17 March 2020 – Tuesday – #2

The Spanish government reports 11,178 cases of Coronavirus, and 491 dead.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about how to go outside. This isn’t the way I expected to spend my time when I moved to Barcelona.  I read two pieces on Covid-19 prophylaxis, one is extremely thorough with instructions including the use of UV to kill the virus. This seems like a little bit of overkill to me, but it has lots of details I hadn’t considered and good reasoning. The other is a post on a Facebook Barcelona Expat page from a woman who was in Wuhan. This seems a bit more practical. There is always a debate about facemasks when someone recommends them, whether using them works and whether it takes away from the supply for medical workers. I don’t have a strong opinion, but I won’t use them unless I’m sick. More important for healthcare workers to have them right now.

I think my prophylaxis strategy will be to bring things to the apartment and leave them in the foyer for a few days, except the produce, of course. Not sure what to do with produce yet. There are two refrigerators here, so there may be a dirty and a clean refrigerator. Next step is probably to strip and take a shower, leaving the clothes in the foyer for a few days or until I can wash them. After a week here without anyone else entering, I feel like the chance that there are active Covid-19 viruses here is nil. So it’s a matter of keeping out new active virus. I have plenty of food, so there’s no hurry to go out right now. I’m short on toothpaste and suntan lotion, though. There is a stronger anxiety about forgetting to buy something than before. More lists!

Haven’t figured out an exercise regimen, but that’s on the list to research. My fantasy was to ride a Bicing bike around town with no traffic. Bicing (which is like Citibike and all the other bike rental services now run by Lyft in the US) crushed that fantasy yesterday with a notice that Barcelona closed down the service (see below, translated from Catalan by Google). Getting a Bicing card was one of the best things about moving here and you can only get a card if you’re resident, so it felt like a significant milestone to take my first bike ride. So now what? I have a 20 meter terrace. 50 laps back and forth is a little over a mile. I will feel like a hamster.

Health concern: does Covid-19 transmit on produce? I ate a raw tomato last night and a raw pear yesterday afternoon. I bought them Saturday, but still. I woke up with a throat that felt sore until I swallowed. Now it’s fine. No fever. Anxiety.

There’s news about Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. First human tests of a candidate vaccine start in Seattle. Some anecdotal reports of cures were posted in the past week. A Twitter thread says “chloroquine (a cheap malarial drug), Gilliad’s remdesivir with interferon-beta (in clinical trials from COV-19), plasma from recovered patients, and a steroid (methylprednisilone)” have been used successfully in China. The thread is useful for insights in the way Covid-19 interferes with blood chemistry by kicking out iron from red blood cells (hemes). Another anecdotal report from Australia says Lopinavir/Ritonavir, another HIV ARV, seems to be curing Covid-19 patients. Neither of these HIV ARVs are used in Truvada or Discovey, the common medicine used for PrEP.

As an AIDS survivor, I’m happy there’s research and positive treatment reports, but skeptical that anything will move the treatment needle in the next six months. A human vaccine trial takes months and then pharmaceuticals have to scale production. If any non-vaccine treatments using existing drugs work, the advantage is they’ve gone through trials and are already in manufacturing. Most countries will reach peak infection before any of this could be available at scale. It may help significantly in managing Covid-19 after peak infection so people can get back outside and the economy can recover.

Good news from the US: testing is over 10k per day for the first time. The US has been testing at about 0.02 per 1,000. South Korea, which has turned the corner in large part due to 10k tests per day, has been testing 4 per 1,000. In the absence of any treatments, before peak infection, testing is an important way to manage down the peak. After peak infection, testing is the only way to manage people moving around without initiating a second peak.

I spent time yesterday on money, moving things around, paying off credit card bills and doctor’s bills. Why yesterday? Well, I use a mail service that scans and shreds my mail in the US. I had a problem because the original 1538 USPS form I had notarized in the US, the form that confirms I’m who I am and not, I suppose, a terrorist, was for the wrong mailbox (I changed my mailbox number to one that’s easier to remember). I didn’t find out that I needed a new 1538 until mid-February when the vendor wouldn’t scan my mail because the vendor didn’t have a proper 1538 for me. Overseas, the cost effective way to get something notarized is to visit the local US consulate. It costs US$50 and you need an appointment.

The consulate was a little more of an adventure than I anticipated. I had to turn off and surrender my mobile devices. Then I sat in a small stuffy waiting room with other people who needed new passports or visas. I sat for a long time because the notary staff was 45 minutes late for my appointment. No mobile, nothing to keep my hands busy. I sat thinking about Covid-19. There wasn’t much I could do but wait while the man behind me coughed. Finally I got the notarization, scanned it at my neighborhood copy shop, and sent it along to my mail service vendor. That’s why I didn’t get my bills until yesterday.

P.s. The Barcelona consulate is basically closed now because one of its staff tested positive for Covid-19 and everyone is in self-quarantine.

In other government news, Spain closed its land borders yesterday. Citizens and residents can enter. There are a few other exceptions. Also, I figured out that the police are issuing fines for people out for a walk. I saw a report about that on the Expat Facebook page referenced above. Also, one of my Catalan friends reported the same and told me the authorities closed 200 bars in Catalunya on Saturday, the first night of the shutdown. The Covid-19 numbers continue to go the wrong way here. Looking at Italian numbers, it will take a while to peak. Lots of anecdotal information. Brad said that in areas of Italy that shutdown early, the infection has peaked. I haven’t corroborated that, but it indicates that until there is a general shutdown, infections increase.

Speaking of Brad, he had an open Zoom video call yesterday. Everyone else on the video were Brad’s nephews and nieces. News from Washington, DC is that the bars are still open, but clients have to sit at tables spaced six feet apart. News from Guatemala is that the US is recalling all its aid workers world wide. Brad’s niece in Guatemala is serving in the Peace Corp.

I also did a family video using Marco Polo, a service one of my nieces works for (remotely). I heard from my sister and the niece who works at Marco Polo. My sister and her husband are effectively self-isolated in Berkeley where the governor has ordered people to self-isolate.

I’m getting the sense the US is starting to take Covid-19 seriously. The president had a disorganized news conference that took far too long yesterday. It seemed like a metaphor for the administration’s response, disorganized and taking too long. The president praised reporters for maintaining six feet separation while his administrators stood behind him shoulder to shoulder on stage. It’s the first time he admitted there could be a recession and he said he thought peak infection could be in July. Those are important concessions that indicate he might be taking Covid-19 seriously. Might. It looked to me like he was ready for a different job. He’s only comfortable as a cheerleader and it’s hard to cheerlead a pandemic, especially when you can’t hold rallies.

A friend from Las Vegas told me he was laid off from his hotel job Sunday. He’s in isolation with his family having trouble sleeping.

A friend in Paris heard about the shutdown there returning on the train from London. He cried on the ride.

A friend in New York City is concerned her employees, who work in her home, are not taking adequate Covid-19 precautions. This friend is in a high risk category for Covid-19. We talked about strategies for communicating with younger employees the responsibility of following Covid-19 protocols.

A friend in Sao Paulo is convinced he has Covid-19 and is freaked out by a cough that keeps him up at night. He’s worried about Covid-19 transmission from Starbucks cups. He also went out clubbing last weekend. He agreed to see a doctor.

A local friend who works at a remodeling company says he’s still going to work. He needs the money.  I asked him to guard his health.

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