Jeremy Felt

A COVID-19 Log 4/n

I forgot to mention last week that I started having my first real coronavirus dreams.

In the first, I was talking with a friend in the WordPress community. He had just gotten back from a bakery and was showing off all of the newly purchased goods to a group of us. As he was talking I felt a droplet hit my cheek and my dream brain all of a sudden got wise and started looking around at the room wondering why we were all talking to each other so closely.

In the second, I was in a seat on an airplane and sitting next to—what is my brain even doing—another friend from the WordPress community. The rest of the plane was empty except for our two seats and the seats directly in front of and behind us. Once again, my dream brain all of a sudden got wise and started wondering why the hell we were all sitting so close together.

In the third, I was in a line waiting to be tested for COVID-19. Apparently widespread testing was in effect and there were hundreds of people waiting in three lines that started merging toward the test point. At the merge, people started getting closer and closer to each other until I was shoulder to shoulder with the people beside me. I said something like “welp, looks like we all have it now!” and people looked at me like I was crazy.

And in the fourth (that I remember), I woke up from a dream in which I came into contact with somebody that had COVID-19. As I got out of bed, I noticed that I had a deep cough all of a sudden and started checking for other symptoms, wondering if I was imagining it because of the dream or of something else was going on. I then woke from that dream and felt fine. 🙃

There was another that I don’t really remember well in which Michelle and I were traveling somewhere that should have been super populated, but all of the landmarks and maybe even complete towns were completely empty.

What’s funny is that my biggest takeaway is probably that I miss hanging out with everyone. Also, what is “normal” going to look like when we get there? Let’s get there!

The Washington state department of health continued to have trouble updating case information on their website this week and posted a quick explanation as a PDF. I had seen the term “notifiable conditions” before, but this is the first time the Washington Disease Reporting System was mentioned. These reporting processes are all things that are up and running and probably working fairly well—so much so that we hardly pay attention until there’s a pandemic.

Two interesting parts of the explanation:

  • The system was built to log positive tests only. Notifiable conditions include things like influenza, plague, mumps, and many other things that are probably interesting to those collecting data whenever they have spikes, but maybe not so interesting as a percentage of total tested. Now that it’s being used to capture negative results for COVID-19, the pipeline is clogged.
  • Duplicate case data is handled manually right now and there were more than 2000 duplicate records one day last week. That obviously takes a lot of attention from actual people to resolve.

If you search Twitter for “@wadepthealth” around the time you would expect the latest case information to be updated on the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 page, you’ll see a whole slew of angry people demanding numbers. These are numbers that aren’t actionable to most of us and won’t cause us anything other than stress until they start going down significantly. But here were are, wanting to know—and I check in on those numbers daily!

I’m not surprised by much of this, though if I was I would be surprised that the state did not stress test the system to mimic pandemic conditions. It seems like small numbers overall. Handling thousands of data records in a day is much different than handling millions. But I also have no idea what’s actually being collected and how much manual attention it needs.

The new system has been up for the last few days and seems to be working much better. There’s a delay on some of the numbers, but the consistency and stability has been nice.

Zoom has been huge over the last several weeks and has been running the gauntlet of another form of stress test: attention.

Doc Searls wrote a series of excellent posts picking apart various privacy issues that didn’t have clear answers. It took less than a week for Zoom to introduce a new privacy policy and to announce new efforts to continue addressing concerns. I’m impressed by their response so far.

I keep on learning new words related to viruses and pandemics. This week I learned comorbidity.

Another super-spreader party story from a Seattle party.

And a super-spreader choir. This is actually the first place where I’ve seen (or paid enough attention to see) a definition for “aerosols” as “a particle smaller than 5 micrometers that can float in the air for minutes or longer”. I’ve been wondering what “aerosol” actually means after seeing the study in which the coronavirus could last up to 3 hours and trying to measure it against reading how droplets emitted through sneezing, coughing, or breathing are heavier than air and will immediately start falling towards the ground.

It’s also strange how I started this blurb earlier in the week and it already feels like this is ancient knowledge I’ve had for years.

The choir article also mentions a 1977 Alaska Air flight in Alaska between Homer and Kodiak in which a large portion of the plane got sick. This intrigued me enough that I went digging. There’s a paper from 1979 in the Journal of Epidimiology, “An outbreak of influenza aboard a commercial airliner“, that is pretty interesting. It’s crazy that we may not have really understood influenza as transmitted via air. Though when I started thinking about that, I realized 1977 was only 59 years from 1918 and we’re already 43 years from 1977. Whew.

There’s more in “Airliner Cabin Safety and Health Standards“, a report of a “Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.” It too is an interesting read.

Vincent van Gogh, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring(1884) ©Groninger Museum.

Some opportunistic art thieves stole Vincent van Goh’s painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen from the Singer Laren musem. I wonder how long until we get a heist movie that takes place during a pandemic.

We ordered groceries online for the first time through our local grocer, Dissmore’s. It was fun to see that their site is powered by WordPress and a theme from Freshop, which specializes in exactly this.

The process was super smooth and we got everything we needed. In some ways I was wondering if we should be going to the store ourselves, but in other ways I think we’re helping to stress test the system a bit without going overboard. (Can you tell that’s a focus right now?)

If this goes on for the rest of the year somehow, it will be nice to know that stores were able to ramp up now toward providing delivery to everyone. And I have to imagine keeping extra humans out of the store is healthier (COVID-wise) for the employees.

This is the week in which masks really took off in the US. We still haven’t made some, though we’ve talked through our design a bit and will get to it shortly. I enjoyed Kottke’s breakdown on masks and appreciate most the idea of normalization.

The Internet Archive took a big political stand and created a National Emergency Library.

The University of Washington Medical Center was loaned a couple of testing machines from the Washington State Patrol’s DNA lab.

Some hospitals are running out of money. Pullman Regional is cutting wages and has just over 60 days cash on hand. So much more is going to take its toll on the healthcare system than individual cases of COVID-19.

It looks like $100 billion was earmarked for hospitals in the stimulus bill. There are 5198 community hospitals in the US, which works out to around $19 million per hospital, which is about a third of Pullman Regional’s operating budget. This is all very quick napkin math and I’m sure the amount available to individual hospitals will be much lower than that, but hopefully the path to getting money is not hard! A donation could definitely be where a portion of our “stimulus” money goes.

Every week I mean to log where I went last in public beyond neighborhood walks before this all came crashing down around us and every week I forget.

Except this week!

  • March 20: (16 days ago) Blood donation on a bus outside Pullman Regional Hospital. Close contact with a bunch of people.
  • March 18: (18 days ago) Safeway for some perishable staples: eggs, milk, ice cream sandwiches, and a few other things.
  • March 14: (22 days ago) Stopped at Chevron on the way back from walking on the trail to top the car off. We’ve probably used a quarter of a gallon since?
  • March 13: (23 days ago) Safeway and Rite Aid to find a couple more rolls of toilet paper (but not in a hoarding way!). This was the last day of school in Washington State and the shelves were getting pretty empty.
  • March 11: (25 days ago) Our last trip to the co-op in Moscow. Also my last visit to the credit union. (Finally checked out the app and mobile deposit works well!)
  • March 8: (28 days ago) Last time eating out. Stephen and I tried to play pool, but the poolhall was closed after a Mardi Gras party so we went to The Breakfast Club instead. I remember being a wary of how close we were sitting to the table next to us.
  • March 6: (30 days ago) Maybe the last really “normal” day? Coffee shop in the morning, Paradise Creek for lunch with Happy Prime, Noshies for a couple beers, the chiropractor, and the co-op for groceries.
  • March 3: (33 days ago) The last time we played pool. Very much looking forward to that again!

The riskiest pieces keep getting further away. I continue to be amazed how slowly things happen and how quickly time is going by. 🥃

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