Monday, March 2, 2020

Can't have a Chicken Pox Party, so let's have a Pity Party with your favorite pariah

Coming into Concord on Thursday evening and want to see people on Friday evening in a group setting. Have a message into my friend at the Department of Health to ask where I should lodge, because there are cases of asymptomatic infection, possibly, that extend beyond the 14-day quarantine period. (One friend reminded me that I have actually been cooped up since January 23, with scarcely any possible exposure beyond the buttons in the elevator of my building, but the trip to the airport in a taxi and being on a plane for three hours and then another plane from Beijing to New York resets the Exposure Clock.) I was going to stay in the home of an old, dear friend who has passed away, but I decided that since her child won't be there, it is best not to touch his fridge door or his spare key.  I might obsessively need to wipe everything I touched out of a mixture of politeness and genuine concern. Frankly, as each day wears on, the chances of me being an asymptomatic carrier continue to wane.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun, to have a party with friends since I could get called back to work in China within a week (unlikely, but possible--imagine that level of uncertainty in your life?). Furthermore, I plan to re-quarantine myself for another couple weeks, because as I said to the bickering CDC women at passport control, who could not agree if the professional who was helping me told me that my quarantine was optional, not mandatory, "Don't worry. I am going to quarantine myself anyway, because I do not want to be a part of the spread of a disease or the cause of a pandemic. My friends would never forgive me."

Over the last two weeks, so busy that I have watched the first boring episode of Ken Burns' The West (I am a huge fan of his opus so maybe it is me and not the actual documentary), I have had so many conversations about public health and medicine with a variety of clued-in folks that have left me feeling fairly confident that I know the status of the current knowledge (what we know and what we think we know versus rumors, speculation, and prognostication) and the best way to communicate about what is happening. My old friend, an immunologist, may vehemently disagree with me, but instead of engaging publicly or privately, he has chosen to cut-me-loose, as is the style of Americans on the Internet these days. All I can say is, "Bring it." I love you, but I cannot stand by as people scaremonger about this disease. Scaremonger about Mike Pence and the disaster that our federal government has become, underfunded as it is (blame that on both parties, please, and call your damn Congressman) and run by an Administration that could not find itself out of a paper bag unless there was a tiki torch rally happening at the orifice; indeed, then they would show up with feigned law-and-order to snuff out the torches with a blink and a wink.)

It is good that we can are finally learning more about this. One of the valuable people who has been most helpful to me both in counseling me through this hard time and in providing valid information is a first cousin. She is a former USN doctor, who has served in Guam, but her glibness got us both labeled as insensitive jerks, when she wrote on Facebook, "."

Now she has, in response to my posting an article about how COVID-19 is like the flu, with the comment that the next thing we need is an article about how COVID-19 is like the "common cold," shared this, in the category of what we think we know:
[Eighty percent] of cases thus far are mild, and coronavirus IS one of the ‘common cold’ viruses along with rhinovirus, adenovirus and others while flu -
Orthomyxoviridae - definitely is not. 
In the ‘non-mild’ cases, the pneumonia is the issue with some distinctive findings on chest CT. The literature I’m reading suggests some promise on certain antivirals’ ability to prevent that complication, which seems to show up around day 9-12 of illness (if it’s going to happen).
My physician*, the former head of the NH Medical Society, has also been helpful. One of the bundle of things that repatriating or returning from abroad citizens need to do is sign up for healthcare coverage, if their work coverage is not portable across national borders, as mine was not. He and my cousin were both able coaches for the experience of signing up with a for-profit health exchange. The policy starts today; tomorrow, I am liberated and get a rental car. Good timing. Thank the Lord nothing happened to me in Scranton, where I stopped for dinner on the five hour drive to my lazaretto. You never know when some stranger is going to sneeze on you and give you the flu or a common cold!

Anyway, back to the idea of holding a party. I am worried that I will continue to self-quarantine in an abundance of caution and then get called back to China, seeing neither of my sisters or my favorite people before I need to leave again. My summer vacation is probably getting eaten up by an official March 2 (tomorrow!) restart date so I won't see them until I pop back on a climate-irresponsible junket to attend my sister's wedding in September. Alternatively, I will find a way to get my partner and her kids here and then we will be like one-armed paper hangers in Versailles (or whatever the expression is), as we seek to acculturate and enroll the kids in school--a privilege that my well-heeled Chinese-American friend, a lawyer in Shanghai has availed himself of in Manhattan with his Chinese-American wife and their Chinese-American kids. "I chose Chinatown over Marin for this precise reason. Didn't want to be a scourge...There are three families that here due to the lock out [sic]."

I emailed a few folks about the party idea. Wanted to call it a "chicken pox party" and wear a hazmat suit from an EMT friend who used to visit Superfund sites (a job that I had in 2004). She now mostly visits clothes dryer fires and bonfires (think 5th of November) that have gotten out of control. There will be no party with me in a Hazmat suit and her in a Guy Fawkes mask, though, because somebody I respect blew the whistle on this idea as irresponsible and suggested instead, "Maybe you can have a party to play the game Pandemic, and people can learn and engage around the issues? Bring examples of appropriate behaviors and PPE [personal protective equipment] for flu and droplet-born disease. A hazmat suit may [my emphasis] mis-represent the risks, unless you’re in a medical setting." I think a Hazmat suit would not only protect everybody, but be hilarious. There is no doubt about it, though, it completely misrepresents the risk, just as the picture in this Scientific American article might leave people thinking that there is a basis for aerosol spraying in the streets. Yet, the picture got people to look at the article, just as a person in a Hazmat suit would draw attention, too. In the zeitgeist of the moment, everybody would instantly know what the article was about.

So, I can think of nothing more awkward than sitting around with a bunch of people who do not know each other playing a board game, but I am down with the hand-washing demo and sniffing some pepper so we can sneeze into our elbows (but what if I am sick? Someone else will have to do that.) If you want to join me on Friday evening, please RSVP send me a message. Not sure where I will be staying because NH Dept of Health does not seem to have a COVOD-19 hotline on the weekends that could tell me which public accommodations have agreed to act as quarantine facilities, but, oh yeah, that does not pertain to me any longer.

*A fellow 2004 Boston Democratic National Convention delegate for HoHo "Choo choo" Dean, M.D.--now a pharmaceutical lobbyist since Obama, sadly, gave up on the fifty state strategy and booted him from the position now held by the all-powerful and so-popular Perez, compared, at least, to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, right?

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