A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 12

Burr: Never let a good crisis go to waste, they say.

Friday, March 20

Went to the local bodega—and, Santa Cleopatra! They supplied me with two boxes of pasta (unobtainable at local supermarkets), two boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix, a bag of dried black beans, a carton of fresh eggs, and a bag of Pillsbury flour. (I was happy to pay $26 for the stuff.) Customers aren’t allowed into the store, but the workers came to a newly installed customer window and brought out all of the above goods. I was never so excited to get boxed pasta!

The crisis in Italy seems truly scary—and none of the reports that I have seen make it clear just why this is. The death toll there—3,405—is higher than in China, which has 20 times the number of people. In Bergamo, in the worst affected part of the country, the number of coffins is overwhelming local facilities. The crematorium is running 24 hours a day. And as in Camus’ novel, families aren’t allowed to attend funerals.

Grace Kelly’s son, Prince Albert II of Monaco, tests positive for the disease.

Others are doing quite well, thank you very much. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took advantage of advance information to dump up to $1.7 million worth of stock on February 13, just ahead of the coronavirus-prompted market plunge. Burr and three other senators, including Democrat Diane Feinstein, effected the trick even as they were making reassuring noises to the general public about the impending pandemic. Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler attended a January 24 briefing with Fauci and the CDC top dog, then she and her husband, who is CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, dumped up to $3.1 million worth of stock—and then invested up to $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software (appropriate for working from home). It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, says the old saw.

In Washington, Republicans are putting together legislation that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to large corporations in distressed industries and checks as large as $1,200 per adult to individuals earning less than $99,000 per year. Lower earners would get smaller checks, as little as $600. The bill also places limits on the paid leave that Trump has already signed into law.

Illinois issues a stay-at-home order for its 13 million residents.

Dinner: Chili con carne, green salad, Ritz crackers.

Evening entertainment: Two episodes of engrossing Netflix drama The Crown; one episode of Yes, Minister.

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