Weathering the Cytokine Storm (SARS-CoV-2)


March 26th, 2020
The spread of COVID-19
The New York Times
The map above was taken March 26, 2020. You can download the updated county-level data for coronavirus cases in the United States from The New York Times on GitHub. They made the data open source and all the current coverage is free to the public.

What a year this month has been. Today is my birthday and is the first day of the ‘stay-at-home’ order for Michigan due to COVID-19. I took a screen shot of the New York Times from my iPhone 5 last night before continuing to read my current book, The Parable of Talents by Octavia E. Butler.

New York Times Screen Shot

March 24th, 2020
Screen shot of my iPhone 5
The New York Times

For this issue I tend to reference information sources such as the CDC or WHO, with some supplemental from Science Magazine and Scientific American. The news is getting to be a little too much for me, so I am reading a novel instead to take my mind off of the virus. I got it from the Peter White Public Library, my home library, before it, too, closed due to the pandemic. I started the book a few weeks back and am making my way through. I typically don’t enjoy fiction but, I am very much enjoying this one. I wanted to start with the first book, The Parable of Sorrows, but it was checked out so I’m going backwards.

Through these past couple of weeks, most people in our neighborhood have been staying indoors, apart from afternoon walks just before, or after, dinner time. Since schools are closed, children spend their mornings reading and doing schoolwork at home with Kahn Academy (typically) or ABCMouse, eat lunch and head outdoors to play. Hockey, riding bikes and sledding tend to be the activity of choice as of late. The sledding has been particularly exciting and satisfying on the awesome luges we have off the Marquette South Trails system in our back yards. The parents have gotten together in small groups to have campfires and cookouts to release a little cabin fever. Bald Eagles, Pileated Woodpeckers, American Robins and the occasional Northern Cardinal have been making appearances. Most communication among parents have been via texts and emails at his point. Because starting today, all the neighborhood has agreed to no children/adults playing together.

Extended Social Distancing

I have been keeping in touch with all my close friends ranging from Boston, to Denver, to France to the UK via email, text or snail mail (I tend to not use social media — not impressed.). Since Jen and I worked in the land of academic research, our friend lists have grown extensively, and we have found it difficult to keep in-touch with everyone. The silver lining to these times is that we get the time to talk to the ones we love, even more.

Work Life

Jen and I are still working. Jen is at the hospital and I am at the pharmacy. Luckily both of which are positions in total need. But it comes at more of a risk to Jen than me. I’m a chemist and Jen an ICU nurse. I already wear extensive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE: N95, chemical gowns or lab coat, gloves) and don’t necessarily work in personal contact with patients. Jen, however, does. This makes me nervous given that my mom, 68, watches our daughter a couple days a week. Kids, as we know, make a spectacular vector for COVID-19 with the potential for asymptomatic transmittance to older folk. Not to mention that COVID-19 seems to favor inflammatory pathways, which my mom has mild asthma. So, we have taken to caring full time with kids to keep grandma at home.

The Silver Lining

Some may disagree but I tend to try and find the upside to things. Pandemic aside, I must proclaim that I have been very much enjoying the lockdown. It has, in turn, promoted a slower and more focused style of life. More family gathering. More reading. More games. More neighborhood utilization. More exercise. And we have been living in this neighborhood for three years now and I have met more people in these three weeks than the past handful of years… and our neighborhood is already well connected with one another. But there are more people walking the neighborhood and hitting the bike trails. More talk (greater than six feet, of course). More home. I love it. More bird watching, which my family loves to do. People aren’t spending money and opting to staying home for meals. But we rarely go out as it is — we have always made eating at the table as a family a priority at home.

Seven Principles to remember

There are seven principles that we go by from the day-to-day life. We have adopted them through the Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles. We keep them in our family, especially during times such as this.

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
  6. The goal of a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

They help us remember to be kind to each other and love.

The arts

It is through such a time as this that art saves. Through the most devastating occurrences in humanity art has always been the anecdote to recovery. I am a musician myself and I have tended a family to be very much the same. We have always made music a part of our everyday lives. During this pandemic it has only intensified our love for art. Not just music but paint, pencil, pen, wood, clay, play-doe… no matter the medium music is very much a part of it. But out of the thousands of songs we have listened to, especially these past few weeks, nothing has been more of a joy for me than Bon Iver’s cache of brilliance. I could talk about music for far too long but, at this point, Jazz, Nature sounds, and Bon Iver have been my go-to for building/preserving mental immunity.

A Think to Remember

“Remember that most of us, and most of our loved ones, are going to be fine. But the Russian roulette aspect of this, the randomness of this, is very real. So, let’s look it in the eye, and move on together.” — Brian Lehrer, Radio WNYC