The Corona Diaries - February 13th

The Supply Run - or Life Without Bacon

I slept nearly 12 hours last night. I usually wake up a few times a night but not last night. I went to bed about 11:30 and didn’t move until around 4:30. I woke up just long enough to check the time, then rolled over and went right back to sleep. I didn’t wake up again until just past 11:00 AM. It was that kind of deep, blissful, undisturbed sleep that I rarely seem to get anymore. Something usually wakes me long before I’m ready. It might be the noise from traffic or the neighbors slamming doors and talking loudly as they get ready for work. Perhaps I’ll hear the neighborhood kids playing outside or there will be some sort of construction project going on in the building. It was about noon when I first took notice of just how quiet it was. There was no noise. No horns honking, no banging around from the neighbors, no hammers or saws or drills, no screams from the neighborhood kids. I looked out the window, down into the garden 20 stories below to find… nobody. At any given time of day there are usually interchangeable groups of grannies and grandchildren out there futzing about. Granted, it was lunch time, but this afternoon I saw not one soul. 

We decided last night that we should make a run to Wal-Mart today. Lily hadn’t been shopping in more than a week and we were out of staples like milk, bread, water, vegetables and fruit. The last time she was there she found a lot of empty shelves, so we were apprehensive but hopeful as we started off. We drove the short distance to the MixC Mall in sparse traffic and pulled our masks on before turning into the parking garage. All but one entrance to the garage was shuttered and before we were allowed in we had to have our temperature checked by two parking lot attendants. I’m not sure what it is these two medical professionals will do if someone actually tests positive. I guess they’ll deny that person entry, take down their personal information and report them. We passed the test and drove through a haphazard maze (large areas of the garage were roped off so it was a bit of a mess) as we made our way to the other side of the garage and Wal-Mart. Parking was a breeze, in fact for the first time ever we found a spot just outside the door. We took the escalator up, grabbed a cart and got our second temperature screen of the day before entering the store. Even from the entrance I could see everything looked pretty much normal. The store was no where near as crowded as usual, but there were people in there. We first went to get some bottled water and were pleasantly surprised to find the shelves nearly fully stocked, with all the usual brands available. Lily said those same shelves were empty last week.  We got almost everything we needed. The vegetables and fruit were fresh and in ample supply. There were boxes upon boxes of milk and and a plentiful pile of freshly baked bread spread out across a large table. The meats all looked fresh and canned goods were well-stocked too.

The one thing sold out, the one thing… was bacon. Now life without bacon, while obviously nowhere near the tragedy Covid-19 is, is a tragedy nonetheless. 

We took a short walk from Wal-Mart to the just re-opened optometrist for a quick glasses repair and then a cursory walk through the mall. Most stores were open with skeleton staffs, but there were no customers. McDonalds was open, with a shift manager and one other employee holding down the fort. Currently customers aren’t being allowed to eat in the restaurant, they were only preparing food for takeout. There were no customers and no delivery guys there when we went by. A children’s play area, Me Land, was still closed. There are usually a ton of little kindergarten age kids playing there. I can’t envision Me Land being able to re-open any time soon. 

If the rest of the country is like this then I can only begin to imagine the economic toll the virus is taking. Lily tells me the government has told employers they must continue to pay employee wages at their normal or expected rate during the crisis. Even if they are not working. Even if the company hasn’t re-opened. I haven’t been able to confirm this but if true, that, will take a huge toll on companies both large and small. Frankly, I can’t even begin to imagine how that would work. Maybe the government has plans to infuse even more money into the already flailing economy, but I’m just speculating. Even then, that number would be huge, so I’m dubious. 

Speaking of huge numbers, Hubei province announced 242 new deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday morning, twice as many as on Wednesday. New infections in Hubei also jumped by more than 14,000. Heads are starting to roll as the outbreak shows no sign of abating at the epicenter in Hubei province. Hubei’s Communist Party chief was sacked yesterday and Wuhan’s Party chief was canned today. They join the two officials who were previously in charge of Hubei’s provincial health authority let go earlier in this week. The numbers in Hubei are staggering, even taking into consideration the massive population. The virus has killed more than 1,300 people and infected over 60,000 people worldwide. The overwhelming majority of those cases are here in mainland China. Yesterday’s spike in the number of those infected was due, in part, to a broadened definition of what actually constitutes a confirmed case. That definition now includes people diagnosed on the basis of their symptoms rather than testing positive. This change in reporting came about because huge numbers of residents were complaining about the difficulty in getting tested and treated for the virus. There are currently at least 34,000 people being treated for Covid-19 across Hubei province. The total number of deaths in mainland China stands at 1,355 and the global death toll is at 1,357, with one death each in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

A few other observations… There are reports of entire cities banning the sale of cough medicine and any medicine designed to reduce a fever. The hope is that people suffering from a cough or fever will have to go to a hospital to get relief, and in turn be tested for the virus. In some cities drones are flying the skies, targeting citizens who are out without masks. Drone operators, hovering just out of reach and asking people to either don a mask or return home. Here in our neighborhood the security guards have told us we can’t take Elvis out for walks. Now Elvis, good dog that he is, is not going to do his business in the house. It simply won’t happen. So, Lily and Jia have been taking him out either very early or very late and in any case they  avoid people entirely. Usually there is nobody out there. Last night around midnight we took him out and when returning home there were two security guards sitting outside the back door, chatting away. I noticed they weren’t wearing masks, which they require of all residents. Sure enough, they once again said something about not being able to take the dog out. Lily explained, once  again, that the dog wouldn’t go pee or poo upstairs in the apartment. I looked at them incredulously, shook my head and went inside. There are rampant rumors about how the virus spreads, chief among them one about how dogs and cats can spread the virus. It’s worrisome to think how weird things could get if this thing continues to spread. In Liuzhou there have been 22 confirmed cases of the virus reported. That’s a very, very small percentage of the population and some of those patients have already been discharged from the hospital. Still, no one feels they can take this threat lightly. While typing this I received word that public schools here in Guangxi will not re-open until March 1st, at the earliest. I hope that will be long enough. All in all it certainly feels like everything that can be done is being done, or at the very least being attempted. 

I’ll have more soon on how the virus continues to affect everyone here in Liuzhou. Well, hopefully I will. I just noticed our VPN has stopped working again. “A new escalation in blocks” is the go to phrase the VPN company is using these days. I think I can still post this, but I’m not sure anyone will actually see it if I don’t share it on Facebook. The VPN cat and mouse games continue…

Next - The Propaganda Machine

Liuzhou - February 14 - 8:15PM

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