Coronavirus Haver: Chill!
This is reassuring. A man who caught coronavirus on the Diamond Princess says that for him: it ain’t so bad. Excerpt:
During the first few days, the hospital staff hooked me up to an IV, mostly as a precaution, and used it to administer magnesium and potassium, just to make sure I had plenty of vitamins. Other than that, my treatment has consisted of what felt like gallons and gallons of Gatorade — and, when my fever rose just above 100 degrees, some ibuprofen. The nurses came to the room every four hours or so, to check my vitals, ask if I needed anything and to draw my blood. I got very good at unhooking all the monitors checking my oxygen level, blood pressure and heart rate so I could go to the bathroom or just pace around the room a little, to get my blood flowing. I never quite got the hang of hooking them back up without making a tangled mess. After 10 days, I moved out of biocontainment and into the same facility as Jeri. Now we can videochat from our separate quarantines, in neighboring rooms.
As of my most recent test, on Thursday, I am still testing positive for the virus. But by now, I don’t require much medical care. The nurses check my temperature twice a day and draw my blood, because I’ve agreed to participate in a clinical study to try to find a treatment for coronavirus. If I test negative three days in a row, then I get to leave.
The time has passed more quickly than I would’ve expected. With my laptop, I get as much work done as I can, remotely. I catch up with friends. I take walks around my room, trying to take a thousand more steps each day. I also watch the news. It’s surreal to see everyone panic — news conferences, the stock market falling, school closures — about a disease I have. It does seem likely that coronavirus will spread in the U.S., but it won’t help anybody if we all panic. Based on my experience, I’d recommend that everyone get a good digital thermometer, just as a comfort tool, so they can reassure themselves if their noses start running. I have been relatively fortunate: At least six Diamond Princess passengers have died from the virus, of the around 705 passengers who caught it. But coronavirus doesn’t have to be a horrible calamity.
The thing I worry about more than getting sick is the economic effects of this thing. We’ve just had a week in which $6 trillion of wealth was erased from the world. I cancelled a plan visit to a conference in Europe for late March, out of caution (I didn’t want to buy a plane ticket then have to cancel later if it seemed too risky). That kind of thing happening a lot, though, with tour groups, is going to have a massive impact. A friend of mine and his wife have a long-planned trip to Italy scheduled for next month. I doubt it’s going to happen now. The effects of this sort of thing rippling through the economy are going to be devastating.
Our local business magazine ran a piece about how a local furniture store has been unable to get its merchandise out of China all year, because of coronavirus. They don’t know when it will be here. Think about the lost sales to that one business. We use a maid service once weekly. Our cleaning lady told us today that at their office, they were talking this morning about how susceptible their staff is to coronavirus if it goes wide, because they go into so many people’s houses. If any one of us in our house gets sick, we’ll cancel the service until we’re all clear, because we’re not going to want to expose the cleaning lady. But if enough people do that, their business is going to crater, and she will be out of work.
You begin to see how this thing could send the world into an economic depression. A lot of people are blaming Trump for the stock market selloff this week. That’s not fair. We live in a global economy, and this is a global pandemic. This stock market decline was bound to happen because of China. I mean, even if the virus had been contained in China, the fact that the Chinese economy has been mostly frozen all year was bound to show up in stock prices at some point, given China’s role in the world economy. And now the virus is spreading globally. If we had not a single case in America, the market would be in trouble. How could it not be?
I was thinking today that if Hillary Clinton were the president, we would all be scapegoating her over this too. We Americans have this weird attitude — maybe a result of our litigious culture — that anything bad that happens is an aberration, and that it’s always somebody’s fault. Did you ever see the Atom Egoyan film version of the Russell Banks novel, The Sweet Hereafter? It’s a hell of a movie. It’s a drama about what happens to a small town when a school bus carrying many of the town’s children slides off the road in the winter, onto a frozen pond, and sinks, killing all the children. Ian Holm plays a lawyer who comes to town looking to sign up clients to sue somebody for the tragedy. Meanwhile, he is dealing with his own private tragedy: his grown daughter is addicted to drugs, and he’s trying to figure out how to save her, but can’t. The thing is, it appears that the bus tragedy was a true accident, with no one to plausibly blame for negligence. But, the film suggests, we have become a people who can’t bear the fact that life is tragic. Our litigious culture encourages us to gin up fault-finding, even when doing so is unjust, and undermines our resilience.
I suspect we’ll see a lot of that happening here. To be sure, there no doubt is, and will be, some genuine fault to be found. If we have to blame anybody, blame the Chinese Communist Party for its initial response to the outbreak. Once the crisis has passed, it will be time to assess the US response — what we did right, what we ought to have done better — and to lay credit and blame. But it seems to me that either left or right trying to score political points off of this crisis is exactly the wrong thing to do here at the outset, when we need to be pulling together to help each other. Trump named the vice president to head up the coronavirus task force. You would have thought that putting the No. 2 official in the executive branch in charge would have indicated to people how serious the White House is taking this. But no, it brought a bunch of pinhead bitching from the left, much of it having to do with Pence’s religious beliefs.
I don’t want to be naive here. When the authorities are not doing what they should be doing, then yes, it makes sense to call them out. But it’s damned dispiriting to watch liberals and conservatives doing their customary pointless backbiting and griping while this thing spreads. I’m going to watch myself on this point too.
I know some of you were really put off by the fact that I posted alarming accounts from Wyoming Doc over the past two weeks. I took what he had to say seriously, and prepared as he recommended — and as others are now recommending. When I see stories of bare store shelves now, I am grateful that Wyoming Doc said the things he said, alarming as they were, because they broke through my own wait-and-see lethargy. None of the preparations we did (e.g., laying in supplies, medical and otherwise) will protect us from the virus. But it will help us to make it through a long quarantine, if it comes to that. Having spent the past few days preparing, we are not feeling anxious tonight. Except over our retirement portfolio, but we can’t do anything about that.
UPDATE: Speaking of the economy, this is definitely not chill news:
UPDATE.2:Tiger Ye, a Wuhan resident, did not have such a mild experience with the virus. He writes:
On 25 January I had a checkup. I had begun to cough. It was a very dry cough with a little yellow phlegm. The results showed that my situation was worsening, with the infection spreading to my entire lungs. The doctor gave me an IV drip, while the oral medicine remained the same. At the time the doctor told me I was suspected of having the virus, but that only an expert committee could decide who would be able to use the testing kit.
By 26 January getting up had become extremely difficult and I was shivering with cold. I felt I was having a high fever, and I was: 39C. Reports later said that the situation could develop extremely fast in the middle stage, but before I knew it, by that evening the fever was gone. It felt like having been to hell and back. That period from 21 January to the 26th was the worst time. I coughed so bad my stomach was hurting and my back ached. Those were some of the worst days in my life.