Are we going to be primary sources?
When students in the future cover the COVID-19 pandemic, will they read our accounts while discussing a global event that changed the world?
Today is Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Let's catch up: We are in the midst of a health pandemic, the likes of which most people alive today have never seen. A novel coronavirus we've named COVID-19 has shocked the world - not that the symptoms are all that horrible, but because of the rate at which it is spreading and how lethal it can be for the elderly and immunocompromised, such as someone living with HIV, diabetes, kidney disease, or someone who is an organ transplant recipient.
I can't say why it is that I'm writing this. I don't think this journal will turn into a bestseller one day, and I'm not in the thick of the pandemic in a horribly affected area, like Italy, for example. As a writer, and historical events go, I thought it shrewd to catalog this. It is currently 11:52 PM, Houston time.
It started as a virus affecting people in Wuhan, China. From there, it spread to other parts of Asia, and began appearing on cruise ships, which were quarantined for two weeks at a time in ports before people were allowed to disembark.
Because air travel exists (as opposed to when it didn't, like during the flu pandemic of 1918), I'm sure it made it to the United States much earlier than recorded. The problem with recorded numbers is that in order to get said numbers, we need the ability to test people. With tests in limited supply, there are likely many, many more people with the virus than we know. We won't know until testing becomes more available, at which time I anticipate the numbers will inflate. This numbers game will probably scare people, but the truth is, this won't indicate a spike in cases, it'll merely mean that we are finally able to accurately report the numbers.
As of today, there are 70-something cases of COVID-19 in Harris County. There have been two deaths in Texas; 7,800 deaths worldwide.
I'm a 27 year old white male, and presently I am the resident writer for Legacy Community Health, an FQHC in Southeast Texas (mostly Houston, with clinics also in Baytown, Deer Park, and Beaumont). We have always been a leader in tackling new health care crises since our founding - just before the beginning of the AIDS crisis.
As a health care agency, we have been aiming to tackle this since it appeared in the U.S., unsure when it would make it's way to Houston (at least officially - again, we're sure there are many more cases than reported). Monday, we opened four testing tents outside our four largest offices: Montrose, Fifth Ward, and Southwest in Houston, and Central Beaumont in Beaumont. Before they were even open, we had Channel 2 show up looking to interview Monday morning. By today, we've had three additional interviews with channels 11, 39, and Univision.
As the virus has progressed, the world has begun to shut down. Italy is under quarantine. Here in the U.S., most of the nation is under orders to "socially distance" from one another to slow the spread of the virus. Here in Houston, restaurants and coffee shops are only fulfilling to-go orders or drive-thru. Bars, clubs, gyms - all closed down. Many people are out of work. Nationwide, gatherings of 10 or more people have been banned. Just days ago, that number was 50.
Conferences, concerts, the Houston Rodeo, South by Southwest - all cancelled, nationwide. The news cycle is COVID-19, 24/7.
The Galleria, Katy Mills, and Outlets are all closed. Broadway is dark. Touring companies have halted production.
However, there is a bright side: Celebrities, from musicians to Broadway stars to writers, have been performing free for fans via Instagram/Facebook Live to keep people's spirits up. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is streaming for free. Many museums are offering free virtual tours. An online virtual AA/12-Step program was even passed around.
I have been working from home since yesterday. My apartment building has closed all amenities including the observation terraces, pool, and gym. I live within the urban core of Houston (in Montrose), and with the gyms closed, I have been working out by jogging from my apartment on Studemont Street to Tinsley Park, about a mile and a half. I do a good bodyweight workout, and jog back home. It may not be the Downtown YMCA that I typically attend, but it's better than nothing. With everyone unable to go out to eat, go to their own gyms, or attend parties, etc., the park is filled with people.
Perhaps this defeats the purpose of socially distancing from one another, but hey - at least people are still staying away from each other while getting their sun and picnicking. I may see a lot of people at Tinsely Park and along the bayou jogging trails, but everyone I see seems to be distancing themselves from others. And at this time, the information we have is that if you're outdoors, someone would basically have to sneeze or cough on you to give it to you. The wind and constant movement of going for a jog really work in your favor.
We have been advised that going for a neighborhood walk or jog is totally fine. Going into any sort of crowd or group - not fine.
Should we go into quarantine though, all of this will change. We'll see.
Today at work, we began with our daily 9 AM conference call which was created when we were all assigned to work from home. We deemed it necessary as things have appeared to update daily, and sometimes even hourly. I wrote two articles and drafted two press releases. Updated an article re: the testing tents.
Logged out at about 4:45PM.
See you tomorrow.
Photo courtesy Houstorian.