As a broken America shuts down, are you thinking about each other and yearning for the way things used to be?
You should be.
Fellow virus fighters, this is the ultimate in the DIY health world.
When health insurance isn’t a right for all, and when it’s up to you whether you’re sick or well, then all we have left is our own good sense.
It’s called public health.
It’s what they used to call good hygiene. Clean up. Smell nice. Don’t be germy, Jeremy. Be decent in public.
In other words, don’t pick your nose. Don’t touch your face. Don’t make anyone else sick.
I know it’s hard in our selfish America, but try thinking of others—for a change.
So now we wash our hands aggressively with soap and water to the tune of “Happy Birthday” twice. Make sure it’s at least 20 seconds. And on the lyric, “Happy Birthday, dear so-and-so…” use a full name. First names are too short. Bong-Bong Marcos Jr. gets you six syllables. A good Thai name like King Maha Vajiralongkorn gets you eight syllables. Add the honorific “his excellency” and you’ve got 13 syllables.
Better yet, sing out the phrase “Novel Coronavirus, a/k/a COVID-19” for 14 syllables! You will be reminded why you’re washing your hands like a fiend.
And then there’s the personal urban equivalent of what architects call “open space.”
In the virus era, it’s public spacing. Social distancing.
To help me, I have a retracting monopod, essentially a one-legged tripod I use for my camera. The stick goes out six feet. Or about the length of the late pop icon Prince in heels.
From where I stand, I hold it out toward me like a fishing pole, and do a 360—an Emil 360.
It spins out my safe radius in America. It’s a lot wider than you think.
Forget about glass ceilings. Or a border wall. These are our new invisible barriers in America.
From “Don’t tread on me,” we’ve arrived at #Don’tTouchDon’tBreatheOnMe. #KeepYourDroplets2Yourself
(And now that I’ve invoked the name of Prince, I confess to changing my hand washing song to the refrain from Prince’s “The Pope”: “You can be the president, I’d rather be the pope. You can be the side effect, I’d rather be the dope.” Sing it karaoke-style. Twice. You’ll be cleansed.)
BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS
Of course, I blame the virus.
Trump enabled it all by doing nothing fast. When he should have taken decisive action, he thought only of himself, seeing the case numbers like ratings. Just keep those case numbers down. Tell everyone things are fine. Go to work. “It will pass,” he was saying even late last week.
The president is proving that he’s not just above the law; he’s also above science and truth. And possibly even more deadly than the virus itself.
As I write, 50 people have died in the U.S. If it acts like other viruses, it could double shortly.
By not acting to test the public quickly, our government doesn’t know what it’s fighting. By the time the virus appears, it’s too late.
When truth and transparency is in order, Trump can’t help but lie. His Friday news conference was just as filled with untruths as his sniffly ten minute TV address.
On Friday, he said Google engineers were working quickly on a testing plan for the country.
Not exactly. It’s only a pilot program to start a website to aid testing in the San Francisco Bay Area only. Nationwide soon? Don’t get your hopes up.
The slowness of real mass testing means people have been allowed to carry and unknowingly spread the virus.
The ignorance of our president has permitted the virus to grow to the point where it’s now mandatory DIY.
Unless you want “Coronavirus for All,” state and local officials in some areas are banning public gatherings of more than 250.
The new cliché is to have “an overabundance of caution.”
Public places, theaters, and churches are cancelling events until further notice.
Even the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland is closing.
And because of all that, the stock market—the biggest ratings generator the president cares about—has yo-yoed for the last few weeks, crashing to depths not seen since the worst financial crises in history.
Socially, financially, and politically, the president is wreaking havoc simply because he failed to understand the seriousness of the coronavirus in the first place.
Until contained, the virus’ numbers are sure to double every five to ten days. Cases and deaths. That’s why most of us are staying home to stop the spread.
When person-to-person contact is how it spreads, that’s what has to stop. The president talks about a vaccine soon, but experts say that’s likely to be least 12-16 months.
It leaves us on the front lines of this war with our best weapons— social distancing and hand washing.
For his inaction–and for leaving the country unprepared by dismantling the office in the White House specifically designed to be the early warning signal in pandemic crises–does Trump take any responsibility at all?
No,” he replied at his Friday news conference. “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
It was the legacy moment of Donald Trump, who was simply not up to the task.
Oh, and now Trump says he’s taking the test. Would you trust the results? I’m sure it would be “the most perfect test results” ever.
MY SELF-Q AND MY FELLOW ASIAN AMERICANS
Frankly, I wasn’t feeling too good myself, to paraphrase the late Joe Cocker. I’ve been nursing a cold. No fever, so it’s not likely THE virus.
But I’m sneezing. And my droplets are precious to me. I’m staying in.
However, before going into my voluntary self-Q, my self-imposed, civic-minded virus house arrest, I admit to doing some panic shopping. The last box of nitrile gloves. The last Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sheets. Food? The last vegan ramen noodles.
I got some frozen organic blueberries and a few more canned beans, before realizing I didn’t need to do any of that.
I have enough. Especially toilet paper.
But now I’m thinking about my fellow Asian American brothers and sisters.
Through social media, I’m hearing about cases of Asian Americans being beaten and attacked.
Connected to the virus? For upending the American way?
If our public and private lives are disrupted, why take it out on Asian Americans?
We’re all in it too.
You can point the finger at the right-wing media that calls it the “Chinese virus.” Or the president who calls COVID-19 a “foreign virus.”
There’s no reason to put add a xenophobic spin. The name COVID-19 was given to de-stigmatize the virus.
There are no Republican, Democratic, Chinese, or Filipino germs.
If people want to blame anyone for our health lockdown, start at the top.
Don’t go after innocent Asian Americans.
If it all works out, this weekend could be our unifying moment.
We’re all doing the same things. Trying to piece together our disrupted lives.
I’ve had to cancel events at the Filipino American National Historical Society Museum, where I am museum director. We’re closed until further notice.
Most everyone I know is staying in. My 80-something mother-in-law in conservative Ohio is on lockdown wiping down all surfaces to keep from going crazy.
Most are home binge-watching something. (Or reading my old columns?)
Self-Q seems to be the best way Americans can “flatten the curve” and make sure the number of virus cases doesn’t rise above the medical community’s capacity to deal with it all. Hospital pandemics have had death rates of 15 percent. This might be around 2 percent. All would be a crisis. We don’t have to get that far if we can control the spread by isolating ourselves for the greater good.
So stay apart, together.
In that sense, maybe it’s a cleansing time too. Our public health moment could be a time for Americans to unify, heal and reflect about each other. The virus has allowed us to hit bottom, restart, and think what it means to be American again.