Coronavirus Journal: Day 22 – Corporate Bailouts

I talked to a guy on the phone for work and he said that he was still going to the park and I guess that’s fine. That’s allowed. But it just seems so dangerous to me. Not just for him, but for his kids and anyone else he comes in contact with at home. The parks aren’t officially closed but the number of cases and the number of deaths in New York City is skyrocketing. 222 people died on Saturday in New York City. I miss going out but I’m happy to just watch the world pass by from my window until the pandemic dies down to reasonable levels. I’m not interested in becoming a casualty.

There are a lot of stupid people posting online about how COVID-19 is “just like the flu” or “no worse than the flu”. That’s not just a stupid thing to say, it’s also a dangerous thing to say. Downplaying the severity of the illness and making people think it’s ok to go out in big groups is going to make things worse and drag the whole thing out longer than it needs to. It’ll kill more people.

The death rate for COVID-19 is much higher than the average flu. The average death rate for flu is about .1%. The average death rate for COVID-19 is 4.7% worldwide (as of today, 3/29/2020 at 7PM EST). 4.7% of the US population is 15,510,000. So, obviously, COVID-19 is a lot worse, and it can hit young people too, not just the elderly. Then, all it takes is having some underlying condition that you might not even be aware of for your entire immune system to be overwhelmed. Then you wind up as just another statistic.

The $2.2T dollar stimulus deal the US government passed is a joke. It’s not even a stimulus. It’s another corporate bailout designed to protect the stock portfolios of the wealthy. It’s like all of these politicians forgot that the way the economy stays healthy is by increasing the spending power of the lower and middle classes. Money has to be flowing from the bottom up, but we’ve had a problem in the US for decades where the money that flows up to the top isn’t coming back down. Trickle down economics is a lie. Anyone still pushing it has an agenda and that agenda isn’t to make America and the American economy strong. It’s to line someone’s pockets.

This probably all goes back to the shift in the US economy from being an industrial economy to being a service/financial (creating money out of thin air through financial bullsh*ting) economy. We don’t make anything here anymore. Not in any significant amounts. Finding something Made in the USA is like finding a four leaf clover. And now we’re suffering because of it. The world is suffering because of how much we’ve outsourced to other countries, especially China.

China gave us COVID-19. Then they turned around and sold defective face masks to the Netherlands that were used in their hospitals where COVID-19 is being treated. Then they gave defective testing kits to the Philippines.

Made in China. It already meant “low quality”. Now it means “dangerous” too. But I don’t really blame China. China is playing the Capitalist game that the West pushed on them.

We have created a system that drives people to create companies that are as exploitative as possible, with no loyalty to their workers or the country that they got started in. It’s disgusting. I’m not pushing the idea that we need full-on Communism, Socialism, and Fascism, but I think we need to move back towards a point where we as a nation, and the Financial parasites in particular, have a sense of loyalty and duty to the country and their workers.

Japan Airline's CEO Slashes his Pay Below the Pay of Pilots, other CEO Should Learn from Him !

Workers should share in the success of a company. I saw an interview once with a Japanese CEO of Japan Airlines in Tokyo. He was absolutely shocked by how much company executives make compared to their workers. He felt that he made a good amount of money and that there was pride and prestige in his position. He felt a responsibility for his employees and lowered his pay along with theirs during the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

We need that in the US. Something is broken. Companies are getting a bailout again and the peasants are getting a trifle that won’t even, in many cases, cover the rent and basic utilities. If this goes on for another month, people are going to need another check from the government and they’ll need one that’s substantial enough to actually make a difference. Or the hit to the housing economy is going to be substantial.

But at least we have toilet paper, I guess.

Key Foods in the Bronx. Toilet paper is making it back onto the shelves.

It’s Friday but we’re not going anywhere

Mood:

I can see the train station from our window. It looks pretty dead out there. It’s normally packed at this time of day. I’d like to go downtown even if it’s just to walk around, but I don’t want to take the risk for no reason. Maybe tomorrow? I don’t know. Probably not.

It’s not that I miss the people. Of course I like seeing other people, but mostly I just miss the sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. I’m going to be dying trying to get back to my previous fitness level after this is all over. I could go to the park, sure, but I’m just not interested in inhaling someone else’s coronavirus breath while following them down the track. Central Park was packed last weekend and I don’t expect that to change unless the parks are shut down.

Pretty sure this is from a dinner we enjoyed at Wonton Noodle Garden on Mott Street in Chinatown, Manhattan, NYC

I also miss Chinese food. I don’t care what people say. I’m not eating out anywhere and I’m certainly not eating out at a Chinese restaurant until the pandemic subsides. But damn I miss those egg rolls, that pork fried rice, and roast duck!

I really don’t see things being back to the way they were by Easter. I’m not expecting to see full churches any time soon. Not like Trump wants. China had Hubei province in lockdown for months before they finally reached a point where there were no more cases of local transmission of the virus. In the US, we’re not even close to achieving that. We don’t even know how many people have it because we still don’t have the capacity to doing the testing we need to do. Plus, some States are obfuscating the number of deaths by attributing the cause of death to something else like pneumonia or SARS.

1000 people died today in Italy from COVID-19. They’ve been on lockdown since March 8th. Can you really imagine going back to work and risking death or risking killing your family members just to help boost stocks sooner?

It’s going to take even longer for New York City (and places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle) to recover and get back to normal than it will for the rest of the country. The city is an international travel hub. Face masks, gloves, and social distancing might stay the new normal here long after it stops being a thing in other parts of the country.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 18

The more I read about the coronavirus impact in the United States and here in New York City in particular, the less inclined I feel to go outside if I can avoid it. I think the numbers below speak for themselves:

That’s about a 1% death rate here in New York City. I think the average globally is 4.5%. It’s a good thing governments are taking measures to isolate people. Even if only 1% of Americans died, that would be 3.3 million people. And it would definitely be worse than that because hospitals would be overwhelmed and people with other illnesses would be denied service due to lack of capacity, causing even more deaths.

Shopping time!

That being said, grocery stores are listed as essential for a reason and I had to head down to Key Foods and Antillana today. As nervous as I am about contracting coronavirus, I was pretty stoked to get outside the house for a bit. I’d actually considered going to Trader Joe’s at Union Square yesterday. I need ghee and they don’t sell it around here. But I changed my mind. I don’t want to get on the train just for ghee. I guess it’s a good thing I did, because they shut down that store when an employee tested positive for COVID-19. I probably dodged a bullet there.

The situation at the local grocery stores was about how I expected. They were almost fully stocked. No surprise there. While I was shopping, both stores were actively restocking the shelves.

There were a few things still out of stock, like some brands of flour, ginger at Key Foods (but not at Antillana), some canned beans and canned vegetables, and ground beef at Key Food for some reason. I didn’t even bother to look at the toilet paper and soap aisles because we still have plenty of each.

I saw this awesome Gudetama Chicken flavored Top Ramen while I was there. LOL. I almost bought it just for Gudetama.

When I got home, I stripped everything off down to my drawers and then washed my hands. I put away the groceries and then washed my hands again. This stuff can live for hours on surfaces. I wonder how long it can live on my jacket or pants? Maybe I should be throwing everything directly into the washing machine.

I thought about saving my face mask to use a second time but decided to just trash it. We aren’t going outside that often and we have quite a few. It would be pretty stupid to get coronavirus from reusing a face mask.

Anyway, I’m trying to find things to keep myself busy. I want to spend a bunch of time playing video games, but mostly I’m just writing my blog entries and studying foreign languages on Memrise. The rest of my time is cleaning, cooking, some more cleaning, and trying to stay abreast of current coronavirus news. Reading too!

It’s really amazing how fast a day can go by. Even during the coronavirus shutdown there’s not enough time in the day for everything I want to do.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 17 of State of Emergency

Fresh snickerdoodles cooling on a rack.
Cuomo: Amid Coronavirus, Too Many People in NYC Parks

I was reading the news yesterday and I saw that Cuomo had come down to New York City over the weekend and had expressed some concern over the numbers of people that were gathering in city parks in close proximity to each other. Like I predicted, he threatened to shut down the parks if people don’t start practicing the 6 foot physical distancing required by social distancing.

We can still go out. We can leave the city if we want. We can still get groceries and wander around for exercise. We can buy lotto tickets and hit the liquor store. There are lots of people out walking around like nothing is going on. It’s really weird. A weird contradiction.

I guess I thought a quarantine would require people to stay in their houses except for medical emergencies. Perhaps that’s what other people were thinking too and that’s why so many people were panic buying and stocking their pantries with weeks and months of supplies, because what we’re doing right now doesn’t make sense if it’s meant to stop the spread of the virus.

Every trip to the grocery store is a trip into an enclosed area where sick people might be. Checkout requires interacting in close proximity with someone who has been in contact with dozens or hundreds of people over the course of a work shift. When our car is up and running again, I’m going to go on a huge shopping trip so if this goes on for a few more months we can minimize contact with other people.

Each trip on the train is putting yourself in an enclosed space with poor ventilation, often in physical contact with other people. I haven’t been on the trains in a few days so maybe things have changed since last week, especially now that the 100% shutdown of non-essential businesses is in effect. Maybe not?

Anyway, the cases of coronavirus are skyrocketing. There are 25,665 cases in New York State and 14,904 cases in New York City as of a bit earlier today. 131 deaths in New York City according to De Blasio’s COVID-19 update today:

Mayor de Blasio Gives Updates on Coronavirus in NYC | NBC New York

The numbers seem to be exploding, but all I get from this is that we should have started testing sooner and we should have shut down businesses and started social distancing sooner. We tried to put our pinky finger in the hole when the damn was already crumbling. Too late now.

An picture of a temporary closure notice at Ulta on 86th Street
Retail stores like Ulta, Sephora, H&M, and Banana Republic were all closed last week when I went to 86th Street. They’re definitely closed now with the new orders from the governor.

And is it really smart to keep people inside? I can’t help but wonder if anyone in my building has it. The air in apartment buildings travel from apartment to apartment. If one person gets it, it’s going to run through the entire apartment building more than likely.

President Trump has lost his mind again

It’s hard to believe, or I guess not that hard to believe, that Trump wants people to just go back to work anyway as soon as possible, regardless of the virus and the consequences. He would rather just say to hell with it and tell Americans that millions of people are going to die due to the hospitals being overwhelmed, but that’s ok as long as the economy picks up again. Essentially, he’s prioritizing the stock market and rich people’s portfolios over the lives of American workers. That’s complete trash.

Instead of telling Americans they’re on their own, the government needs to cut those Trump Checks. And not just based on 2018 tax data, but for every single American citizen. You don’t even have to be a socialist to understand that not doing it is bad for the economy. And you don’t have to be a stable genius to know that putting Americans in a position where millions will die would be worse for the economy than the quarantine.

Silver lining to coronavirus shutdown:

I discovered this Twitter account, which is great!
  • getting more reading done
  • leveling up my cooking skills (cookies pictured above, for example)
  • blogging more
  • more progress in learning Japanese, Spanish, and Tagalog
  • finally doing yoga again
  • even playing some video games

I really want to ride my bike down 7th Avenue since there’s no traffic to speak of (if the Twitter and the news are accurate), but it’s not worth the risk. I don’t want to end up on a ventilator in an ICU because I wanted to ride my bike. I’m going to be pissed if I get coronavirus and didn’t ride my bike down 7th Avenue, though.

What’s next?

The number of cases is supposed to peak in 14 to 21 days. It can only get worse before it gets better, but hopefully, if we stay inside as much as possible, we’ll weather the pandemic.

Looks like business as usual in New York City

A crowd outside Best Buy on 86th Street in Manhattan, NYC

You look at what Governor Cuomo is saying, and especially Mayor De Blasio, and you’d think that death is literally stalking the streets, as if it would be like this if you went outside:

But instead, it’s almost like nothing is going on at all. I think people are mostly not traveling out of their neighborhoods if they can, especially on the trains, but people are out on the streets in force, especially now that it’s the weekend.

Heading downtown yesterday to 86th Street, the train actually felt crowded for 1:30 PM. On the way home, the platform was mostly empty, but the uptown 4 was standing room only when it arrived. It definitely wasn’t as crowded as it normally is at 2:50 PM, but it was still shoulder-to-shoulder.

The uptown 4 train platform at 86th street on 3/20/2020, almost completely empty of people
The uptown 4 train platform at 86th street on Friday afternoon 3/20/2020, almost completely empty of people

I think this says a lot about neighborhoods and socio-economics in New York City. People from the Bronx have to take the trains because most people from the Bronx don’t have jobs that they can do from home. You don’t see a lot of people getting on the train at 86th Street because most of the people that live in that area are able to stay home and/or work from home.

Proving the point, the train heading out of the Bronx this afternoon (Saturday) was almost empty.

An empty 4 train today 3/21/2020
An empty 4 train on Saturday afternoon, 3/21/2020. Photo credit: Marie Farless

86th Street and Central Park are are both packed, though. My wife couldn’t believe how many people are out. She said it looks like a regular weekend, as if nothing is going on.

A large crowd of people jogging and walking in Central Park today, 3/21/2020
A large crowd of people jogging and walking in Central Park today, 3/21/2020. Photo credit: Marie Farless
People in Central Park today, Saturday 3/21/2020. Photo credit: Marie Farless

You’d think most people would be at home or at least keeping their distance from each other, but they’re all bunched up in crowds.

I look at these people and think to myself, they’re out there huffing and puffing and blasting viruses into the air and then the next person is going to run through that. I read that coronavirus can hang around in the air for 3 hours, so if you’re running behind someone carrying the virus, you’re probably screwed, especially if there’s no breeze, but you won’t know it for about two weeks and in the meantime you’ll be infecting everyone you know and come in contact with.

Anyway, based on what Cuomo was saying today, everything except essential services will be shut down as of 8 PM Sunday night. I wonder if that means restaurants too? No more take-out? No more delivery? No more runs to the liquor store?

Plastic shielding and a sign at the entrance of a liquor shop requiring customers to remain outside
A liqour shop on Ave B and 14th Street in Manhattan, NYC with plastic sheeting and a table at the front door, creating a makeshift take-out window.

I wonder if that will push more people into panic buying at grocery stores today and tomorrow? And if more people will be congregating in parks afterwards?

A little history of Central Park…

Anyway, this situation with Central Park reminds me of when and why the park was originally built. In 1850, wealthy merchants and landowners argued that they needed somewhere to go for scenic carriage rides in the city. Another argument they presented to justify the expense of creating the park was that it would give working class people a healthy alternative to going to the saloons and hanging around in the streets.

Before Central Park was built, people just had nowhere to go besides their ratty tenements, the streets, or the bars. Battery Park didn’t exist at the time. Neither did the paths along the rivers. Those were all shipping docks and commercial areas, or simply didn’t exist because the land reclamation hadn’t been done yet.

Central Park probably didn’t work out that well for working class people back in the day because working class people wouldn’t have been able to afford the transit cost to get to there. Travel was harder and more expensive compared to wages at the time.

Everything is getting shut down

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, people have nowhere to go because the “saloons” and other restaurants are closed so they’re finally gathering in Central Park and probably other parks across the city. After Sunday, even more businesses are going to be closed so that’s even more people with time on their hands and maybe heading to the park. I imagine it won’t be too much longer before Central Park is closed too.

We started out with gatherings limited to 500, then 50, then 10, and now you can’t even have a 5 person game of basketball according to Cuomo. De Blasio is calling for the military to be brought in. It looks like they’re pushing for martial law and De Blasio has been fighting to restrict people to their homes since last week.

I get that COVID-19 is serious, but it seems like the response they’re demanding is exaggerated. With about 45,000 tests done, New York City has found about 6,200 people that already have the virus. That doesn’t really tell us much about how rapidly the virus is spreading in the city because the testing is still trying to catch up to the actual number of people that are already infected. But let’s say there are 10,000 cases in New York City. That’s about 0.12% of the city’s population of ~8.4 million.

I suppose they’re trying to prevent New York from winding up like Italy, but if the bar is so low, I wonder what’s going to count in terms of successfully overcoming the current situation. What I mean is, how few people have to have the virus before we can all get back to our regular lives?

And, more importantly, how are the state and federal governments going to overcome the economic hurdle they’re creating?

De Blasio, Cuomo, and the Federal Government need to figure out what they’re going to do when this situation drags on for weeks and months. People really aren’t going to be able to pay their bills. Putting a moratorium on evictions/utility cutoffs/etc. doesn’t even help, because once the moratorium is up, the evictions and cutoffs will start. You can’t expect people to suddenly have money after 3 months of not working just because the virus is gone and you declare the moratorium to be over. This situation is going to turn into a disaster. And maybe even sooner than 3 months if people run out of money to buy food.