A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 19

Carnival as “the perfect incubator” of COVID-19.

Friday, March 27

An unwelcome lagniappe: Louisiana may have the fastest growing COVID-19 infection anywhere, currently with 1,800 cases. Perhaps the hard-partying Crescent City should have skipped non-social-distancing Mardi Gras, “the perfect incubator,” according to one doctor.

Today, New Orleans’ “clubs are silent,” says the Times. “Bourbon Street is just another lonely street, its only crowds the hordes of rats that have become increasingly brazen in their hunt for food.”

There’s no end to the bad news: The U.S. now has more coronavirus cases than any other country, 81,578, with more than 1,000 deaths. New York City’s hospitals are overwhelmed. At Brooklyn Hospital, 40% of in-patients have the sickness. At New York-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the city’s largest systems, ventilators are shared among multiple patients. Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which serves a low-income population, is one of the hardest-hit institutions: It says it will be devoting all of its 545 beds to coronavirus cases. Staff are contracting the illness, supplies and ventilators are in very short supply, and the hospital had to rent a refrigerated truck to store dead bodies. For a look at the hellish, apocalyptic scenes there: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/nyregion/nyc-coronavirus-hospitals.html

Chaotic scenes hit India. With only 700 reported cases, there’s a national shutdown order, closing schools and other institutions. Although drug stores are supposed to stay open, in one town police attacked a group of pharmacists on their way to work.

And Britain has over 9,500 cases; so much for herd immunity.

U.S. stocks, on the other hand, are up 17%, thanks to the Senate stimulus/bailout. 

And the plastics industry also sees a potential upside: the possibility of reversing legal bans on single-use plastic bags and their replacement by store-goers’ “germ-filled” reusable bags.

The stimulus won’t benefit the hard-hit cruise-ship industry, since most such lines are based in Panama or other low-tax havens. Sorry, Love Boats.

With three million Americans filing for unemployment benefits, there’s lots of uncertainty. Will those working in the increasingly populous gig economy qualify? What about part-timers and the self-employed. News sources disagree and benefits vary from state to state, so the only way to find out is to apply and keep your fingers crossed.

Internationally, the race to manufacture more ventilators is on. In Spain, a group of engineers jerry-rig one device using a modified windshield-wiper motor. It is, they admit, a solution of last resort.

Out here on the East End of Long Island, some full-time residents are wary of urban visitors. “I would prefer that if you are coming from New York City, a hot spot, you stay there,” said Jay Schneiderman, the supervisor of the town of Southampton. He further noted that his town’s population, usually 60,000 at this time of year, had soared in the last two weeks to nearly 100,000. 

Dinner: More beans and rice, green salad, applesauce.

Entertainment: One episode each of The Twilight Zone, The Crown, Portlandia, and The Detectorists.

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