Thursday, May 21, 2020
This morning, I couldn't stand it any longer. My bangs had not only reached the length where they stick in my eyes, they had also become ugly. My hair has grown about two inches since it was last cut at the end of January and here it is almost June. So, after giving it a good brushing and combing, I pulled it back into a pony tail and then used a headband to push the bangs off my face. I'm thinking of starting a hair fashion trend....
Warmer weather has brought more open windows. With more people working at home, listening to music, talking loud on the phone, or just having loud conversations with the people they're living with, my apartment has become polluted with noise. I've not noticed this before. On weekends when we're all at home and the windows are open, the noise level has been much lower. Does it have something to do with being cooped up inside for so long?
Up until the beginning of this week, the airplane traffic over my neighborhood had been almost nonexistent. It was heaven not to have airplanes flying over on the way to landing at the major international airport only about 4 miles from where I live. As soon as the stay-at-home order expired at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, the planes began flying. A plane flying overhead at 3:30 a.m. woke me up. Although the number of flights has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, the noise and disruption of high definition TV signals has. A plane just screamed by.
For the last two months, my medical team has either re-scheduled my appointments or we've met using video chat. As a result, I've missed my usual monitor labs, a Boniva infusion, and an annual mammogram (of which I'm not that upset!). I was beginning to wonder about how maintenance care was being affected by the pandemic when I realized I hadn't heard from my Rheumatologist's office and I have a clinic visit next week. So I called. Much to my surprise, they wanted me to come in for my appointment after they'd asked the screening questions (how could I have traveled anywhere in the last two months, much less to another country?), requested that I come alone to the appointment and wear a mask, and informed me that my temperature would be taken as I stepped off the elevator -- if it was normal, I'd be allowed into the clinic. It will be nice to meet face-to-face with a doctor for a change.
Last week, while looking for something else in the grocery store, I strolled by the household cleaners. Yeah, empty shelves. But much to my surprise, they had half gallon bottles of cleaning ammonia, lemon scented. I grabbed a bottle. Now, if only the sanitizer wipes were available. Or Dawn.
My hands have grown accustomed to their regimen of washing every time I return to the apartment. Their skin has dried out. There's not enough hand lotion in the world to soothe them. I use hand sanitizer sparingly, usually only when I'm away from home. And slather on the lotion almost as much as I lather up the soap.
Face masks! I've been shopping for cloth face masks to stock up for my return to work. My taste runs to the silly, but I doubt my boss would really like me wearing in the office the lower half of a skeleton face over the lower half of my face. She likes cats, though. Finding the perfect masks that reflect my personality has been a challenge. The cost has been shocking. Someone is making a pretty penny somewhere on them.
When will the U. S. President become sick with what he initially called "a politicized hoax"? I thought maybe the virus was close when so many people on the task force and in the White House tested positive for COVID-19. But he and his Veep just keep chugging along. I have stopped listening to him. I know he lies so why should I listen? I mean, suggesting that disinfectant, if ingested or injected, could kill the virus in the human body? Wanting the U.S. Postal Service to fail because he doesn't want people to be able to vote by mail? What frightens him so much? Every time he opens his mouth he reveals the true nature of his humanity, his dishonesty, and his lack of compassion for his fellow humans. His narcissism and ignorance have caused over 90,000 Americans their lives. When America needed a real leader the most, he failed us.
Otherwise, World, I'm fine.🤭
Thursday, May 7, 2020
During a video chat with a friend recently, she commented that a woman she knew had been complaining long and loud that she was fed up with and against all the stay-at-home orders, closed business orders, public health emergency orders, and all the social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing orders when "it's just about the flu." I was shocked. But apparently there are people out there who have not bothered to educate themselves about COVID-19 and its threat. I wondered how many people shared her frustrations and ignorance. Then I started thinking about the flu and what I've experienced with it, and COVID-19 and what it does to the human body.
CauseWhat causes the flu? What causes COVID-19? Each disease is caused by a virus, and not the same virus.
The influenza virus has been around for a long time and one strain of it, H1N1 with genes from birds, caused the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19. Humans have encountered variations of the influenza virus as well; each year's vaccine usually covers 2-4 strains that are the most common circulating at that time.
The COVID-19 virus is a corona virus, SARS-CoV-2, related to and more powerful than the corona virus that caused the SARS epidemic in 2002-03. SARS-CoV-2 is a "novel" virus, i.e. humans have not encountered it before. The prevailing theory is that it came from bats and its origin is in China. How it made the jump from bats to humans is not yet known.
TransmissionHow are each of these viruses transmitted? How do you become infected?
With the flu, it's from coughs, sneezes, and touching surfaces on which the virus lives. During flu season, it's important to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands frequently.
SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted on water droplets emitted with sneezes and coughs, and from virus-infected droplets on surfaces such as hands, door knobs, the metal bars on public transit, etc. We don't know yet if COVID-19 has a season, but right now it's important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, or wear a mask in public if ordered, and to wash your hands after touching anything in public or being in contact with other people. Washing hands with soap is the best way to kill the virus on hands because the soap breaks down the virus' fatty skin and explodes the virus cells. Hand sanitizer with 70%+ isopropyl alcohol is an acceptable alternative until you can wash your hands with soap.
So, these two viruses have similar methods of transmission. SARS-CoV-2 is highly contagious simply because humans do not have any kind of immunity against it.
SymptomsThe times that I've had the flu, it's always begun with feeling so tired I could barely move, followed by chills, feeling like I cannot get warm and shivering, then a fever of 100 degrees or higher. That's followed by muscle aches, sometimes headache, and a cough. I've not had much sinus congestion with the flu, but I have sometimes had a sore throat. The flu lasted 4-7 days, and usually the 7th day was 24 hours of a normal temperature but still feeling blah. I've never felt the need to go to a doctor or hospital or ER with the flu. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia which is usually treated in a hospital. People with lung disease, heart disease, and compromised immune systems are at the highest risk to develop complications.
From reports and the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 can begin with loss of your sense of smell or taste, headache, sore throat, and fatigue, followed by chills, sometimes severe chills, dry cough, and a fever of 101+ degrees. This virus attacks the lungs, so you could also experience chest pain, shortness of breath sometimes severe. This is for the first 4-7 days. Then you might experience a break in the fever and begin to feel better. Those with mild disease will recover at this point. Others can have a "second wave" infection for the next 7-10 days. At this point, the virus attacks other organs -- heart, liver, kidneys, blood vessels -- and this attack causes the human immune system to renew its attack to the max, causing a complication called "cytokine storm." During this complication, the immune system causes body-wide inflammation that must be brought down and under control or it can kill. Another complication from inflamed blood vessels are blood clots that can travel to the lungs or heart or brain and kill. Another complication is kidney failure. It can take up to a month for COVID-19 to run its course. You have to have 3 days without a fever before you're truly on your way to recovery.
TreatmentsWe now have over-the-counter medications to help treat the symptoms of flu, fever-reducing pain medications, and flu-specific medications such as Tamiflu. From my experiences with the flu, I've found drinking lots and lots of water, sleeping as much as possible, and taking acetaminophen for the fever the most helpful.
There are no treatments for COVID-19. If you suspect you have it, you need to call your doctor to get instructions on what to do to get tested and to take care of yourself. Medical researchers are in the process of testing various antiviral drugs and some have shown promise. Drinking disinfectant or sitting in the sun are NOT treatments. In fact, if you drink disinfectant, you will probably die. All doctors can do at the moment is what is called "supportive therapy" to help the human body fight the virus itself. This includes oxygen therapy, fever-reducing pain medications, IV fluids and close monitoring. I have been reading about some interesting possible treatments to prevent cytokine storms, which is encouraging. I've also been reading that doctors are now considering giving patients anti-coagulants to prevent blood clots.
DeathsAt the moment, COVID-19 wins this section by a landslide. The flu is not nearly as deadly.
The U.S. statistics vary depending on the source for the flu deaths, but they can range from 3000 to 15000 in a flu season which usually lasts 6-9 months.
So far in the United States, COVID-19 has killed 73,297 people as of today, May 7, and that includes 2,495 deaths since yesterday. The total deaths have been since January 24, 2020 -- not quite 3.5 months.
|Photo: TitoVailona/Twenty 20|
PreventionPrevent the flu by getting vaccinated each fall. It takes about 2 weeks for immunity to build up after the shot. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently. The vaccine can prevent the flu or lessen its effect if you do get sick.
No vaccine yet exists for COVID-19. Medical researchers are working furiously to fast-track the development of one. There are vaccine programs in the U.S., Great Britain, and I would guess, in China. In the meantime, the only way to prevent becoming infected is to avoid contact with infected people who can give it to you -- stay home, social distancing, obsessive hand-washing, wear a face mask in public.
ResourcesIn the U.S., the Departments of Health in each state should have a website for COVID-19 information, updates, and other resources. I live in Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Health's website is here.
The Center for Disease Control's COVID-19 website is here.
If you are not in the U.S., please check with your country's government for information, or go to the World Health Organization website.
COVID-19 IS NOT THE FLU.
Monday, April 6, 2020
We are going to lose a lot before the pandemic is officially over. We will lose family, friends, favorite restaurants and other businesses we have favored, and to a certain extent, a way of life. Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is here to stay, like it or not. What we need to survive long term are an effective treatment (or more than one) and a vaccine. Medical researchers are working on both, and there may be a vaccine entering the pipeline even now.
This pandemic has caused a huge change in the way we live short term, and those changes may affect how we live long term. But human beings are feisty and resilient. We work to solve problems and we persevere. In that vein, I'd like to post the transcript of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's State of the State Address that he gave last evening. It is affirmation, encouragement, gratitude, and an example of what a true leader says to those he's leading.
State of the State Address: Governor Walz Remarks as Prepared
April 5, 2020[St. Paul, MN] – Governor Tim Walz today delivered his second State of the State address from the Governor’s Residence. Below are his remarks as prepared.
Good Evening, Minnesotans.
Thank you for joining me on this beautiful Sunday.
I am speaking to you live from the Governor’s Residence where I have been in self-quarantine.
Self-quarantine. Self-isolation. Social distancing.
Phrases that many of us never used before now roll off our tongue in daily conversation.
A new vocabulary to define a new reality.
A hard, cold reality. One that far exceeds the reality of Minnesota’s harshest winters.
From my daily briefings, many of you know the current situation. You know about COVID-19—and you know there’s a lot we don’t know about it. You know about the actions we’ve taken to combat it—and you know how these actions disrupt your daily life.
Many of you are out of work. Businesses, large and small, are shuttered across the state. The companionship we normally lean on to get through difficult times—a hug from a grandparent, coffee with a friend, or a laugh with a co-worker—forced out of reach.
Vacant streets. Deserted classrooms. Empty pews.
Chairs stacked on restaurant tables.
Graduations, weddings, and funerals postponed.
Right at the time Minnesotans are usually putting away their shovels and snowblowers, opening up their windows, and emerging from their homes—we are bracing for a storm of epic proportions.
We are used to long winters in Minnesota. We are resilient people with a deep reserve of courage, optimism, and grit.
But this will be a winter like we’ve never seen before.
And as we have done for generations, once the tree limbs are stark and the sky a cold dark gray—we prepare.
There’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we are preparing for it.
We are building our hospital capacity so that we can ensure as many Minnesotans as possible receive the care they need when they need it.
We are increasing testing to better track the disease.
We are increasing ventilators and ICU beds for when people fall ill.
And just as we wouldn’t send a loved one out into the cold without the protection they need, we are doing our best to find more personal protective equipment for the selfless doctors, nurses, first responders, and so many others on the frontlines against COVID-19.
Minnesotans won’t just prepare for COVID-19—we will lead.
The brilliant minds and hard work of Minnesotans will help lead the world’s response to this crisis.
Mayo Clinic is leading a national trial to use blood from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 as a treatment for others who fall ill with the disease.
Hospitals across the state, from the largest systems to the smallest, are preparing in new ways for a surge in patients.
3M workers are producing millions of protective face masks a month.
Medtronic is publicly sharing the design specifications for its ventilators to spark rapid manufacturing of this critical equipment desperately needed to save lives.
From Duluth to Hallock to Saint Paul, smaller companies and employees are halting production to produce masks, make hand sanitizer, and help in any way they can.
And you—staying home—are doing some of the most critical work of all.
I know it doesn’t feel that way for many of you. Minnesotans are hardworking people who step in to help. In many storms, that means plowing out your neighborhood, filing sandbags, or trudging through the snow to check on your loved ones.
Now that means staying home. What you are doing isn’t paralysis—it’s action.
Staying home reduces face-to-face contact and thus the threat of virus transmission by up to 80 percent.
Staying home is the only vaccine we have right now.
You are slowing the spread of this disease. You are protecting your neighbors. You are giving hospitals time to prepare to care for the many who will fall ill.
You are making a difference. You are saving lives.
As a dad and as a former teacher, I want to speak directly to our children for a moment.
I know this is scary. I know you miss seeing your teachers and your classmates. I know it’s disappointing that many of the important end-of-school activities have been canceled. I know there are athletes out there who were prepared to go win state championships on diamonds and fields across the state.
But what you are doing matters. Your sacrifice is keeping people safe. You are protecting people. Someday when you have children of your own, you will tell them about this moment in history and what you did to help the people of your state. Thank you.
Parents, I know this is hard. Many of you are watching your children while trying to work yourselves. And you’re worried about the bills.
This is hard for everyone. Take a deep breath. Be kind to yourself. We are all doing the best we can—and that’s all we can do.
Minnesotans, I don’t take what we’ve asked you to do lightly. I served in the Army National Guard for 24 years. I raised my hand to defend freedom and liberty.
In a democracy, any action to restrict these rights cannot be enacted lightly. But at the moment, they are critical—to save lives.
My promise is to continue to communicate my decisions, explain when we change course, and never stop fighting alongside you, the people of Minnesota.
These last few weeks have been difficult—and it’s only going to get harder.
Long hours of darkness are ahead.
We are going to do everything in our power to save lives—and as hard as we work—we won’t be able to save everyone.
It’s going to be a cold winter. How do we get through a cold winter? We get through it together. As One Minnesota.
We shovel our neighbor’s sidewalk. We push out a stranger’s car. We donate hats and mittens.
This collective spirit empowers us to endure winter—and it is how we will endure this crisis as well.
You see it already.
The White Bear Lake Pee Wee hockey team was on the road to New Ulm for the state tournament when it was canceled mid-route due to COVID-19.
While the season ended abruptly, the team is still a team– virtually.
The players and their parents have started a text chain to check in every night to see how everyone is doing and if anyone needs help.
One evening, a player’s mom shared how she is exhausted from her work as a nurse and is worried about doing her job without personal protective equipment.
The next day, the hockey dads cleaned out their supplies of masks at work and in their garage.
A big box was left on the nurse’s doorstep with a note that said: “Your hockey family loves you.”
It left her in tears. Her hockey family is helping her through this crisis.
This same spirit flows between the high rises of downtown Minneapolis where people go out on their balconies to clap, cheer, and bang pots and pans to celebrate health care workers when they get off a shift.
In North Branch, a state trooper pulled a woman over this weekend for speeding.
It turns out, she was a doctor in town for work.
The trooper noticed some medical masks in her bag that she had been forced to re-use due to the current shortage.
Instead of handing her a ticket, the trooper handed her a stack of masks that he had been given to keep him safe.
At a state veterans’ home, the grandchildren of one of the residents were sad that they can no longer visit their grandpa.
They created chalk drawings outside his window not only lift his spirits, but also to thank the staff for caring for him during this difficult time.
While we may be separated physically, we stand united. From Rondo to the Range, from North Minneapolis to North Mankato, we are One Minnesota.
And a new day will come.
The sun will shine. The trees will bud. The birds will sing.
Spring will arrive. And when it does, we will dig out. We will do whatever it takes to support Minnesotans and businesses to get back on their feet.
Our communities will forever be changed. Our state will forever be changed. Our world will forever be changed.
We will grieve all that was taken from us. But we will also celebrate all that’s given to us.
Unity. Humanity. Gratitude.
We will be more united as a state. We will cherish each other’s humanity. We will have endless gratitude for the lives we lead.
These trying times have led us back to each other.
We will value those we overlooked before. When times got tough, who did we lean on? It was the nurse. The grocer. The truck driver. The farmer. The janitor.
We will recognize all that educators and child care providers do for our students, our communities and our economy.
This crisis shows how much Minnesota depends on our schools not only to teach our children - but to feed them and provide for their physical and mental well-being.
We will recognize all that public health workers do at the local and state level to detect and respond to health threats, not just infectious disease outbreaks but the many other threats that impact our personal and community health.
We will continue to look out for the most vulnerable—the poor, the sick, the hungry. Many have stepped up to protect them during this crisis and that dedication to their dignity and livelihood must endure.
We won’t take normalcy for granted. Our modern lives move fast—and this presents an opportunity to slow down and appreciate what truly matters.
We will welcome the morning rush getting our children to school.
We will smile as we pass restaurants bustling with friends sharing a meal.
We will gather again in our houses of worship.
We will have a renewed appreciation for the calming power of a warm embrace.
We won’t just make it to spring. We will come out better on the other side of this winter.
Because we are Minnesotans. We see challenges—and we tackle them.
No matter how daunting the challenge; no matter how dark the times; Minnesota has always risen up—by coming together.
Our blood saved the Union at Gettysburg.
Our iron forged the tanks that liberated Europe.
Our farmers sparked a green revolution that fed the world.
Our imagination transformed medicine—and appears poised to do so once again.
The State of our State is strong.
The State of our State is resilient.
The State of our State is united.
And our hearts are filled with gratitude for each and every Minnesotan and the role they play in the fight against COVID-19.
Stay home, and stay healthy, Minnesota.
Friday, April 3, 2020
In a crisis, whom do you trust to give you the facts? Now, there's a loaded question. Think about it. What kind of crisis is it? Is it terrorism? Economics? Public health?
We are gripped by a public health crisis at the moment in the U.S. The people I look to for information regarding that crisis are the people who are the most knowledgeable, with the most expertise in dealing with public health crises as well as this specific crisis, and leaders who are consulting with and listening to all the people in the first two groups. These are the trusted sources concerning a public health crises.
Someone more concerned about his TV ratings than the crisis at hand is not a trusted source.
|Minnesota Governor Tim Walz|
Someone who claims that the public health crisis is just a "politicized hoax" put out by the opposition rather than taking steps to address the crisis early to prevent as many deaths and cases of illness as possible is not a trusted source.
During a crisis of any kind, but especially during the public health crisis we're in now, it's important to be able to get factual and accurate information, especially regarding what the crisis involves, information about the virus, what the symptoms of the illness are, and what to do if you're sick; as well as information about how to protect yourself from the virus, how to protect your family, and what the local and state governments are doing to address the crisis. For this, we rely heavily on local newspapers (online and print), TV and radio stations (online and broadcast), magazines (online and print), and the websites of the local and state government entities who are charged with disseminating information. It is at times like these that freedom of the press is crucial, and journalists follow all the tenets of excellent journalism. Local media (and media on the national level) need the support of the government, and they need to be able to work easily and well with the government to inform the public.
Someone who concerns himself more with calling news he doesn't like "fake news" and calling journalists names, tearing down media outlets and reporters, and disrespecting the First Amendment of the Constitution is not a trusted source. Media that works with him to disseminate what he says and report unsubstantiated stories that some deem "alternate facts" are also not trusted sources. (I was going to provide links but there are way too many to choose from.)
We need to work together during this crisis in order to get through it. If someone in California has an idea that could increase the number of ventilators available, then we need to hear what he has to say. If someone else wants to donate money to buy food for unemployed people who are struggling to put food on the table right now, they deserve support. We need to be able to operate in an atmosphere of openness and encouragement and respect, not in an atmosphere of fear, repression and disrespect.
We certainly don't need someone who is vindictive toward anyone who does something great, gets attention he feels belongs to him, or challenges him on anything.
One Last Thing
|Dr. Anthony Fauci on ABC News|
I have written about trusted sources before at this blog. To find those posts, simply type "trusted sources" in the search box to read them. I cannot stress enough that during this uncertain and frightening time, it's important to seek out trusted sources and get your information from them. They are out there.
Monday, March 23, 2020
Life has changed dramatically. What was normal life six weeks ago is no longer normal life. Uncertainty has taken over daily life as well as anxiety and fear. Questions like "How long will this last?" and "Will I get sick?" and "When can I return to work?" and "How will I pay my bills?" dominate minds. We are all in the same boat: none of us have a natural immunity to this new virus and we are all at risk of getting infected and sick.
My SituationI am in the high risk group of people. What does that mean? People older than 50 or 60 who have underlying medical conditions and/or compromised immune systems are at a higher risk to have more severe disease if infected with this virus. Examples include people being treated for cancer with chemotherapy, people who take immunosuppressive medications because they've had an organ transplant, and people who have autoimmune disease. This is not a comprehensive list. If you have heart disease, diabetes, or any kind of lung disease, especially asthma, you could also be at risk.
As a result of being in the high risk group, I've been staying home since last Thursday with the support of my employer.
Feeling Anxious?You are not alone. It's normal to feel anxious when faced with the unknown, a threat of any kind, or uncertainty. What's important is how you deal with the anxiety. Some people lash out. Others hoard things they think are important. Still others become paralyzed and can do nothing.
Then there are some people who recognize the anxiety for what it is and reflect on its cause. What is in your control? You are in control of your thoughts and feelings. You are in control of your actions. These people choose to respond to a crisis by remaining calm, thinking through their feelings and what the most appropriate response would be, and then following through in a calm manner. I think Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH is an excellent example of this. He is an inspiration.
|Dr. Anthony Fauci (ABC News)|
Please stay calm and carry on.
The New Daily LifeFirst of all, I am glad to be at home, and glad that I'm well. I think I'll also be very glad to return to work after two weeks. If it is, in fact, two weeks. I have not heard exactly how long I'll need to stay home.
Staying positive: I choose to think that we will get through this together and we will get through this OK. It won't be perfect -- nothing is. In the meantime, I now have weekdays at home I wouldn't normally have, and the time to get caught up with projects at home. A good spring cleaning. De-cluttering, especially files. Do the document shredding that's piled up. Clean out closets and drawers. And writing, writing, writing on my fiction projects.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?Living in isolation tends to be easier for introverts than extroverts. I'm an introvert and I am content right now. Eventually, I'll miss my friends and co-workers. Introverts cope well with being alone.
If you are an extrovert, however, be sure to find some way to feed your need for people contact each day. Video chat using one of the many apps out there for it. Phone your friends and family. Take advantage of social media to share what you're doing and letting people know you're OK.
If You Start to Feel SickStay calm. There are lots of other viruses circulating in our world right now, especially cold and flu viruses, that can be the cause. I've developed a check list for myself:
- Did I have chills followed by a fever? Definitely not a cold. Could be the flu. Could be COVID-19.
- Have I developed shortness of breath? Shortness of breath is when you cannot seem to get enough air in when you breathe, and it feels like you don't have enough air. I've had this before and it can be a scary feeling. At this point, I would call my primary physician to report my symptoms.
- No shortness of breath? Could be our other nasty seasonal virus, the flu.
- If you are in the high risk group for COVID-19, however, and you start to feel sick with a fever, call your primary physician.
Helpful ResourcesWe need to stop the COVID-19 virus in its tracks so it's important to follow the directions from the CDC and your state's Department of Health. Google "Dept of health" for your state or the CDC to access their websites.
I live in Minnesota and here are the Minnesota resources:
Minnesota Department of Health
The Minnesota Department of Health helpline: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Stay calm and stay well.