Out of Balance

colpho 0420
Colorado Public Health recommendations for re-opening.

One of the art films I missed, despite its debut during the thick of my art-film infestation, was a documentary called Koyaanisqatsi. It aired last night on Turner Classic Movies, in honor of Earth Day, but once we got past the mesmerizing sand dunes rippling in the wind, I decided the “famed” Philip Glass score was grating on my nerves, which for whatever reason were completely exposed all day yesterday.

“Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi word which means, believe it or not, that this is spelled phonetically, the Hopis traditionally not being much for written language. Coy-ahn-ih-scot-see. See? Easy enough. According to our new genial host at TCM, Ben Mankiewicz, the meaning of the word is “life out of balance.”

Sound like any life you know? Your own, maybe?

Yesterday Colorado got lumped, by the Washington Post, in with several states the paper considers to be re-opening irresponsibly and too early. Among the first businesses Colorado’s governor has planned to allow to re-open turn out to be among the last New York’s governor would ever consider. Clearly, there are many thoughts on how to go about this.

At first blush, Colorado’s option doesn’t seem so terrible, thinking that hair stylists could open as early as perhaps Sunday (weird day of the week to set for your re-opening, but whatever). But after listening to New York’s Andrew Cuomo, I have to re-think this.

I was looking at it from the hand washing standpoint: many stylists spend much of their day in hot, soapy water. It’s the same reason I don’t understand why pet groomers were required to close in the first place. You could drop your pet at the front door; if it were a dog, say, with a thick shaggy coat in serious need of combing, the groomer would brush and cut and trim and bathe the dog (in hot soapy water), blow dry him and send him out the door after receiving payment over the phone or internet — very little contact, very little foul, and at least one member of the family would be nicely groomed.

Now that covid-19 has turned up in four tigers and some lions at the Bronx Zoo, as well as at least two house cats (not at the zoo, I don’t think), maybe that was a riskier proposition than the premise I’ve been operating under. But it still seems a lot less risky than cutting human hair.

At the retail/services meeting I Zoomed on Tuesday, there was the notion that both the cutter and the cuttee would be wearing masks. But how does that work, exactly, when Mr. Kevin goes to even up my sideburns and trim around my ears? If I’m wearing a buff, which I often do (made by Gilly from misprinted T-shirts at Pat’s Screen Printing) —

[Blatant commercial, because I’m losing the Girl Scout competition to Kara: you can pre-order your Gunnison/Crested Butte strong buffs on-line as we speak. She has pre-sold eight to family, friends and neighbors; I have sold zero. I’m sure there’s a fabulous prize for whoever sells the most.]

— then he’s not going to be able to shore up my neckline, either. All that leaves is taking some off the top, which Mother Nature is managing just fine on her own, thank you very much.

Not to mention that we would be in very close proximity, nothing approximating six feet. That doesn’t seem as harmless as it may have sounded at the outset. Of course, neither is going to the grocery store, and at no time has that practice been impeded. I don’t know what the answer is.

The unemployment numbers came out this morning, and another 4.4 million Americans have joined them, bringing the five-week total to 26 million. That’s an insanely large number of people. Lynn, home long enough to pick up her Nancy-made alien face mask, wanted to know where all these new jobless are coming from, since businesses closed over a month ago.

I did see yesterday that at least two large Colorado municipalities (Boulder was one) have starting furloughing employees. I don’t know if that’s because tax revenue is already down that much, or this is in anticipation of lowered revenue, but in this cascade of dominoes, it may be that very few jobs are safe.

And I started doing more serious math: looking at the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials’ letter to the governor, not all of which made as much sense to me as I’m sure it did to them (I didn’t for instance, understand their “closure” page at all), and assuming the governor opts to follow their guidelines, it seems that gatherings of 250 people are, under the rosiest circumstances imaginable, a minimum of two to four months out.

That puts rodeos of several hundred spectators out of the question before fall, which is when the top medical officials in the federal administration are predicting a major uptick in virus cases, both covid and influenza. (Dr. Redfield sort of but not really backtracked on that yesterday; Dr. Fauci was fairly adamant that this is going to happen. But don’t you worry: the new chief of staff at the federal Department of Health and Human Services has an extensive background as a labradoodle breeder.)

I was trying to decide what local sports might be acceptable under re-opening, even if only as something to get kids out and moving around, and I can find respiratory-exchange fault with almost all of them. Football linemen, breathing across each other’s face guards. Volleyball players, separated only by a wide-open mesh net. Cross country runners, who like to run in a pack and finish their races with a lot of heavy breathing and spitting. There’s contact in soccer and even lacrosse. Everyone stays in their lane when swimming, but the water doesn’t know that.

This morning’s news out of Denver included National Jewish Hospital, a leading respiratory facility,  offering drive-by antibody testing, yours for $94 and an appointment. But since we’re still not sure if antibodies guarantee immunity, it’s useful, but not enough. An ER doctor on CBS suggested the next run on medical equipment: a pulse-oximeter, yours for about $50 at any drug-type store. He said he was astounded at how many people he saw come into the New York hospital he had volunteered at with oxygen levels below what they would have at the top of Mt. Everest, completely unaware that their oxygen was half what it ought to be.

And let’s count my friend Paul very lucky: the first study out of New York suggests 88 percent of people who go on ventilators don’t come off them alive. Hydroxychloroquine is out; remdesevir may or may not be in; in South Korea, where they test a lot of people, the largest age cohort of people with covid, whether they show symptoms or not, is 20-29.

So studies are happening, knowledge is being gained, but we are all still at the mercy of this virus, humongous numbers in the greatest country in the world unemployed and often without health insurance (and $94 for the antibody test that may or may not be helpful, assuming you can get one of the appointments) . . . yeah. It feels like a life out of balance. Koyaanisqatsi, y’awl.

This is the first half of Trevor Noah’s show last night, and it’s well worth your time to watch the entire thing, even if you don’t normally enjoy his humor. He left all the humor aside and devoted the entire show to an interview with Andrew Cuomo, and it’s riveting TV. Take a half-hour out of your day and give it a look.


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