A Strange Beauty

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A Strange Beauty

Today is Saturday May 2nd.

I woke this morning feeling glum about the situation overseas.

There is some interesting news. The Covid 19 disease seems to be a blood-clotting disease, rather than a lung disease, or a type of pneumonia. The drug Remdesivir shows promise as a treatment. The virus pictured has a strange beauty, don’t you think? It’s not unattractive.  If we could master it….

The morning paper carries lots of interesting articles, including a long piece about the Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch, where there have been so many Covid 19 deaths. It seems this rest home was doing a really good job, and what has happened has been devastating for them.  As Dr John has reminded us, there is no stigma about having Covid 19, just sadness, and probably some frustration. Our son flew in from the UK, fortunately on a plane from overseas not carrying infected passengers, but we didn’t know that till later.

There seems to be a general feeling that some people are taking advantage of the move from level 4 to level 3: one takeaway staff member is very nervous about the fact that she had to accept cash sometimes, had little time to change her mask, and it had been difficult to maintain social distancing in the kitchen where she worked.

The newspaper is also advertising the TV Guide, which hasn’t been published for the last few weeks, and the Wellington City Council is advertising WOAP (Wellington on a Plate), a food festival which takes place annually in August. Perhaps not this year – I doubt that we would be ready for that.

I listened to a podcast relating stories of some of the people who have died from Covid 19 in England. These are all very sad; in England, as in the US, black people and ethnic minorities have tended to die first, along with elderly folk in rest homes. Although pictures of largely white NHS workers have been displayed, the staff are predominantly coloured people.  One man was in hospital, had a blood test, and was sent home. After he died a few days later, the coroner’s report said his death was due to Covid 19 infection, but neither he nor his family were told about this.

Another sad story was about a widower in his 60’s who was an immigrant and a bus driver. It seems he was at risk, and wasn’t supplied with masks. He became ill, went to hospital and was put on a ventilator, but his daughter was asked for permission to turn off his life support. I immediately thought of the contrast here, where bus transport is free, and remains free; passengers are asked to get on and off using the rear door; and in level 3, passengers are asked to log on and off using their snapper cards to indicate the level of use of public transport, not so that they can be charged. There has been such kindness here.

There were other stories of deaths, too. They all had something in common – none of these cases knew how they had contracted Covid 19.

There is a worrying report about meat processing plants in Ireland having increasing numbers of infections.

Around midday one of our sons visited. It was wonderful to see him, although we were well-behaved and maintained distance. We spoke about his daughter’s 5th birthday, coming soon. So far she is likely to miss out on her last day at kindergarten, and school visits.

There was no 1 pm briefing today, but there are 6 new cases of Covid 19 and one death, another former resident of the Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch. This brings the total infected in New Zealand to 1485, with the death total now 20. All but one of the new cases are related to existing clusters.  There is a business helpline available, in each district, and some tax relief for businesses has been announced. We are all (mostly) beneficiaries now, and thankful to have governmental support.

I go shopping again today. It is cold and windy and drizzling outside, so we take the car for a spin. JD says it’s very strange to drive the car again. Shopping is fine, quite uncrowded, although there is quite a queue to enter the store when I come out. Again, I buy raspberries and feijoas. Then I remember bread, which is at the back of the store. There isn’t much left, so it’s just as well that I bought some. I go through the aisles in order after this, remembering to buy eggs again. There is a TV Guide, too. Some things are getting back to normal.

At the end of the day, the US figures are as follows: 1.13 million cases of infection (certainly an undercount, given how difficult it is to get tested), and 65,605 deaths.  (Note: on April 20 the US death figure topped 40,000).   There is no official moment of silence for these deaths, and no offer by the federal government to pay for funerals. There will need to be time to grieve and mourn and address some of the issues of caring for very ill and dying patients and enduring so much pain and suffering at some stage in the future.  Such grief will have to be acknowledged.

The stock market was looking healthier, but the US President’s threats to sue China saw the Dow Jones swing downwards again.  The federal government is said to have purchased 100,000 body bags; Trump says that if deaths are kept to 100,000 he will have done a great job. He’ll have to do something fast to keep it to 100,000.  He also claims that the death toll would be far worse were it not for his actions. I doubt that anyone agrees with him. One no longer knows which model he’s following, or whether the White House daily press briefings are on again or off again, or whether Dr Fauci is going to be allowed to testify before Congress. So how can he not be permitted? Oh, I remember, he’s allowed to testify before a Senate Health Committee. There is much discussion about Congress these days, as in it should do this, or that, or take charge more. I think they have worked very hard, and done everything in their power to manage things as well as they have done. They did vote to impeach the President, and although the Senate did not vote to remove him from office, he remains impeached. It has been a delight to see Nancy Pelosi stand her ground.

“Scientific thought is in fetters”.  This is not a quote from a news story or editorial column about White House/Coronavirus press briefings, but from the novel Stalingrad, which I’m presently reading. It describes the view of science in Nazi Germany, where there was also great fear, and disregard for human life and human suffering.  I suppose Trump doesn’t have much reason to trust doctors’ scientific expertise, seeing he got them to write draft-deferments for him, and his doctor during the 2016 election campaign admitted that he’d written what Trump asked. But while science gave us the atomic bomb, and atomic energy, it has given us many wonderful things too. We value doctors and scientists in collaboration with each other at this critical time, where there is so much we don’t know about this virus and how it behaves.

I have been wondering why there is such disregard for the value and gift of human life in the US, and I conclude that it has a great deal to do with slavery, racism, and immigration from Latin America and majority Muslim countries. Fear has been stirred up against these folk, and they are treated, like most slaves were, as subhuman, threatening, and expendable. There have been many tales told about illegal immigrants doing “the work Americans don’t want to do”, according to Ivana Trump, the unkindness to so-called Dreamers, and the separation of children from their parents at the southern border. Such cruelty was horrifying, but now it is seen on a grand scale, when there are armed protests against lock downs, people are ordered to go back to work (at meat plants, and other places) and to put themselves in harm’s way, while it’s ensured that there is no liability on the part of business owners.

In the UK, the number of infections is 177,000 and the number of deaths 27,510. Apparently the UK can now do 100,000 tests each day; and the good news is that a vaccine is being trialled there.

On a different note, I have been enjoying the Second Movement of Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto. I particularly like Horowitz playing it. This music was used to great effect at the beginning of The Death of Stalin movie. It is very beautiful.

That’s it for now. Nga mihi nui.

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