A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 4

Life as we know it.

March 12

In an effort to keep out the “foreign virus,’ last night Trump banned all visitors from Europe but not from the U.K. Presumably that means he can still get to his golf course in Scotland. Republicans blocked a bill that would have offered sick Americans 14 days of emergency paid sick leave. 

One can watch the PGA Players Championship live on Twitter, so no deprivation there. But the National Basketball Assn. suspends its season altogether. Then follows a snowballing number of cancellations of public events. Museums, concert venues, churches, universities, etc. begin turning everyone away. Major League Baseball suspends all operations, including spring training. (The PGA tourney is cancelled at the end of the day.) In California, Disneyland has closed down for only the fourth time in history. In New York State, gatherings of more than 500 people are disallowed. In the city, restaurants are told they must provide more space between tables, effectively halving their capacity.

Popular movie actor Tom Hanks, who plays TV kid crush Mr. Rogers in a current flick, announces that both he and his wife have COVID-19. (They are stranded in well-prepared Australia, a blessing.) Germany’s Angela Merkel says that 2/3 of that country’s population may eventually be infected. Italy has ordered almost all nonessential businesses to close.

1,240 people in 42 states and Washington, D.C., have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 37 have died.

Here, the Quaker Oats with raisins and maple syrup seems just fine as usual. It’s a sunny day whose quiet is interrupted only by the haunting call of an owl or possibly a dove. 

Hours pass. Then, Em and I split a packet of Sapporo Ichiban noodle soup for lunch.

We watch a streaming video interview with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The UK has employed some tortured logic to justify no lockdown or quarantine, just life as usual for those who feel themselves to be unaffected. Unlike China or, say, Italy, the initial locus of infection was scattered, not limited to one location—therefore, no lockdown is needed, Khan explains several times. Huh? The questioner says one might well argue that there’s all the more reason for keeping people apart. But Khan insists that he and temporary pal Boris Johnson are on the right track.

As Trump often says, we’ll see what happens.

The federal government is still preoccupied with economic worries rather than health matters: The Fed announces it will pump more than $500 billion into short-term bank funding. Stocks surge more than 1,000 points. But by the end of the day, the gloom gathers and stocks have their worst day since the 1987 crash, with the S&P down 9.5%.

A crony of Brazilian top tomato Jair Bolsonaro was photographed hanging out with Trump at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. (He sported a hat reading “Make Brazil Great Again.”) Today, it is announced that said crony has COVID-19. What me worry? avers Trump, who is said to be still contemplating holding a mega-rally in Florida next week.

I anticipate increasing public irrationality—people lashing out at Chinese and other “foreigners” amid a pronounced turn to religious nuttiness. In Camus’ The Plague, copies of predictions said to have come from various soothsayers (Nostradamus was popular) and saints were widely circulated, especially after printing companies noted the rich profits to be made. Organized religion waned. The Day of the Dead was ignored—as each day for the plague-bound city was a Day of the Dead.

Dinner: Progresso pot-roast soup (weak), baked potatoes with loads of butter and sour cream (must keep morale up), homemade hummus with water crackers, green salad with radishes and grape tomatoes.

Evening entertainment: Morse investigates two murders—an artist and a wealthy French art collector.

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