Pandemic, again

We’re all gonna die someday Lord;
we’re all gonna die someday.
Mama’s on pills, daddy’s over the hill,
but we’re all gonna die someday.
–Kasey Chambers

Oops. I wasn’t going to do this. Last week, I wrote Pandemican upbeat post about my OCD as related to the current news cycle. The Wuhan coronavirus wasn’t freaking me out. That seemed so unusual to me that I needed to blog about it. Historically, news of a new infectious disease paralyzes me. Unable to move beyond my one recurring thought: We’re all gonna die!

I’ve been listening to Kasey Chambers all week. Once I started thinking about all of us dying, various songs kept popping into my head. Alexa, play The Captain.* Alexa, play Changed the Locks. Amazon music didn’t have that one, bummer—it’s my fav. As I listened, I wikipedia’d. Kasey’s has a fascinating life. Most of her youth was spent living in a tent in the Australian Outback with her hippy parents.

Susan and I discovered Kasey when her debut album came out in 1999. We saw her play in DC’s 9:30 club in 2002, Susan and Kasey, both seven months pregnant. But then we lost touch with her. On Wikipedia, I learned that Kasey put out ten more albums since then. I also learned she wrote an autobiography. Since I work in a library, I asked our “interlibrary loan” specialist to see if she could borrow a copy for me. As it turns out, there’s only one copy in the entire country. A rare book. I can’t wait to read it.

Alexa, play We’re All Gonna Die Someday.

A lot has changed in a week. When I wrote my post Pandemic, I envisioned a coming global catastrophe, but it seemed remote and someone else’s problem. I googled it frequently throughout the day, gawking, essentially, the way a driver might rubberneck an accident. Interested, sort of excited, ready to be distracted by something new.

On Wednesday, I happened upon a graphic that displayed the exponential growth of the infection rate. The time duration between ten cases and one hundred cases was equal to the duration between one hundred and a thousand. The graph predicted we’d be at ten thousand cases by Thursday night—which we were. The next two increments are a hundred thousand and then a million. Just over a week between each milestone.

Time to freak out.

I’ve spent the last two days with CNN’s “Coronavirus Live Feed” up on my computer. They post an update several times an hour, and when they do, a little (1) appears on the browser tab. When I see that (1), I pop over to the tab to learn what’s new.

Here are some things posted today:

US orders 14-day quarantine for Americans evacuated from Wuhan. Great. Then what? If someone gets sick in the fourteen-day period, do they reset the clock? They’ve all just been exposed again. It might take them a year to get out of quarantine.

‘There’s no doubt’: Top US infectious disease doctor says Wuhan coronavirus can spread even when people have no symptoms. I begin to obsess. In the pit of my stomach, an uneasiness, not nausea but something else, turmoil. I bounce my foot while sitting on the couch. My toes wiggle constantly. I itch and scratch. Agitation, keyed up.

Novel coronavirus is a US public health emergency. We have seven infections currently in the United States. Soon, seventy, seven hundred, seven thousand, on and on. Susan and I ordered R95 masks today. Separately. We each went online and ordered masks. Better safe…

The experts report a two percent death rate. They take the total number of deaths and divide it by the total number of infections. Flawed. This makes the assumption that no one currently sick is going to die. Better to divide the number of deaths by the number of illnesses that have fully run their course.


259 ÷ (259 + 252) = 50.7%

Scarier. My kids don’t buy this.

Sophie: “Dad, don’t you think the people who do this for a living know how to calculate the fatality rate?

Eli: “I don’t know why you’re wasting your money on masks.”

I feel guilty. On my post last week, I got a bunch of ‘good for you’ comments. Pam@ichoosethis wrote “What a great feeling not to be worrying about these types of things!” King Ben’s Grandma: “I’ll bet it’s great to be able to joke about it instead of being freaked out.” Zita666479 wrote “Finally, I have read a posting that is not freaking out over the coronavirus.” Sorry ladies, I’m officially freaking out now.

The obvious question is—how does worrying help? Other than buying those masks, there’s not a single thing I can do stave off a pandemic. Plus, Sophie announced at dinner: “I’m not wearing a mask to school.” Maybe Eli’s right, they are a waste of money.

It’s in my nature, my DNA to obsess over pandemics. I’ve done it time and again, and I now think it’s sort of cute that I thought I was beyond those feelings. I’m still not losing sleep, but I’m having trouble concentrating at work, and that’s not much better.

Only time will tell us if the exponential growth predictions are right. And a small part of me hopes they are, because who doesn’t like a car crash, right? But the bigger part, the sensible, mature part wants this behind us. I want my family and everyone else to be safe. Until then, we should all heed Kasey’s advice:

If you want to kiss my ass, well you better do it fast, ‘cause we’re all gonna die someday.

* While reading about Kasey on Wikipedia, I learned that her song The Captain was used in a pivotal scene on The Sopranos. Apparently, this good fortune garnered her a ton of attention in the United States.

20 thoughts on “Pandemic, again

  1. Re. style: Very well written. Very engaging story. I don’t read much because I can’t, and this was actually… pleasant to read, let alone I was able to.

    Re. content: Sorry about your paranoia. May I have the privilege of calling it that? No one ever said paranoia wasn’t __justified__ in any case. Your calculation does seem more sensible. Might be worth reading up on it? But I keep wondering: Isn’t there an arbitrary mathematical distinction between a logistic function and an exponential function? Who’s to extrapolate, really?

    I like it. I see why your blog is called “The Other Stuff” today. I just get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After I post something on wordpress, I usually sit around bumming out that I don’t get any nice comments. So I really appreciate your comment. I tried to look up the difference between exponential growth and logistic growth, but I couldn’t understand either definition. I’ve tried to look up the proper fatality rate equation and no one does it my way. I’m not giving up though. I tweeted about it yesterday and got 2 retweets. It’s going to become a *thing*. Stay healthy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exponential growth has no bounds; 10x or whatever factor each “round” (on a continuous time scale) without limit (or realistically, until the population is dead (or more realistically, until all but those with point mutations which favor survival are dead)); logistic growth “slows down” to an upper limit, capping out to eventually no growth (and possibility for recovery). Thank you for the health. I like that you mention that, because really, Yes, that’s what this is all about!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The death statistic could also be much lower than they say, because of cases that go unreported because they’re not severe enough to prompt someone to get it checked out. A couple ways to look at it I suppose.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah dang! It crept up on you☹ My older daughter is a nurse and we were talking about this outbreak. I’m thinking, yeah pneumonia would suck, but it’s not Ebola. I haven’t seen any stats about this virus vs any flu or other illnesses. I haven’t looked either.
    I wont be wearing a mask, but I’m not out in public much. My biggest danger is Ben bringing something home from school, like the stomach bug we passed back and forth during the winter of 2018-2019. Now, THAT is something to be afraid of. Especially with only one bathroom in the house😱

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t plan on buying masks but I am worried about the trip my daughter is taking to San Diego next month. Spending time on an airplane with people who have been anywhere in the world and everyone breathing recycled air. To me, that’s a little worrisome.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hear you. We are living in a worrisome time. Pandemics. Hatred. Endless political corruption. I already do yoga once a week, exercise regularly and do what I can to be kind to those around me. It also helps to unplug from time to time. None of us know what tomorrow may bring, but if we lose hope we are really screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think your kids are super smart ;-). I hate this is under your skin now. I worry more about the stuff King Ben’s Grandma mentions above with the stomach flu – ICK. I need to listen to the song of Kasey’s – your reference to her did make me laugh. Let us know how the book is. Hang in there Jeff. From what I understand, they have learned a thing or 2 with the whole SARS experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been thinking of you, Jeff as I watched the numbers keep going up. I do find it concerning they aren’t containing this well and I find myself watching maps to see where cases are at. I’d wear a mask if I knew the virus was nearby, but by the time it is nearby I guess that’s too late. I’m starting to think this comment is helping you, so – I am hopeful the virus stays put and a cure is found.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I feel like things would be much easier if we could just overcome mental hurdles and never, ever have to look at them again. It’s crap that it doesn’t work that way but I suppose there’s a reason for it. Happy for you and your moment of reprieve last week and the fact that you’re willing to share when it all creeps up again.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I read that a mask doesn’t protect the wearer from getting the virus; it prevents the wearer from spreading the virus. It’s a gesture of concern for our fellow humans, rather than ourselves. Either way, it’s a good idea, but it’s gonna have to get a lot worse before I don a mask to go to the gym each morning.


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