Red alert, day 17. Lockdown, day seven. As of this morning, Suffolk has 87 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 184 confirmed cases. The UK has 19,522 confirmed cases, and as of 5 pm yesterday 1,228 patients have died. Systematic testing has not started yet.
There is a quickening drumbeat of people on Twitter who have lost a relative or know someone who has. A 108 year old survivor of the 1918 Spanish flu has died of the virus in Salford. Most terrifying are the tweets about deaths of healthcare workers. New York papers tell the story of a nurse (Kious Kelly) who suffocated from the virus. The UK has lost its first GP (Habib Zaidi), consultant (Amged el-Hawrani), and first surgeon (Adil el Tayar). Heroes among heroes, and it has not gone unremarked that all three were African Muslims – the subalterns are saving the Empire, as usual. At some point the memorial websites will start. The wall of names.
Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has just said the lockdown may last six months, vs. three months (twelve weeks) forecast by the PM. NHS volunteers are up to at least 700,000.
One Tweet said “Why is everyone so happy about NHS Nightingale? It’s a death camp.” (That’s the field hospital in the Excel Centre.) New York is building a field hospital in Central Park – it looks like it’s somewhere behind the Met.
The first mass corpse photograph has been shared, by a New York nurse (Buzzfeed link, upsetting). The bags are ranged down the interior walls of a reefer truck. Within 24 hours there is a second shock picture, of a tractor cycle in Brooklyn moving bodies.
Many people on social media are excavating timelines to show how the threat was ignored early on by Trump and Johnson. More personally, reviewing my own timeline:
March 8 – A memo on virus prevention methods by a public health PhD (Malia Jones) is the first COVID related thing I share on Facebook. It sparks a discussion with a friends including Roxanne, an MD in Hawaii who warns us to be very scared. She uses the word “superspreader” which is the first time I’ve heard it. Thereafter several of us share Medium articles with comparisons to past pandemics and projections of the spread.
March 13 – Our university announces the shift to virtual teaching on a Friday night, a week ahead of the previously communicated schedule. I returned to Tower Hamlets on the Monday to collect some of my teaching books and haven’t been there since, which is a bit troublesome since I was meant to be wrapping up my job there. The last weeks would have flown by but instead this has been the longest month, in the way that the first day in a new country is the longest day.
March 23 – The government announces the hard, or rather soft, lockdown.
Today’s volunteer frenzy is the printing of mask frames and ventilator parts on Makerspace 3D printers. MIT has published instructions. People are dying to do something active to help. Occasionally medical folks butt in to say there are rules about what we can use, why don’t you just send money to funding drives; hooking up too many people to a ventilator compromises the air pressure and voids the warranty; medical equipment is made by specialists who know what they’re doing, this isn’t the moment for your startup to “disrupt” ventilation. Remember Theranos. We may be a lot less picky about the source of our surgical supplies by the end. I keep thinking of that recent Jodie Foster movie where she runs an underground hospital for gangsters (I haven’t seen it).
I haven’t been out of the house today. I have realized that since there’s no longer anyone passing by outside, I can open the window blinds and let the sun in, which makes a big difference.
My campaign to get family members onto teleconferencing continues. Their arguments are 1) it’s just an avenue for spyware; 2) too fiddly; 3) why? I’m not interested. But this is social contact now. Yesterday I attended a gaming party with 35 friends (the crowd from the Yankee Swap entries). This morning I listened to the service from the First Parish (Unitarian Universalist) in my hometown, to see the names of neighbors and librarians I grew up with. This evening, I worked along to Facebook Live gigs by Suffolk folkies Honey and the Bear and by (the) Richard Thompson. Here we are.