St Patrick’s Day

Right now, we need all the luck we can get.

The legend says that Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. For Saint Patrick’s Day this year, can we get him to drive away the coronavirus?

Seriously, the world needs a whole lot of luck right now. Good public health policy would help even more, and so far, that’s in short supply here in the United States.

In Italy, doctors who don’t have enough ventilators for all the patients who need them are deciding who will get one and who will die. In this country, we are not yet at that point, but many of us believe it’s only a matter of time. In Paris, all restaurants and cafes are closed. Maryland has now followed suit, as have Chicago and New York City. That’s not the case here in Virginia yet, but I expect it will happen in the next few days. Already, some businesses are closing, except for takeout orders. Some have shut down completely, in order to encourage social distancing. And others have so little business that they’ve been forced to shut their doors, unsure of whether they will be able to open again once this has passed. At a White House press conference yesterday, our so-called president and several actual scientists urged people not to gather in groups of more than 10 people. And we’re all washing our hands many times a day.

UPDATE: Virginia has not closed down restaurants, bars, and stores, but today issued an order prohibiting restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters from operating with more than 10 customers present. So that will pretty much shut things down.

Monday I took my son to the eye doctor to have his glasses fixed, and, while I was out, ran a few other errands. But that’s my last day out. Today I began social distancing in earnest. I plan to stick mostly close to home from here on out — at least, until we need groceries or other necessities, though I think I have enough supplies on hand for several weeks. I’ve seen the articles and simulations. I know this is our best bet for slowing the spread of the disease. No, it’s not that bad yet, in this country. The number of cases is still low — though, in part, that’s because tests for the virus are difficult to get, so very few people have been tested. With confirmation impossible, confirmed cases are still rare. But the numbers are growing, and will grow exponentially.

We took a walk around the neighborhood this evening. The experts say that is all right, as long as you don’t get too close to anyone you meet. We saw some neighbors — taking care to remain six feet away — and enjoyed the gorgeous early spring weather and flowering trees. We enjoyed talking to people, but everyone seemed nervous and strained.

I grew up on stories of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed something like 50 million people. Two of my great-grandparents died on the same day that fall, leaving my grandfather and his sisters orphaned. To help support his little sisters, he dropped out of school to work for the coal mines. He was 11. I don’t think the numbers will be anywhere close to the death toll in 1918, but the loss of life will still be devastating. I always knew another one was coming; the only question was when. I guess we know the answer now.

Be careful out there.

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