No, Coronavirus Has Not Been Found On Mt. Everest Summit

I’ve just read a comment on a Facebook post. It claimed that the coronavirus had been found atop Mt. Everest. It went on to praise Donald Trump (of course) for closing entry to the United States by Chinese Nationals. He saved lines, the commenter claimed.

I almost skipped over it. I mean, how is such a ludicrous claim worth my time?

But people believe this. I know, because it’s been googled. I didn’t need Snopes to know if I was reading horseshit, so here’s the real story. If you don’t want to click on the link, I can shorten it for you: climbing mountains like Everest or other high peaks requires perfect health and strict training. You know how many bodies are still up there, and are never coming down? Accidents happen. Altitude sickness. Sudden storms. Exposure.

Now imagine a COVID-19-infected climber who arrives at base camp with light symptoms. By the time the climber is at the upper base camp, breathing, even on oxygen, will be laborious. Climbers would die.

Coronavirus has not been found on Everest, and nobody aerosolized a biological weapon, so don’t listen to that horseshit. The Mount has been closed to climbing because of the COVID-19 disease. It would simply be too risky. Lots of climbers go up. Not all of them come back down.

Damned right-wing conspiracy theories.

Depression And Anxiety During The COVID-19 Crisis

The updates are there on the news. I don’t see any reason to repeat it. Avoid Fox News; they lie. You need to get away from them and the cult which has risen around Trump.

They’re the spreaders of lies, and among all lies theirs are the most toxic. You won’t trust anyone. You’ll hate good people. You’ll be dark, depressed.

Isn’t the present situation bad enough without listening to a bunch of liars who will only make it worse?

Look. Right now there’s a secondary legitimate medical condition to be considered. That’s mental health. You do not need to have a diagnosed mental illness to be depressed and lose hope, to turn dark. To cut yourself off and suffer from anxiety and loneliness.

But these things can be overcome. They can, I promise you.

You know why I hate twisted news like Fox gives you? Do you want to know why I hate conspiracy theories?

It’s not just that they’re outlandish lies, which they most certainly are. It’s that so many remove human ingenuity and determination from the equation in any subject being discussed. Take the one about Area 51 secretly reverse-engineering alien technology. That’s an insult to human intelligence. The SR-71 Blackbird was in design and engineering well before most people are aware. Yet it was so far advanced that none were ever shot down. SAMs simply couldn’t catch up to them. Now that’s one badass aircraft. It was developed at the famous Lockheed Skunkworks. It would still be flying but satellites rendered it obsolete.

Brilliant people developed that aircraft. Aliens had nothing to do with it, yet the persistence of the conspiracy theory won’t go away. The same is true of the theories behind pyramids, the antikythera mechanism. But this ignores the fact that “out of place” artifacts have always been found. It’s a weird world.

Humans insist on doing loads of stupid things. But they are basically brilliant and gifted with endurance and a strong will. And our COVID-19 pandemic will be defeated. It will.

Don’t underestimate anyone. Especially not yourself. No matter how grim things look, we will endure.

Depression and anxiety are detrimental to your ability to believe anything righteous and positive. You need balance, coping skills. The physical consequences of staying so agitated and worried are also well documented. It can cause heart problems, heart attack, strokes, cardiovascular disease, cardiac disrithymia, intestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, and can even, mentally, induce personality disorders because when sustained, the stress causes you to change your thinking and behavioural patterns. Once ingrained, a personality disorder is difficult to nearly impossible to correct.

Who the hell needs that? I got all the above and am at high risk for worse. My third heart attack was physically the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I was given three shots of morphine in the ambulance. Then the real pain started. That’s when they turned the siren on. You don’t want to be in that place. Not ever.

So as a veteran of all the above, years of talk therapy and pharmaceutical therapy, coping skills both good and bad, allow me to suggest getting away from Facebook posts about the coronavirus. Scroll down, find something cheerful. Engage friends on Facebook chat, Messenger face time or Skype. Talk to neighbors with ten feet to spare. Help others. Doing the smallest of cool things for another makes your mood better and has real health benefits.

Pray or meditate, whichever you prefer. I believe in positive vibes. It’s a real thing and I have seen and felt it work.

Visit a neighbor who can’t go out. Have a chat on the phone where you can see each other. Leave some hot food by their door.

Exercise. Take walks. Keep distance from others because they won’t accord you any such respect.

Go through your music collection. I can’t recommend anything more than classical and jazz and big band. They’re relaxing and uplifting. Easy listening or soft rock is cool, but nothing sad. No country either. This is not the time.

Make lemonade and mix with half iced tea. Paint, draw, bake cookies. Catch a nap. Read that novel you stopped in the middle of. Binge a series, the whole thing.

Movies have to be chosen with care. You don’t want anything that will bring you down.

Comedies, happy endings.

A few suggestions: Goodwill Hunting, The Silver Linings Playbook (my all-time favorite movie), Pretty Woman, The Goonies, Stand By Me, Beauty and the Beast (animation) Cinderella (any version) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Back to the Future (trilogy) The Legend of Tarzan (Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd), My Cousin Vinny, Apollo 13, The ‘Burbs (dark but hilarious), any Star Trek film except for Insurrection and Nemesis, Alladin (animated), Lady and the Tramp (animated) The Boatnicks, (a Disney comedy with Stephanie Powers, Phil Silvers and Don Ameche), The Blues Brothers, Smokey and the Bandit….and more. Hopefully this list jogs your memory or gets you to search out others. Movies are great diversions, and sometimes we need a smile, a laugh, a happy cry at romance, or something that reminds us how strong people can be.

Be careful, stay in when you can, and take care.

It Can Happen To You

I’m still seeing people walking around and not giving others space. I was talking to a neighbor with plenty of space between us when some asshole walked past me, coming from my rear and passing less than a foot to my right. I called him an asshole. He didn’t even look back. I saw people walking and doing the same thing on the street. Howard County currently lists 30 cases confirmed.

That number is going to change. Of course. We’re bordered by two counties with higher numbers, one with a recent death.

I don’t understand why people are taking this so lightly. They act as though they can’t catch COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a less deadly but more easily transmitted relative of SARS. If we were experiencing SARS right now, there would be fewer cases but disproportionate fatalities. Yet this disease is killing with abandon. Reason? It wasn’t publicized early enough, the alarm it should cause is still not there: several state governors aren’t for the masses staying home, and absolutely not in favor of shutting down pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, non-essential services or places of business where the transmission of the coronavirus is facilitated so readily.

Florida, as a prime example, hosted spring-breakers, who came from all over, then after all the personal contact that goes with spring break, went back to their homes or dorms.

Florida has, as everyone knows, a high population of elderly people, and the governor isn’t considering any actions.

Other governors are equally stupid and putting their citizens at great risk. I’m sorry, but that’s bordering on manslaughter. Because their states will see casualties, and the longer they wait, the faster their states will have death counts, never mind confirmed cases.

While Florida and Georgia are likely to be extremely hard hit, Louisiana partied with Mardi Gras and in two weeks they went from zero to over a thousand. Higher rate even than Italy. Mardi Gras is a fucked-up thing in the first place. You can’t fit a sheet of paper between people in the streets. Flashing the crowds traditionally gets bead necklaces thrown at girls. Sharing liquor bottles, body parts fondled, even kissed, and hotel trysts did this. And the rate of infection will not stop just because Mardi Gras is over. Hey. It doesn’t work like that. But people think it does. They’ve been irresponsible at a time when all sports have cancelled everything from March Madness and Baseball season to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Donald Trump has a cult following. They’re overjoyed that he’s calling for churches to be packed by Easter. He claims that everyone will commit suicide if there’s a depression.

No, they won’t. We don’t all equate quality of life with money. People are actually getting to know their children. Their spouses. I believe more marriages will come through this stronger, than those that will fail.

We’re creatures of creative improvisation and adaptation. We’re worried. Anxious. But we can do this. Play games, binge movies, exercise, whatever you want. No kids over to play with your kids. No touching your eyes or nose and mouth unless you wash hands. Social distancing!

But I can’t stress this enough: any churches not already closed, and any churches open on Easter, are run by pastors who are not true Christians. Those are fakes who do not value your life. Just what you’re going to put in the offering plate.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said “We are your future”, meaning yes, it can happen to you, your state, city, county, your family. And that’s the truth. It will not suddenly stop in California. Or at the borders of New York. It’s going to color the whole map red. There’s a way to lessen it, but everywhere I look, people are ignoring even the basic social distancing of three feet. I go for six to ten. And they can’t even manage three. The recipe for mass death is not just here; it’s cooking. That’s even considering that only a small percentage of those with COVID-19 will die.

This entire country is at the beginning of a major health disaster that has and will continue to alter world history, world trade, governments, countries. The scope will, in the end, make us all look back and go into shock.

As far as Trump goes, consider his actions so far. He’s never been concerned about anyone but himself. Ask any question, the answer is always about him or an attack on him. He could change the game by putting the full power of the federal government into action, but he hasn’t. Now he wants everything back to normal by April 19.

Speaking of game changers, it’s possible that even the NFL season will be delayed or not played at all. We still have so much to learn, and we’re not sure how long this can go on. So stay home. You want back what you miss?

Stay home.

A Trip To The Store: Surreal In The Extreme

I walked to the Harris Teeter. There were papers on the door. One declared a limit of two packs of toilet paper. One said something about a limit on canned meat.

I walked in and donned my gloves, properly, as I was trained to do at Fort Sam Houston. I got a cart and walked in. An employee sprayed the cart’s handle with disinfectant.

I prepared for the worst. I had little money, but I knew what I needed. I found bread. I looked for Peanut butter and jelly. None. Nothing. Small peach preserves, a few crunchy peanut butter. I can’t stand either one. I looked for lunch meat. A lone cotto salami. A few Hillshire Farms tubs but who can get past that decomp-and-guano smell?

A few brands of hot dogs. Can’t eat them. I found bacon. Bacon sandwiches? Okay. Half-and-half for coffee. Splenda, but store brand, which is bucks cheaper. I needed laundry detergent. Found store brand free and clear. Cool. Two frozen dinners. Dead broke until next month.

While aisles were empty of all paper products and most cereals, pasta and sauce, except for a little bit, and more, the thing I found most distressing, the thing that pissed me off beyond my ability to express, was how fucking rude and stupid other shoppers were.

Social distancing is hard enough in the narrow aisles of a grocery store. But when people won’t even let you by, or purposely squeeze right past you, or stand forever touching everything in the dairy case because they can’t make their mind up, I see that social distancing isn’t working.

People refuse to do it. They wear gloves or masks. Or more often nothing. Well, they wear clothes, of course. I didn’t mean to mislead you.

Trump had Dr. Fauci stay out of tonight’s press conference, which was snubbed by most network and cable outlets because they’re bullshit. Over the weekend, Fauci gave statements to the media that Trump likely hated. Tonight’s press conference was bizarre. He claims that in two weeks social distancing will be unnecessary.

That would kill a lot of people. It would spread the coronavirus everywhere and the death rate would be like Trump turning into a modern mass murderer like Heinrich Himmler. But Trump has no patience for facts, for reality. He may be incapable of perceiving reality; that certainly has been his pattern of speech and behaviour.

If what is already being done isn’t working, is in fact being ignored, then telling people next Monday to go back to business as usual would be a disgrace and a disaster. Forget ICU beds. Order a shitload of body bags.

I’m waiting to see how many cases go up in my county. Because folks, we’re still at the beginning of the pandemic. We’re closer to the beginning than the end. I’m sorry. That’s the truth. Be responsible. Give people space. If you’re a carrier and don’t know it, you could actually kill someone with your carelessness and selfishness. On the other hand you could be the one who dies. Stop being morons.

The Land of Confusion

Let’s say that we’re both, you and I, staying home, washing hands, all the things they tell us, and you ask me, “Do you understand any of this, Mike?”

I’m gonna just shake my head. Because I don’t, but the worst part is, I don’t think anyone really does. Or can.

“Shelter in place”, they say. Then they change that because the expression is used for mass-shooting situations when movement is dangerous. So they tell us “social distancing” is the key. “Stay at home” they say is better for the situation.

Trump never called the virus itself a hoax, but the confusion over his exact words still exists. He alluded to the “total vindication” he had received after months of calling investigations into his campaign and his phone conversations with the Ukrainian president. “a witch hunt”. At least once a day. Of course, like me, that shit made your eyes roll and your stomach knot.

It was never a witch hunt. And the things he and his campaign staff and attorneys did were all real. One thing that made us boil with anger was that it seemed as if none of that mattered to Republicans on the Hill. No, they weren’t going to convict him after his impeachment, and Mitch McConnell warned us in advance that they wouldn’t. Then, the coronavirus showed up. Trump said it was no worse than the flu, but never said it wasn’t real. He did completely downplay it as being used as alarmist propaganda by democrats, referring to it as “their new hoax”, another attempt to unseat him. Essentially, it had the effect of conveying the idea that all of it was a hoax. Including the virus. It’s not my fault that articles and op-ed pieces failed to make the distinction; it’s my fault for not fact-checking what I had little reason to question. Confusion.

WHEN DID IT START?

It is entirely possible that the COVID-19 virus was infecting people as early as November, and I believe this to be so. But it doesn’t matter; the Chinese government was pretty quiet, and with a communist dictatorship in place, you and I can hardly be blanched by that kind of thing; it’s their way. Reports of the virus were squelched by the government, which allegedly silenced doctors by imprisonment or the threat of it. What’s confusing is the timeline between that and the the warning that an unknown virus believed to be novel (a word which indicates it originated in animals and was not seen before in humans but had made that transition, as had the SARS and MERS viruses) was now on the loose and highly infectious. The WHO apparently made this known to someone and allegedly the Trump administration also squelched it way before Trump called it a hoax. It could have taken two months before the news really got out and the claims of a hoax came out. In either case, both governments are suspected of a cover-up.

Adding more confusion is the Republicans’ evasion of questions early in March by saying “we can’t look back, only forward” which is a verbal smoking gun. They just don’t want anyone to know.

Lives have been lost because this virus spreads so easily through droplets which can remain suspended in the air, invisible and undetectable for long periods. It can survive on plastic and steel in most weather for long periods of time as well. And it’s already mutated. That’s everything you need for a worst-case scenario.

During any remaining conversation you and I have, we will both be confused by how fast it jumped countries and the reaction each country had or lacked, how it overwhelmed so many health systems so rapidly, and just how ill-prepared we were and why. Healthcare for emergencies is supposed to be cutting edge in America. We found out it isn’t. While we could handle casualties in some natural disasters, and I say that harshly because after 9-11-01 and its aftermath and the H1N1 virus of 2009, and our miserable reactions to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, Sandy and every one that followed, we shouldn’t have been unprepared. No fucking way. And we had a pandemic response plan after 2009 because the Obama administration did learn a scary lesson, but guess what? Trump decided we needed the money the response program had for something else. Like a beautiful, big wall no one could ever climb, and that Mexico was going to pay for, except they stressed even during Trump’s campaign that they weren’t going to pay for “that fucking wall”; in fact, Mexico knew, as you see in this video, more about Donald Trump than average Americans did during the primaries. It turned out that Vicente Fox was exactly right.

Let’s throw some more confusion into the mix. Because Trump has never stopped running his mouth about The Wall. And even when congress made a budget allowance for wall repair and some new sections, he drew money from other sources. Oh, nothing critical. Military, for example. He had that bloated anyway. Because we’ve been fighting terrorists, while at home aging defense systems get jack, and Trump wants a “Space Force”.

The stupid, puffed-up bastard thinks he knows it all. So full of himself he can’t see past his own shadow, he knows nothing about our orbital capacity or what’s even up there. He is notorious for not knowing the simplest workings of our government and for rejecting facts and asking for “pictures and maps” instead of written material in briefings. He’s fired everyone who had a brain in favor of idiots willing to do all kinds of stupidity on his orders. Remember Rex Tillerson? He was Trump’s Secretary of State for a while. And say what you want, but the man had international standing, was smart, and he was articulate. He actually did his best to smooth things out when Trump’s hateful tweets stirred up ire. At one point, so frustrated was he that he called Trump a “fucking moron”, which was bad for his brief political career but actually quite accurate and one big “Yes!” moment for me.

So we’re dealing with a man who’s business experience is literally robbing Peter to Pay Paul, but in this case, he just took funds from government agencies and programs to do anything he wanted to, including building The Wall, which has become a world-wide subject of great derision.

One lone section, claimed by Trump to be “hot” and even electrified or radioactive, no one knows which, was scaled so many times freehand that the climbers actually competed for the fastest time. And a military officer on site responded dubiously to Trump’s claim that it was either electric or radioactive by saying, “Perhaps it’s best not to say, Mr. President.”

And one panel of the wall fell down. The wind blew it over.

Where’s the money coming from? Partly the budget. Then there’s diverted funds. That pandemic response program Obama gave us? Gutted and shut down early in Trump’s term. And we’re paying for it with lost jobs, drastic changes in our lives, and with burying dead people. Ultimately, that’s at least partially on Trump. A man who has at least three times denied responsibility. He also wasted precious time, condemning people who were most at risk of having complications to die.

The confusion continues. While I spent most of this year sick with what I took to be the flu, knowing as I did that this season was an especially virulent one with not one, but several strains, I had every symptom of coronavirus including a protracted dry cough. I believe I did have viral pneumonia, but it resolved on its own. When lying on my back I could barely breathe. Between January first and March first, I took a bottle of Benadryl caplets and started on a smaller blister pack. I probably fried my liver with Tylenol, I took enough aspirin with it that, being on blood thinners, I spent an hour in the bathroom trying to stop hemorrhoids from bleeding. Twice I got up too quick, even though I used wipes and checked them for blood after applying pressure, and bled through my underwear and jeans and didn’t know it.

I’m still coughing up sputum, which I take to mean the congestion was significant and my body is still trying to get rid of it. It’s even possible I had it twice, staying in and being ignorant of what was probably already going on all over the place. In the early part of the year, I recall physical contact with someone from California.

Who knows? It’s true that most people can get the coronavirus and not know. Even high-risk people like me can have bad symptoms and not bother to see a doctor. I was advised by a nurse to go straight to the hospital. I was close to it twice. Then, I began to feel a little bit better. The flu is a real motherfucker. It is. But what if I had it first, leaving me wide open to COVID-19? What if it was the coronavirus all along, and it was so protracted because I’m a three-time heart attack and a triple bypass survivor, a diabetic? Who can say? I would need a chest series to see if there’s any damage. Still have times of short breath, but coughing up material tells me I’m still recovering so there may be nothing to worry about.

What I’m trying to say is that nobody was testing back in January, and cases spread without detection, which is how we got to this point. It was the deaths and the critical cases that caused the testing, and that’s recent. I submit that the coronavirus was here at least a full month before anyone is saying. Look at the blooms on the map. That’s confusing and misleading because it show exactly what you’d expect from the beginning of an epidemic. But hotspots clean across the country that only show up because of positive tests tells us that the virus was being transmitted undetected well before mid-February.

We’ve got something no one has anything absolute as far as the facts. We think it’s a bat virus that made the mutation enabling it to use humans as hosts. We’re one month to two years from a vaccine, depending on where you read or watch. Most people who die are over 60 and have underlying conditions. But young people die as well. Confused? Yes, I am.

Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings will go down in history as the most sobering and concise sources of good data we got from the beginning. The man’s the rare person perfect for the times in history when they were the one for the crisis at hand. Also, other governors like Maryland’s Hogan have made me proud. Men and women doing extraordinary jobs in desperate situations.

But they’re a stark contrast to the mess and chaos of Trump’s daily briefings, so full of misinformation and personal attacks against China and the press and certain governors that Rachel Maddow lamented that the briefings were being covered by the media at all. And frankly, I’m with her. You talk about confusion, those press conferences are the embodiment of it. Trump lies and wants his “team” to back him up, and they contradict him, so he brought in Pompeo, for some reason, I’m not clear on the reasoning or mechanic involved but probably just to say some Trumpian bullshit. I honestly can’t remember anything he said and I’m not going to watch it again to find out. During the Friday conference when Peter Alexander was savagely and ridiculously attacked by Trump, VP Pence later answered the question Trump dodged. Asked what message he had for Americans who are scared, Pence said, “Don’t be afraid, be vigilant.”

I’m sorry. This is confusing coming from a Trump bootlicker. Pence looked more like a leader than Trump did by simply answering an easy question. When Mike Pence makes you look bad, you done fucked up, bud.

This is a bad time. A chaotic, scary time. China may be on the brink of containment, reporting no new cases. Italy is a fucking disaster. Lombardy is especially hard hit and the social makeup and cultural practices as well as architecture all combine to form a perfect storm. Cases are reported on every continent except Antarctica. The densely packed poor sections in Europe, South America, Asia and North America will continue to be hit hardest. Air travel has been responsible for transmission since December or earlier; there’s no way to tell and reports of a “patient zero” in China have to be taken with a bit of salt.

And Trump doesn’t help that point of view. His constantly calling COVID-19 the Chinavirus is egregious, it’s inflammatory, prejudiced and evil. It helps nothing except to stop morons from blaming him for the deaths of Americans because of his delay and insistence that it was a Democratic hoax.

He’s put off testing supplies, ventilators, the National Guard, as if he honestly wants people to die. A more stupid bastard never took the oath of office.

His propaganda replaced truth. His policies are destroying this country. I’m confused as to why people are allowing it. Why are people so fucking cowardly and irresponsible that they can’t just tell Trump “No”?

The coronavirus will be with us well into the summer. Easing restrictions on gatherings and businesses will cause a rapid secondary spread. It will be back in the Fall. From now on, it will be part of every flu season. And I’m still shaking my head. Masks, gowns, goggles and gloves. We don’t have them. If you want to keep comparing it to the Spanish flu, which is wrong, there’s one way you can make it almost as bad.

You can vote for Donald Trump.

You know what really happened in the Spanish flu pandemic that went on for two years?

People got fucking buried. Lots of them. More than you can picture. It was a different flu; you woke up fine and you were dead by sunset. This virus ain’t that powerful. I see no reason for the botched handling and lies that have cost too many lives.

The Land of Confusion. That’s us. Our United States. We were better than this once. I see people offering to help neighbors. Genuinely interested in how they’re doing and whether they need anything. I’ve had four neighbors offer to help me with anything I need. And I of course said it works both ways. People are being friendly, out walking the dog, saying hello, but keeping distance. They’re cheerful when someone speaks to them. It’s important. I’ve had safe distance conversations, and they’re worth more than gold ingots. What a good bunch of people we’re blessed to be around. But I don’t know how long they can take the fear and isolation. I worry about them. About you.

Trump’s Meltdown For Friday, March 20 In One Word: Bizarre

Say what you want, believe what you want to believe. Some indications show a possibility of people so desperately looking for leadership that even Democrats are praising the president’s performance.

These are people who miss the idiocy of his words just because they listen to his tone. Today, Friday, 20 March, during his press conference, he had among his “team” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The entire thing was surreal from beginning to end, but this exchange between Peter Alexander, reporter for NBC, who asked what Trump’s message to scared Americans would be, and Trump, who had at that moment a prime opportunity to act like a leader, angrily lashed out with comments that made no sense. He included Comcast, parent company to NBC, calling it “Concast”, and accused Mr. Alexander of spreading fear, engaging in sensationalism, and of being a terrible journalist.

This is more of the same: Trump attacking the media as fake news because he wants his propaganda to go to unquestioned. Propaganda is power, it is control. Even his sudden, compulsive lies have failed to destroy him.

But then we have a peek here at a man desperately trying to control a situation he has lost control of forever. He had to stop the hoax claim first, then he had to stop saying that coronavirus was just going to disappear. Now, governors of New York, California and Illinois have issued stay at home policies which will be enforced by police.

More will follow, because that’s how it has to be. Let me stress that COVID-19 is an extremely aggressive disease, easy to contract, deadly to more than seasonal flu casualties (because of the lag in testing, the lack of medical equipment and protective gear and medical facilities) and the death toll will not stop anytime soon. Trump doesn’t want people to concentrate on that; he wants to appear in control.

He lost it. His shitty answer actually seems to have caused the stock market to fall faster, as it had been doing since his conference began.

Trump’s no leader. He’s a liar and a genuine disaster in the midst of disaster. He has failed us and he cannot change it.