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This is a time for heroes, a time for us all to be heroes. And we can be. We can be heroes.

How?

Work from home (if you can).
Postpone gatherings.
Keep social distance.
Don’t travel.
Wash your hands.

For some, these recommendations seem ineffective, and government actions like closing borders, shutting schools, and banning events seem like panic or media hype or massive overreaction. Others complain that these restrictions are completely impotent in the face of COVID-19’s spread, and if they’re not going to stop it, why bother?

No one says that these recommendations will stop the spread of COVID-19, and we’re well past the point where containment strategies are effective. What these guidelines are trying to do, though, is mitigate the spread, slow it down, and give us time to prepare.

COVID-19 is spreading, and it’s doing so exponentially. Millions of Americans will get this virus, possibly over 100 million. Of those millions, while most cases will be mild, about 15–20% will require care, and if all of those come in a clump, they will exceed our capacity to assist them.

Check out the graph above or the article from which it was taken. The tall red blob and the flatter blue blob represent the same number of cases, but over different timespans. The red blob caseload rises fast and quickly overwhelms the capacity of our healthcare system. The blue blob is what the same number of cases looks like if we all work together and adopt these mitigation strategies: we slow the advance and keep the caseload to a level that we can handle, which means fewer people die.

And that’s the bottom line: when the disease caseload overtops our capacity to care for the sick, people die who don’t have to.

By adopting these mitigation strategies, we save lives. It could be a friend or a co-worker, the elderly neighbor, your nana, your spouse, or you.

We need time, time to make masks, find supportive strategies, understand the virus better, and develop a vaccine, but most of all, we need time so the tsunami that’s heading towards us can flatten out and not inundate us all.

So put on your cape.

It’s time to be a hero.

k

 

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When learning that some Seattle schools have closed down in response to COVID-19, and some companies (like mine) have asked that all employees who can work from home do so, an online contact wondered if this was overreaction caused by “blind panic.”

It isn’t.

Seattle is in the crosshairs. (more…)

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Winter.

A lot of complaining gets done in winter.

lot of complaining.

People around here are summer junkies. They spend months of the year pining for the sunlight, the warmth, the outdoors-y camaraderie of our twelve weeks of summer. They look back on July and August with a nostalgia bordering on delusion, as if it was a different era, a time out of legend when life was simpler and everyone smiled. Lost from their memory are the sleepless nights spent buffeted by the manufactured wind of oscillating fans, and of dodging from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices in order to avoid the “unbearable” temperatures of 90+ degrees. They remember only the hikes, the cookouts, and those pleasant short-sleeved days when birds sang the sun from its bed, when the breeze brought a hint of salt from the Sound, and when wine-infused evenings lasted until tomorrow. (more…)

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and, once again, I am in San Francisco. I did not plan this visit to coincide with the anniversary of that event—a shallow 6.9 temblor that brought down bridges and freeways, tumbled hundreds of homes, and turned large sections of expensive land into quivering jelly—but here I am. With the anniversary top-of-mind here, it hasn’t helped that, since my arrival on Sunday, we’ve had two minor quakes (registering 4.5 and 4.7). Put together, it’s made the locals a bit . . . jumpy. (more…)

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My cathedral is made of trees, but it has seen the downslope of my attention. Its pillars are still sound, standing strong through storm and summer heat, but the branches and leaves of its soaring roof have become crowded, ragged, thick with deadwood and duff.

Its nave and transept, too, once clear and open, are now overgrown as the plantings set down in years past have grown relentlessly upward, reaching out, filling the vaulted space.

The reason for this deterioration has been my inexhaustible neglect, piled year upon year, as life and events sapped me of my faith, my devotion, my love for this quiet place. Leaving nature to do as nature does has only compounded the situation, as self-sown volunteers sprang up in open spaces, and Seattle’s often rough sea-borne winds snapped off limbs twice as long as I stand tall, dropping their five-stone weights from the canopy down onto the hapless undergrowth below. (more…)

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Across the Sound there is a place where, when the day is young, I can walk the forest trail and emerge, my shins wet from wading through ferns heavy with dew, and climb the concrete steps to ramparts set high atop a bluff overlooking the steel-grey waters of the Salish Sea. (more…)

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Winter storms Maya and Nadia came and went, leaving Seattle bound in white.

They came in right on schedule, dumping nearly a foot of snow in the downtown area, and up to two feet of it out in the ‘burbs.

Here on my cul-de-sac, we had a foot of snow on the street, helpfully deposited in three episodes, so we could all add multiple snow-shoveling sessions to our weekend workouts. Kids sledded, snowfolk were built, and internecine battles raged from yard to yard, filling the air with squeals of carnage before parents called the belligerents in to dinner. On Saturday, we had an overnight low of 9°F (-13°C), but then the temps staged a return to something more reasonable. In my back garden, the spruce lost two more twenty-foot-long branches and dozens of little ones, and the cypress boughs were hanging so low I thought we’d lose several there, too, but they bounced back once the snow slipped off.

On Monday, the city came through with plows to clear the arterials, which is great, if you live on an arterial, but most of us don’t. One plow actually came up our cul-de-sac and our hearts soared, but it just turned around and left without making a damned bit of difference. So no plow. No sand trucks. No salt. Just a hey-how-ya-doin’ wave from the plow-driver as she abandoned us side-street residents to look after our own.

Today (Wednesday), I had to go into the office, so I bundled up and walked to the bus stop. The street was a combination of corn-snow, slush, and ice, and it was a real dilemma, deciding whether to trudge through the unsullied drifts like a Neanderthal, or do the crisscross pony-walk like a runway model down the ruts left by the tires of the few cars who’d braved our block. Going up the hills was relatively easy, jamming my toes into the snow to make steps as I walked the steep incline, but downhills were dodgy, and I learned that while walking like a penguin (keeping your center of gravity over your front foot) is a good way to avoid slipping, it’s tiring. I wouldn’t make a very good penguin.

But I made it to the bus stop with only a small bit of slippage and hand waving. The bus arrived, chains clacking against its wheel wells, and we rumbled on down the plowed arterial. On the way, every side street was either a slushy, rutted mess, or just plain snowbound. The college down the road brought out a backhoe to scrape the parking lot clear as best it could. On the main roads, all the cocky I-know-what-I’m-doing idiots had been weeded out (or quickly educated) and remaining drivers were being fairly responsible. For pedestrians, though, it is still an obstacle course, and will remain so for at least another couple of days.

The worst is past, though.

Onward.

k

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