something I don’t think I could have last week. Maybe someday I’ll smell a skunk and cheer.

So, things are getting back to normal, slowly. And that includes me being thankful every day for good health. I recommend you do the same if you’re feeling good…and put on a mask if you’re going shopping, or to a restaurant, no matter how passe it might feel by now.

Reality , What A Concept

A pair of Cardinals nested outside our front window this spring. The well-hidden nest was probably no more than eight feet from where I’d stand looking out. Yesterday I noticed the bright male adult feeding a couple of little ones, who’d somehow wandered away from the nest. They sat on a branch, looking like tiny little still clumps of leaves until the parent got near, at which point they’d get excited and flap their tiny wings and jump a bit. A couple of times during the day I just stopped and watched the activity. It was quite relaxing…and got me thinking of a couple of news tidbits I’d seen recently. Two quite disparate items which were so different, it got me thinking, maybe they pointed out the same thing – we need to be more in touch with reality, and with our planet.

The first story was about Canada, where some doctors can now “prescribe” Nature for patients. The BC Parks Federation started a program which has now spread to several provinces including Ontario, whereby doctors are allowed to “prescribe” time in nature for their patients and even give them a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which allows free entry into Canadian national parks and some other provincial or regional ones.

It’s not just a gimmick devised by some granola company or binocular manufacturer either. Dr. M. Lem, speaking about the idea says “there’s a strong body of evidence on the health benefits of nature time, from better immune function, (increased) life expectancy, to reduced risk of heart disease and depression.” A Dr. R. Phillips adds “we practically live in virtual worlds…it’s important to set an intention to regularly spend time in nature.” He says “I often prescribe nature time for patients who struggle with chronic stress, anxiety or depression.” He reports “improved clarity and mood” generally result in those who follow those doctor’s orders. So far, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore are watching the program with thoughts of doing something similar and a few American doctors have already followed suit on their own. Seems as though sometimes a walk in the woods or coffee break watching ducks on a pond does the trick better than a couple of Xanax or Valium.

Which brings me to the second news item. A follow-up to a story which I somehow missed four years ago about Akihiko Kondo. Kondo’s a Japanese 30-something man who made headlines for himself in 2018 by “marrying” – I won’t write that without quotation marks, sorry – a cartoon character, Hatsune Miku. Hatsune in apparently an anime character who’s been used in some video games and a few music videos. She is supposed to be a 16 year old, big-eyed, blue-haired Japanese girl.

Akihiko says he has trouble meeting girls…that is real, human ones … and many of them have made fun of him in the past, calling him an “ataku”, which apparently is Japanese for “nerd” of “Sheldon Cooper-like.” So his solution was to escape further into a world of make believe and make his life partner a fictitious one.

He says “I’m in love with the whole concept of Hatsune Miku,” saying they’d “dated” for ten years before he asked her to marry him. “I will never have to see her ill or die,” he enthuses and she’ll always “be there for” him. His greatest day, or at least besides his “wedding” day, was when a tech company called Gatebox rolled out a $3000 device that allows people to have little holograms, so with it he could see a 3D Hatsune and talk to her. Ahh, young love!

So then he asked her to be his one and only, and we’re told she said yes, so they had a wedding, with a certificate and all. He had his little hologram of her by his side, but since he realized that he couldn’t actually put a ring on a holographic finger, he got a plush toy version of her and put the ring on that as a surrogate. One imagines the doll also stood in for his bride on the honeymoon. He does add sorrowfully that his mother wouldn’t attend the wedding. She “wants (me) to meet and fall in love with a real person.” Poor Hatsune might not get along with her new mother-in-law, methinks.

He’s taken the hologram “wife” on dates and holidays with him, but then crisis arose. During the pandemic, Gatebox stopped offering service for his device and now he can “no longer communicate” with her. Sad Akihiko! He still proclaims his love for her and undying devotion but laments not being able to talk to a 3D representation of the already fictional creation.

Now, it would be easy to write him off as either a hopefully harmless but sadly deranged individual or just a savvy publicity hound looking to get interviews and his photo in magazines. Perhaps he is one or both. But reports say there are thousands more just like him now, particularly in Japan where being “fictosexual” is being looked upon as a fairly normal way of living life. I wonder if Betty Boop is still single?

I’ve met men who joke about Betty Rubble and her Flintstones body, but emphasize “joke”. And while there’s probably not a straight man around who hasn’t watched a Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts or, insert actress of your choice’s name, movie and let their mind wander a little and think “boy, wouldn’t that be nice” , they also know that it is a fantasy. Not reality, even though Ms. Aniston, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Your Choice are in fact real humans, which is more than we can say about Hatsune. They age, get sick, and sadly one day will die like every one of us, including the real mates we love in real life.

Video games are entertainment, but not real life, and teenage girls in them are fictitious characters, not soulmates. Real life involves real people in real settings on this real planet. Real relationships mean putting up with bad, including things like illness and losing one’s looks as age marches on. Most of us know this and agree to the terms of this big “game of life.” Alarmingly though, as Dr. Phillips says, more and more people seem oblivious to those things, as they live in their “virtual worlds.” I see signs of it increasingly frequently in the youngest generations amongst us, who might well see Akihiko as some sort of role model, oblivious to what they may be missing out on.

Is this making them happy? Far from it. A body of evidence shows that depression is rising among the younger generations and affects more under-30 types who have their whole lives ahead of them than elderly people. If you know any Millennials or Gen Z’s, you probably don’t need scientific studies to tell you how prevalent depression and “stress” issues are among them. 

It makes me hope the Nature Prescription may be the next wonder drug.I hold out hope that we as a species are smarter than your typical Cardinal. Or at least smarter than your typical video game avatar.  One final bit of advice from the docs at Nature RX – when you fill your “prescription,” leave your phone behind.

Thankful Thursday XXV – Companies Who Care About Their People

Since the pandemic hit hard early last year, my sweetie has been working at home instead of the large office she had clocked in at before. My sweetie and thousands others like her, in her corporation and countless others. They sent home computers and monitors and the software needed for her to trouble-shoot customer problems from the desk in our bedroom. It’s a familiar scenario across the land, and across the world. This Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for companies which care about their employees.

It struck me a few days back but was really reinforced in my mind earlier today. While there are downsides to the work at home – at times she misses the comraderie of having her worker friends around, she had a more comfortable chair and movable, ergonomic desk in the office, for instance – for the most part it’s been great. We’ve saved hundreds in gas by not having to have her drive back and forth daily, and most importantly, she and most of her co-workers have been able to stay safe. Thinking back, even pre-Covid, it seemed like she was sick a lot more frequently and flu had rampaged through their ranks the winter before. I appreciate the corporation doing their part, and I expect if they ever recall the office, there’ll be differences. More space between desks, perhaps people working some days at home, some days on site, partitions between desks…who knows?

Anyway, that leads to today, when she received an intranet e-mail saying to check her door. The company had sent over a gift bag… snacks, keychain, pens and notepads, that sort of thing. Even a large bagged pickle with a note saying “we think you’re a big dill!” It was cute, and brightened her work day. Little things like that go a long way from employers.

Back in the day, in my first of two employers that were in the photographic industry, we were at a small store. The pay wasn’t great, the ventilation around the processing equipment sub-standard I’m sure. So were my sinuses, and other co-workers who seemed to get a whole lot of sinus infections. But the co-workers were great and the owner of the franchise at least made sure he had a couple of big parties annually for all of us. Mid-summer there was a big pool party at his house, with softball (and his famous “Skydome of Beer!” at home plate – a cooler shaped like the Toronto sports stadium) , a BBQ and of course, cooling off in his pool. It was a great day to relax and have fun with the others outside the “office”. Same thing come winter time, with a Christmas party, full dinner and all those fun things at his place. I appreciated that. So too the freebies he got and passed out readily. Olympus mugs, Ilford film frisbees, Ricoh attaches or something, clothing. Particularly, clothing. The store had a uniform but, if you were in a comfy Canon sweatshirt say, you could skip the dress code for a day. It made me feel quite appreciated.

So here’s to all the employers going the extra mile, to keep the employers safe and put a smile upon their face. I’m thankful for all of you.

Thankful Thursday XXVII – Health

A few days ago, I threw my back out. I think a 12-pack of pop was the culprit. Of course, it’s not the weight, it was some tiny mistake I made in moving to pick it up, twisting in just the right way to make standing back up difficult and ouch-filled. By now, it’s just a dull ache as I sit here typing and sniffling a bit from allergies. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I don’t mean to be. Actually it just leads me to my topic – this Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for good health.

Literally. I mean, I count myself lucky. As someone now over half a century old, if occasional back pains and sneezing bouts are all I really have to be bothered by, I am entirely lucky. By now, I’m at the age where I’ve had friends I went to school with pass away from horrible ailments. I see people who look somewhere around my age hobbling through stores lugging oxygen tanks they need to breathe. Each week now, I’m driving an older brother-in-law to doctor’s appointments to try and remedy some weird illness that caused him to basically lose the ability to stand or walk for a year or more. (Now he can do both, but is needing a walker to go more than a few feet.) Some people in my household have diabetes; others, chronic knee pain. Not to mention my dear dad who passed away this year from a heart attack, months after his wife died from a myriad of problems tied to diabetes but best described as “old age.” And of course, the elephant in the room, this awful new disease inflicted upon the world last year that’s killed more people in this country than the entire population of Memphis or Miami. I’ll take an occasional feeling of a jolt of electricity when I pick up a package wrong or a bit of a runny nose until the allergy pill kicks in any day. With good grace.

I try to make a point to walk; I could still do more. I try to eat fairly healthy foods; I could eat more fruit and a sandwich or two less. But I never take being healthy for granted. Money, toys, respect… all fine things. But they don’t mean much at all if you don’t have your health. If you’re feeling good today, say ‘thank you’ to God, Mother Nature, karma or whomever you choose and keep a bounce in your step.

Thankful Thursday XX – Lovin’ The Time Of No Cholera

The trying last year or so has done one thing for most of us – made us a lot more aware of cleanliness, the need for handwashing and so on. It puts me in mind of something I covered in my book Thank Goodness – 101 Things To Be Grateful For Today. This Thankful Thursday, I’m thankful for living in an age of good hygiene.

It’s such an obvious one it sometimes slips our minds. One doesn’t have to look far to find stories of Medieval times or the early Industrial Age that make it all too clear what life was like without indoor plumbing. No toilets, no hot water to wash with, sewage running down the streets…besides the stink, which must’ve been horrendous, it’s easy to see how this lack of basic hygiene could cause mass die-offs from now largely-forgotten illnesses.

Clean streets and no worries of dysentery or cholera – something to give thanks for every time we visit the restroom!

The Trouble With Normal (Is It Always Gets Worse), Part 2

Wuhan, it turns out is a city that’s the same size as New York. Yet it’s only the ninth biggest city in China. The U.S. has one city (the Big Apple) with more than five million residents; China, 19 of them. Which along with it being about 5000 miles removed from the nearest port on our shore, explains why three months ago most of us had never heard of it. Until, that is, people who shopped in a “wet meat” market started getting sick, and in some cases dying with what originally seemed to be a weird pneumonia.

That was around Christmas time, but due to both the Chinese government’s secrecy and our own fascination with efforts to impeach the president and all those TV singers wearing a mask, we didn’t really begin to hear about the Corona Virus, or Covid 19, until about a month later.

The first news reports seemed bad, but also seemed almost irrelevant to us here. Yes, thousands were sick there but not here and China, seemingly to their credit looked like they had gone to lengths to contain it. It was downright bizarre to watch news reports from China – not even just Wuhan, but other major cities – and see huge modern expressways into skyscraper-sprouting skylines completely deserted; see reporters talking in malls bigger and shinier than ours which were modern, gleaming … and empty.

Then somehow, Iran became infected. Then Italy. People got worried. Japan shut down their whole school system for a month, despite not reporting many cases. Italy quarantined the whole northern half of their land. Then a couple dozen people contracted it on a cruise ship off the California coast and the president didn’t want to allow it to dock. All for a disease which we initially were told was nothing worse than the flu, which we already have over here and kills thousands of people a year, and for which we do nothing other than suggest people get an annual shot that may or may not help prevent it. It made very little sense.

It really seemed like it wasn’t our problem until very recently. That’s the striking thing – how quickly our world has changed. Not as fast as if a jet had flown into a building, but quickly nonetheless. And the impact might be just as resonating.

The first sign things were really haywire was only about two weeks back, when the NBA suddenly suspended their season, only a couple of weeks short of beginning their playoffs. Hours after that announcement, we found one Utah player had the illness. Then two. Then four New York ones. I was dumbfounded when I read that news before going to bed that night, less than two weeks back now. Personally, I don’t care for basketball, so it mattered little at all to me, but it was shocking because it matters to millions of people, and generates hundreds of millions, billions even, of dollars. You don’t just erase dozens of games (many with 18000 or so tickets pre-sold for them) at a drop of the hat. Within 24 hours, the NHL had followed suit and the writing was on the wall for baseball which was ramping up to full speed about a week and a half away from opening the regular season. A day or two later, MLB had stopped all spring training games and delayed the opening of the season to who knows when. That’s when it started to become a bit of a real annoyance to me… and people began to panic.

Fast forward only about three days from there and we get to two Saturdays back. By now, the U.S was up to a few thousand known cases, and about 11 or so fatalities, mainly in one old age home in the Seattle area. It seemed alarming, but still entirely controllable. Not to the masses though.

I ventured out to one of the larger mid-town supermarkets that Saturday night and left basically empty handed. Entire aisles had been cleaned out as if a Biblical plague of locusts had descended. There was not one roll of toilet paper to be found, nor paper towel. Only a handful of loaves of bread remained in the 40-foot aisle, and those were mostly those oddball “organic, gluten-free, quinoa with fig bits” loaves that sell for about $6. Or actually, don’t sell. Most of the canned goods were gone. The next afternoon at Walmart, more of the same. No milk or eggs either. And that’s about when the craziness really set in.

We know a couple in Austin who weren’t feeling well. We see them about once a year. Somehow, communications lines got crossed and there was a rumor they had Corona Virus. The Kiddo here told someone at her workplace that and the boss jetted in like a 747 into an office tower and told her to leave immediately and not set foot back in the store until she’d been tested and could prove she was corona-negative. This for a teen girl who was showing no symptoms.

Her mom and I kind of rolled our eyes and sighed, and said well, fine if that’s what they say we’d better take you to a hospital and have you tested. Mother phoned both of the large regional hospitals only to be told they had no tests available. On Monday we found that there was testing in a city 80 miles away… but you had to have symptoms and be referred by a doctor. We began to realize why the current administration was being raked over the coals for not handling this crisis well. Not handling it at all actually.

The kiddo tried to explain that to her manager, and the latter reluctantly let her come back to work in the store which had by then cut its hours. All a moot point now as that retailer has shut all of its doors until some time in April at best.

Well you know the rest, because it seems like whether you’re in Tennessee or Florida or north of the border in Ontario, it’s the same. We’ve had a week where people are panicking, lines form around the block two, three hours before supermarkets open in the morning with people eager to have a chance at getting a 6-pack of toilet paper or case of bottled water and by mid-day, most shelves in the food and cleaning aisles are empty as if the Grinch had just gone through leaving one crumb too small for even a mouse.

On the plus side, city streets which are usually gridlocked at 4 PM are a nice easy glide and the gas to do so cheaper than it’s been for years, because people have nowhere to go. Businesses are shut down, you can’t go out to eat or watch the game (which isn’t taking place anyway!) , telecommuting has in 10 days gone from the unlikely and a perq of the few to the way offices do business now.

My sweetie works in a large, modern office for a large local company. She handles customer inquiries and complaints, quite well I must say. Flu swept through it last winter, the company seemed not to notice. Corona though, is a different breed of virus. By mid-week last week, they were asking workers to work from home. Today she started doing so, for the forseeable future. The company even sent home one of her large monitors so she could use a bigger screen than her laptop offers. So far, it’s going well though she already misses some of her “team members” and her bigger, liftable desk there. Which is understandable to me, as I’ve found that the thing that makes most jobs mentally worthwhile is the co-workers you interact with and the friendships you make there.

Of course, it’s not just her, nor just offices. Can you imagine being an NBC exec and suggesting three months ago, “I think we should prepare for when Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker have to do the Today Show from their own living rooms and our nighttime talk show guests will be being interviewed remotely via Skype?” The company would’ve shown you the door and stuffed a map to the local mental hospital in your pocket on the way out. Yet that too is the new reality.

It’s scary. The illness seems random. Some have it and barely feel “under the weather”, others get it and are in the ground a week later. That’s scary. In Italy and elsewhere, it seems to explode like a bomb after the public makes real efforts to do what we’re told – wash hands, stay indoors and so on. That’s scary. Every day that passes makes it less likely fans like me will be watching baseball this year, or like my dad, the Olympics this summer and that’s … well, not exactly scary, but mind-blowing nevertheless.

Eventually, we’ll go back to normal. But what will the new “normal” be? It might be bad but maybe, just maybe it won’t be that scary….

No Need To Have A Corona-ry Over Corona

I think I’m getting a bit sick. Sick of hearing about the Corona Virus, that is. Or perhaps it’s more that to me the math doesn’t add up and I’m sick of people in media and government alike seemingly failing to ask questions about why that is.

So what’s the latest? It’s hard to keep up. Recently Japan shut down all of its schools for the entire month of March to prevent the spread of the illness. The country with the emphasis on education and brains doing that in response to just a few hundred cases of the virus showing up there. Seems a little hard to fathom. Some airlines have stopped flying to Italy because of around 1000 cases reported in the north of that land. And of course, China, where it originated has not only got armed guards keeping people from leaving the city of Wuhan, but has shut a very large chunk of its entire industrial machine in response. If you’ve noticed the price of gas has dropped a bit this winter, thank that virus… China’s quarantines and industrial shutdown has caused a drop of worldwide demand for oil and has left the mutlinats and OPEC with a glut of oil for the time being.

That might seem good for American consumers, but don’t be so fast to cheer. The stock market is plummeting in measures not seen in the past decade due to fears of the illness itself and subsequent worries about shortages of consumer goods and car parts that used to roll off those now closed Chinese assembly lines. And have a stiff drink if you own stock in Constellation Beverages. The company’s stock has plummeted from $207 to $172 just since Feb. 24 because of declining sales of its flagship product, Corona Beer. Some surveys show that 38% of Americans would refuse to drink it because they think its a source of the disease, because, well that’s just how clever many Americans are. Thank goodness the U.S. hasn’t closed all its schools – yet. All the while stores are selling out of things like Lysol wipes (which actually are useful at killing germs – be they corona, flu or anything else more or less) and face masks (which the CDC are screaming at us not to use and are suddenly calling useless). a trip to my local supermarket last night saw several people wearing the masks anyway and an ominous emptiness on the bread and bottled water shelves,. It could have been a truck or two delayed en route but seemed more likely to me it was the result of people panicking and stocking up for the cough armaggedon.

People are panicking and one can’t blame them entirely. No one had heard of this weird, bat-borne illness a few months back, now it’s the lead story on every TV news program and above-the-banner headline in every newspaper. Biden vs. Bernie, step aside for the Bug from China. Tornadoes in Nashville? How will having people without their homes sheltering together amplify the spread of Corona virus? What if one of the corpses in shattered houses was infected with Corona?

Of course, we’re used to the media blowing things out of proportion. They have to attract viewers and sell print, and nothing short of Jennifer kissing Brad sells like a dash of fear. Any coyote seen running away from a city park is likely to be the terrifying lead story at 6 should it be a slow news day with no escaped prisoners running loose and no slight risk of severe storms in the long range forecast. We saw a similar, if slightly scaled-down response to the less common SARS back in 2003 and to the apparently much less harmful West Nile Virus about a decade back. But government’s and public agencies are usually calmer and more rationale. To see the kind of reaction we have from various governments around the globe is rather astounding… and question-raising.

To me, medicine is a branch of science and science is at its core, rational. Mathematical. And to my eyes, there’s nothing logical about this viral event. A + B are not adding up to C. That worries me and makes me wonder what component is not what we are being told, which factor would make it all add up.

Because we have a disease which is still fairly rare. At last count there are something like 85 000 cases in the whole world. That’s a lot, until compared to the world population. There are something in the range of nearly 100 cases in the U.S.; not a huge number in a country of 310 million people; and not much of an apparent risk when those people are quarantined in secure hospitals. By comparison, the CDC report a minimum of 29 million cases of flu this winter in the country. And who knows how many countless others have had it, stayed home in bed, groaned and slept for a couple of days then got back up and at it without reporting to any doctor? At least two in my household alone. Furthermore, we’re told this year’s flu is more virulent than usual and that in any average year, it will kill around 18 000 people here and hundreds of thousands more elsewhere. Yet factories aren’t closing their doors, students aren’t being told “no classes this month” and airlines haven’t abandoned Atlanta, O’Hare and LAX to prevent its spread. why then the responses to an illness that’s claimed about 2400 victims in total?

The equation might still work out if Corona was an exceedingly grim, horrifying instant death sentence. A sort of ebola-on-steroids-but-as-communicable-as-a-common-cold. But it’s not. Here the experts differ a little, with some saying it is less dangerous than the flu while others contend that it is about as dangerous as a severe flu, but even so, they all agree that many who have it don’t even know they have it because symptoms can be so minor in many people. And based on the info we’re given, the mortality rate from it is no more than 2%… significant, yes, and scary if your loved one comes down with it, but not a major risk overall, especially if the ones dying are mainly ones with existing serious medical conditions or the very elderly.

So it leads me to worry. Not about catching Corona from some random person 100 feet away from me in a store who yesterday stood next to someone who’d gone to China last fall, but about the truthfulness of our expert sources. A + B are equaling C-squared here, not C. Is the disease far worse than we’re being led to believe? Are there thousands of deaths being covered up, and if so, why aren’t their families and friends making a noise? Or is this some kind of clandestine, weird experiment and conspiracy to test preparedness for a real Spanish flu-type pandemic or something else only the X-files might contrive?

Until we hear more reason, I say wash your hands, cough into a Kleenex or your sleeve, stay home if you’re sick and go out and do your thing if you’re not. So far, it seems like maybe the “cure” is worse than the disease.