I’ve had a week I wouldn’t want to repeat.

On Thursday, a friend I’d just seen on Tuesday notified me, as part of contact tracing, that they were being tested for COVID-19 because a family member caught it.

I got both the swab test (ouch!) and the antibodies test on Friday. I was isolated in quarantine from other human beings for nearly five nerve-wracking days packed with panic attacks.

After experiencing chest pain, I had to take a tranquilizer to distinguish whether I was having a panic attack, a heart attack or COVID symptoms. I somehow managed to get work done from home despite it being nearly impossible to concentrate.

I’d been so careful, going straight home from work and sharing information with others on how to protect themselves — yet I still looking this damn monster straight in the eyeball. I was angry. I was sad. I was exhausted with all of this.

Finally got word late yesterday that I had tested negative for the coronavirus. Very relieved and thankful — and determined not to go through that bullshit again!

It’s Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better

coronavirus

Medical staff members hugging each other in an isolation ward at a hospital.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Infectious Diseases & Outbreaks, as of May 13, the state has had 10,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March 13, when the first case was reported in Alabama. There have been 1,331 hospitalizations and 450 fatalities.

DeKalb County reported its first case on March 26, and there have been 179 confirmed cases since then, plus two fatalities. We’ve been at two deaths for weeks now, so I presume a new death I just learned about yesterday has not been counted yet.

There were 70 new cases in the past week, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, representing 250 cases per 100,000 people. Cases have doubled in nine days.

From a population of 71,513, a total of 1,719 (2.1 percent) have been tested. I got tested at Encore Medical Spa at 1202 Gault Avenue N in Fort Payne.

Examining the seven-day average of cases per day, Alabama had been trending downward since April 9, when there was a seven-day average of 339 cases. The state saw a seven-day average of 143 cases on April 30 but has seen a surge of new cases since, including a seven-day average of 355 cases on May 7.

Over the last 8 days, the average number of cases per day in Alabama has trended upward:

  • May 5: 325 cases (9 in DeKalb County)
  • May 6: 254 cases (10 in DeKalb County)
  • May 7: 355 cases (15 in DeKalb County)
  • May 8: 339 cases (12 in DeKalb County)
  • May 9: 283 cases (6 in DeKalb County)
  • May 10: 221 cases (5 in DeKalb County)
  • May 11: 275 cases (11 in DeKalb County)
  • May 12: 300 cases (9 in DeKalb County)

Marshall County continues to show the most cases in an adjoining county, with 586 confirmed cases since their first reported case on March 25. Nine people have died there. In Etowah County, there have been 197 cases reported since March 25 and 10 deaths. Jackson County has 60 cases and two fatalities since March 20. Cherokee County has 24 cases.

In neighboring Georgia, Dade County has 17 cases and one death, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Walker County has 68 cases and no deaths. Chattooga County has 16 cases with 2 deaths reported.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) COVID-19 dashboard now shows 4 million total confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 1.34 million inside the United States, and 286,940 deaths from COVID-19 worldwide, 80,820 fatalities happening inside the U.S.

As dark as these days seem, we are blessed to live in the 21st Century, at least, and have the Internet, food with a long shelf life and soap. The Black Death in 1346 wiped out 60% of Europe’s population. The Smallpox epidemic in 1520 killed 5–8 million Mexicans. The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time. The death toll is estimated to have at least 17 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

So, on the bright side, a century of medical advances and better hygiene in society will no doubt save millions of lives this time around. And just think how many more could have been saved if we had gotten in front of this one like we did with Swine Flu in 2009, MERS in 2012 and Zika in 2015.

Come on in, the Water’s Not Fine

I entered a store today to replenish supplies and a grinning guy mocked me for wearing a protective facemask. He got in my face and yelled, “Happy Plandemic!”

That’s the kind of asshole who would swagger his way on board the Titanic, all the while bragging about how it was unsinkable because it was made in America. You almost want to root for the iceberg.

These times are a stress test for America. We are not doing so good, mostly because we are so polarized that we now disgust each other. The sense of urgency seemed to fade once it became clear that black and latino people seem to be disproportionately affected by this disease, mostly because they fill jobs in meatpacking plants, etc.

Admittedly, things did level out there for a few days. It was inevitable that the social distancing we have done since mid-March would become a “victim of its own success.” The Monday morning quarterbacks are coming out of the weeds to brag that they weren’t never scared of some scrawny ‘lil virus.

These folks finally have their chance to demonstrate that our shared social sacrifice over the last month-and-a-half has been nothing more than a shamefully overblown, overhyped, overly and irrationally inflated, constitutionally questionable and outright deceptively flawed reaction.

The skeptics are arguing that most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms and the ones who die are old or in poor health anyway (which is a nice way of calling them expendable). They question whether the death count is accurate and share conspiracy theories about doctors being pressured to attribute deaths to the coronavirus that have nothing to do with the actual cause of death to make it look worse than it is. For what reason doctors would do such a thing, they never quite say.

They speculate on whether it was really all that contagious after all. Some even postulate that we are doing more damage to our immune systems by avoiding exposure.

They criticize the government’s stimulus packages as income redistribution schemes and claim that the actual threat is to our civil rights rather than our respiratory systems. They imply that the shutdown was a left-wing conspiracy to damage the economy in order to harm the president’s chances of re-election.

A guy criticized my coronavirus coverage today on Facebook, saying I never share the number of people who survive it. For one thing, that’s harder to do because it takes two consecutive negative tests to be considered confirmed over it and many don’t bother to do that second test. Secondly, why is it my job to spin it to make it look like it’s not that bad. That guy’s a tool who only cares about politicizing this disaster.

They feel disdain for “the media” above all else, smearing reporters and TV personalities as agents of fear to scare Americans into voluntarily going along with shutting down the entire economy. They dismiss others as mindless sheep.

These claims of vast global shenanigans seem incredibly far-fetched – imagine the level of coordination it would take to pull off such a hoax, burning through trillions of dollars (for what reason?).

Yet the fuse is often lit by something as simple as a person thinking, “Hmm, I don’t personally know anyone who has died from it, so it must not be real.”

She must not know that my high school classmate, Kurt Winn, has died of the coronavirus. Poor guy. He went from feeling better at home to going downhill so fast, it was shocking and very sad. I didn’t know him very well, but I graduated in the same class as his widow, Staci. Their son Griffin now has to grow up without his dad.

Tragic. And hopefully a wakeup call for a lot of folks who still think the coronavirus is no more serious than the flu or a hoax of some sort.

The naysayers have a rare opportunity to prove wrong all of the doctors, nurses, scientists and journalists who’ve been arguing for precautions to save their lives. One of two outcomes will happen. Either cases of the COVID-19 disease will increase (spoiler alert) or we’ll continue to see “the curve” of case numbers leveling out.

Our economy thrives on consumer confidence, and that will remain in short supply until we have adequate testing capabilities and get past the second wave of infections that could hit the country badly later in the year.

The next two weeks should be dipping our tiptoes in the waters before showing off how well we can dive.

Some critics are so stubborn they won’t believe the coronavirus is real and deadly until they show up at the hospital gasping for air. Even then, they’ll only admit it happened if they can blame Bill Gates, 5G, or Barack Hussein Obama.

History will decide who was right, what exactly happened, who deserves blame and what they could have done differently or sooner to result in fewer deaths. I suspect that we’ll get the full story around the same time we finally get everyone tested and have a vaccine widely available.

Congress spent $7 million over two years and four months probing the 2012 deaths of four Americans when attackers raided the US compound in Benghazi, Libya. Surely the deaths of 61,288+ Americans deserves at least as much scrutiny.

The most significant event faced by the nation since 9/11 – certainly the deadliest since World War II — deserves public hearings where officials are compelled to provide documents and testimony under oath; the public will have zero tolerance for any attempts to reject congressional oversight.

If this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax, well, I guess the loudmouth naysayers will get to gloat and call the rest of us fools for being so gullible. That seems to be what they live for.

In-person graduation is back on.

I am concerned because coronavirus cases are surging — with 8 days to spread, the rona should be fairly well seeded by then — but I can’t tell my daughter it’s too unsafe and I can’t miss being there as the father of a senior.

I am left without a choice because of the pressure exerted on school officials from a certain segment of the population that believes COVID-19 isn’t serious. From their perspective, I can totally understand how they would be infuriated by the school not allowing them to celebrate this big occasion as publicly as possible.

With hundreds of people gathering in one place, there most assuredly WILL be someone asymptomatic spreading the coronavirus at this thing because people who don’t think it is real will hug and shake hands and turn their heads to carelessly cough right in my face. But the social and political pressure to preserve the freedom to infect one another is simply too great here in Alabama.

I want to keep an eye on my daughter at her graduation — to make sure other people maintain social distancing the hell away from her.

For more information, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health website at https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/cov-faq.html. For general COVID-19 questions, call 1-800-270-7268 or email covid19info@adph.state.al.us. Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.


© Photo 2020 Steven Stiefel / Stiefel Creative

© Blog 2020 Steven Stiefel | Stiefel Creative