A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 10

A slice of life.

Wednesday, March 18

I’m up at 6:30, and it’s still dark outside. Without my glasses on, the moon looks very odd, perhaps it’s a half moon. Within 15 minutes, the sky begins to get light, and the birds begin their daily symphony.

I set up the bread machine last night, and a loaf of light wheat bread should be ready around 7 a.m. The aroma is, as always, delightful.

The Times says pollution readings gathered by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that emissions of nitrogen dioxide, a gas closely linked to vehicle exhaust, are considerably lower across northern Italy. Humans are huddled indoors, not outside tooling around in their Fiats. Pollution in China is also way down, the images show.

The federal government says it will send $250 billion worth of checks to citizens by the end of April, thanks to emergency borrowing powers. And there could be another round of payments, it seems. The financial markets respond on Tuesday as the S&P 500 rises about 6% percent after a 12% fall on Monday, the steepest drop since 1987. Trump long saw the pandemic coming, he brags.

Biden sweeps primaries in three states, but pandemic-related irregularities prompt questions about the vote. 

I arrive at the supermarket around 8 a.m. But the hours have changed: A sign on the door says the store will open at 9 a.m. for seniors, then after 10 everyone else can come in. 

So I go off to a little coffee shop (“takeout only” reads the sign on the door) and get coffee beans, then back to the IGA. A steady stream of cars (especially Mercs, Lexuses, and Minis) come into the parking lot, people get out bags in hand, venture over to the door—then return, crestfallen, to their cars and leave. At around 8:50, a line forms at the door.

Inside, the atmosphere is relatively restrained. I get most of the fresh veggies I wanted (2 heads of lettuce, cucumbers, bags of potatoes, and bags of onions), vegetable oil, and lots of crackers. But there’s almost no meat, few tomato products, and no pasta. What will the people who come after 10 a.m. get?

Some customers compile strange assortments. The guy ahead of me in line gets four small boxes of facial tissue, four frozen dinners, and little else. Maybe he comes every day.

Back home, I unpack my three bags of stuff and wipe cans and more off with alcohol-dampened paper towels.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s labs, scientists have been told to drop everything else and focus on the coronavirus. In one effort that the Times finds promising, a California lab focuses on existing drugs that may help prevent the coronavirus from using our existing cells to produce viral proteins. Testing continues for at least 50 drugs that attack COVID-19. The first human tests of a vaccine began on Monday in Seattle; trials could take a year at least.

The epidemic has spread to all 50 of the United States, and there have been 100 deaths. France has over 6,600 cases, prompting a lockdown that’s turned Paris into a ghost town.

Even as U.S. hotel chains and restaurants lay off thousands, Amazon announces that it will hire 100,000 workers to handle increased demand for household goods.

Dinner will be avgolemono soup—a greek egg-drop-and-lemon concoction; also, a green salad.

Entertainment: More Yes, Minister.

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