A new reality or virus rant? A snapshot, 29 March 2020
Everyone and their dog are writing #coronavirus diaries now. Heck, I want one too. I’d rather call it a virus rant. And I will not write something every day. Reasons are below. I cannot think about writing or posting any meaningful or useful travel posts right now, and anything that’s in the works, travel-related has been rescheduled for much, much later.
The numbers today
Location: Home, North of Berlin
COVID-19 cases worldwide: 692894
in Germany: 63929 (16.6% Recovered and 0.8% Dead)
Confirmed new cases per day: 3270, better than Saturdays 6824 and yesterdays 4400 – will things really improve a little?
Was I really bothered about travelling just two weeks ago? My, how times have changed.
If you want to read a small amount of useful information instead of a virus rant
I’ve given up keeping track with the latest papers that are flying out onto the good old internet. It’s hard to keep track these days, even with a professional interest.
Here is one that’s been widely cited. It comes from the Imperial College Group of Professor Ferguson and showsintervention-based modelling of COVID-19 caseload.
Or you can read an easy synopsis here in the Independent.
From one front line to another one but with protection
When I get up, I take the first statistics with my coffee. I try to avoid mindlessly surfing while eating my breakfast, because now, I deal with SARS-CoV-2 all day. My nice job has become a nail-biting marathon, as our professional group is one that got the most infections according to data from China. It’s a bit scary.
My job has changed a bit
What do I do now? Well, the most logical consequence was don the gown and mask myself and run a clinic for suspected COVID-19, which is what I have been doing for the past week and a half. Did I know much about the disease? No. Did I feel comfortable recognising and treating symptoms of the illness? No. A frantic study of the latest papers later, some hasty organisation of how we’re going to run thing,s a small supply of protective equipment, and I find myself in a small secluded building with a great team of nurses, and we test, Test, test test. I have been a supporter of testing to maximum capacity, so I ought to stick to my word, right?
The first few days were hard.
What I’m up to now
After a quick meeting, we take a coffee form a capsule machine that we’ve somehow spirited into the building, too. Not too much because it will be hard to just leave to pee over the next few hours. Then it’s time to check what new guidance the Robert-Koch-Institute has brought out regarding risk areas, guidance on healthcare worker and risk categories. Yes, they still publish risk areas although I can safely say we’re pretty mucha risk area ourselves these days. At least they had the decency to take Hubei Province out a few days ago.
I put on the latest style, hair cover, water-resistant gown, a snug-fitting FFP3 Mask, goggles and glove, and clumsily type in patients histories and symptoms, examine carefully then take swabs. And again. And again. I do a round around the building, all gear off, because I don’t dare to walk into the cafeteria with my mask marks.
Come afternoon, same again. We’re a good team, and I feel we are actually making a difference. Then, I check for results from the previous day and make phone calls. Except Friday. I went to a briefing about my hospitals emergency plans and a crash course in operating a ventilator. And a meeting because we are short of equipment so the person in the mask has to run all tests that are run on an outpatient basis now. And since it’s Friday, this is followed by the highlight of the week, the weekly supermarket shop, after I carefully decontaminated myself.
None of us met before but we form a good team, despite all the uncertainty and every one has a great “yes I know it’s serious- Lets tackle it” attitude. After ten hours or so, I drive home, dump all my commuting clothes in a little ” zone” I made in the basement, shower, cook a bit, then fall into bed. Sleep. Really. Tax, admin, laundry, house work – I do it on the weekend. Weeds in the garden? The weather’s gonna be nice on the weekend, let them be for a bit.
Staying at home is nice
If you’re like me, you may appreciate coming to a home with electricity, internet, and general abundance of foods. I miss going out, especially restaurants, just strolling round Berlin, short trips. But it’s not the end of the world, because there are two of us, not to forget the cats. We are homebodies who go out occasionally and we’ve all adjusted to the fact that all shops (except food) and restaurants are shut and that your cultural programme is books and the internet.
In fact, I am surprised that I’m rather calm. The first week or so, I oscillated between being phenomenally tired and frantically reading news and scientific papers, now I’m rather calm – without any “ommmm”. Despite being a medic, I have no more an idea how and when all this will end. I have no idea whether I get infected and what is going to happen if I do. I take all recommended precautions and that is all I can do for now.
We have a low death rate but at what price?
So, we’re ticking along here nicely, chief. For now. Of course we are nowhere near the turning point. Our hospitals and especially intensive care units may become overwhelmed with seriously ill people, as has already happened in New York City, Lombardy and Alsace. Of all country with 5000+ cases, we currently have the lowest death rate at 0.8% despite nearly 15% having had the illness and recovered.
This is something to be proud of – despite a largely privatised health care system where the majority of hospitals belongs to medical corporations, where medical staff has been squeezed with long hours, little public appreciation and salaries that have stagnated for years.
But our Health secretary want to take a step further, for the greater good of us all – he is planning to tighten up our infection protection legislation (Infektionsschutzgesetz). This means if this is passed in parliament he will be given extensive powers, which may include forcefully drafting medical staff, tracking people using mobile phones and . Problem is, this means some elementary principles of our constitution are undermined. The last time this happened was in 1933. Say no more
This comes from a man who didn’t appear terribly bothered at the end of January and recommended to “be calm and watch”. I get so upset and angry just thinking about it. Those who work hard do so because they see what they do as a vocation not because some politico bank clerk is forcing them to. I honestly don’t know what to do if this happens. But I can tell you, my motivation and dedication will take a nose dive.
And in all this doom and gloom, my sewing machine broke
Yes yes yes, pri-vi-lege. Indeed. Do I have nothing else to worry about? Of course. I was still annoyed. After I brought home my used face masks and laundered them I found they did not hold up so well to ironing. Also, I kinda wish to avoid evil side eye and people telling me I am “taking stuff away from hospital”. Well, I am, after it’s been used to its full hospital health ‘n safety capacity. I’m effectively recycling. So I cut some nice cheerfully coloured cotton into 9inch squares, dug up some elastic and set up my trusty 1960’s sewing machine.
Sewing my wedding dress in a hurry last year must have stressed it, because after I set it up and operated the pedal, nothing happened. I checked the power outlet. Fine. I replaced ye Olde English fused plug with a nice German plug. Nothing. I surfed the internet for an hour where many videos told me how to take a similar model apart. I found a few repair places and will call a couple tomorrow to see if it can be saved. An hour later I was the internet and bid for an entry-level dead stock Bernina machine. For less than 75Euro, it’s going to be here soon!
I just got to hold my breath and use my laundered masks until I can make myself and my husband his n’ hers cloth masks. I guess I am not holding out for the Chanel face mask.
And now, let’s go back to the kitchen where, like many people right now, I can worry about crisping my potatoes properly.
I’ll write about the minuscule good things that keep happening and some hare-brained travel ideas for when “this is over” later. Bear with me.
Please stay safe, and stay well.