What a difference one week can make, hm? One week ago Gunnison County saw its first case of covid-19, and this morning most of the county should be shut down. We are closed, more or less, a tourist destination telling tourists to stay far away.
It’s a very fluid situation, still changing by the half-day. I went to work yesterday morning under a county order restricting “events” of 50 or more people, limits on smaller “events,” and not terribly clear instructions for people 60 or older, which for some inexplicable reason is most of the people I socialize with. (How did this happen?)
By midday, businesses were ordered closed, with a very long list of exceptions that while I understand the reasons they need to stay open, are nothing but transmission vectors. The more I pondered this, the more convinced I become that all these other measures are going to be nothing but cosmetic as long as Walmart, Dollar Tree and the grocery stores are allowed to remain open without restrictions.
There were well over 50 cars in the Walmart parking lot every time I passed it, and while the City Market lot wasn’t as overfull as it always is, we’re still allowing probably 200 people at any given moment in close proximity, breathing over the same produce bins and pushing carts past each other in narrow aisles, congregating in the check-out area with an abundance of clerks.
Everyone you didn’t see at your regular restaurant hang-out, including your 60-, 70- and 80-year-old friends, you can run into at the grocery. And department store. And, for a reason I can’t really explain at all, hardware store. I’m not sure why that rates as a necessity.
Many people I know — again, in that 60-plus demographic that is most at risk — still seem to feel this is all over-reaction, much ado about nothing. They are scoffing at the notion that they aren’t the healthiest people they know (including someone I live with who has had major sinus issues for two months now).
One local restaurateur, always voluble, apparently took to social media yesterday to castigate county officials for his loss of business and all the people he’s had to let go. Only he did this from Florida, where he is on vacation. He scornfully wondered if he should just stay there, apparently oblivious to the very real possibility that this could happen whether he wants it or not.
Here’s the part I think a lot of people are missing: there are not enough test kits.
Gunnison County, rather proud of our history 102 years ago when none of us were around, kept the Spanish flu (which wasn’t any more Spanish than this is Chinese, lest you think attacking people of Asian descent is an appropriate response) at bay. This time around, though, it’s way too late for that, and Gunnison has made a short list of three or four resort counties that the state is telling people to stay out of, due to our high incidence of covid-19.
KBUT radio last night hosted a roundtable Q&A with local health officials, and our public health officer said our positive-to-test ratio is quite high due to the screening process in place. She did say that if test kits were no object, she would love to know what our infection rate really is.
Much higher than people think, I’m sure. I have watched two television doctors this morning (they don’t just play them; they are them), one of whom had the cheery news that this virus is 10 times more contagious than flu, and the other who used dark chocolate M&Ms and a calendar to show how exponentially the disease is spreading in Colorado. Two M&Ms on the first day of the month; by the middle of the month he was dumping entire bags onto the square.
If we use Pat’s Screen Printing as a microcosm, the entire world is coming to an end. James was still out yesterday, no fever since Day One, but body aches and fatigue. He was diagnosed over the phone with flu. Fortino, who lives in the same apartment complex, might be a more likely covid case, with a fever of 99.7 yesterday morning — he was told to self-isolate for 10 days and (probably way too late for it to be effective) keep a 10-foot distance from his wife and newborn.
Vann showed up for work yesterday with what seems to be an old-fashioned cold. Germaphobes that we are, we sent him to work from home. Which he might need to do anyway, since his daughter can’t go to daycare.
Other than severe fatigue, which has lessened considerably, I haven’t had any symptoms materialize, including the sinus issues I thought might arise. But I’m with Kara: every cough or twinge causes concern: do I have the virus? The only one not worried is Gilly, whose husband drives buses filled with people (although buses yesterday were limited to 10 passengers and I think he has volunteered to stay home as of today).
We were the last people to sign our corporate tax return with our accountant, who in turn had to cancel his plan to go eat at a restaurant with his wife and son. While the IRS had not relaxed yesterday’s business return deadline (our accountant had already gotten extensions for all his clients out of an abundance of caution), he said his professional organizations are saying the IRS might extend the April 15 deadline to July, and that there’s a great deal of discussion about the huge capital gains on Dec. 31 that are now completely non-existent.
[Absolutely none of this is official tax advice from either me or my accountant. Do not make any tax decisions based on what you read in some gadfly’s blog.]
So far the state, which has joined Gunnison County in closing down restaurants, bars and movie theatres, has not said anything about not wanting its money, so I will head to work again today to do my sales tax reports, after dropping off my truck for a minor repair. I called yesterday to see if my appointment was still on and got yet another of those “why would we be closed?” responses that is probably the bane of county officials.
We should all be cognizant that it probably only takes one contact with one infected person, so even the delivery exchanges still being allowed restaurants can be filled with hazard, but I find myself, after ruminating half of yesterday and still into today, wondering how much “good” we’re really doing by closing down Main Street while allowing everyone to continue grocery, hardware and department shop same as always.
I understand that officials are dealing with a situation not seen in a couple of generations, flying by the seat of their pants, and trying to do this without all the proper tools (testing kits, and now I’m hearing about a dearth of protective medical supplies nationwide), and I know that food (maybe not hammers) is a basic necessity, but it seems like there ought to be some sort of provision for limiting contact everywhere, including all stores and not just the ones who can least afford it.
Here from oilprice.com (don’t ask me; it’s what I found in 30 seconds) are a couple of charts from Feb. 11, based on a study of China only, but this is why we worry, old friends: