March 23rd: Coronavirus Update

The world has been enveloped by Coronavirus. I never thought we’d see something like this happen within my lifetime, and it is hard to believe this is reality even now. I alter between thinking everything is going to be all right and everything seems fine, to thinking that this could very well be the end for tens of millions of people, including my family and people that are very close to me. It is like being at war, but with an enemy you can’t defeat with bombs, or at all.

Japan has not been checking many people and they want the Olympics to go through at any cost. Today, however, Canada pulled out of the Olympics and others will soon follow. Japan does seem to have less numbers and less pandemonium than the rest of the world, however people seem a little too comfortable with this information now that spring is here. People line up outside of restaurants, go to see the sakura blossoms, and go shopping as if nothing has happened. Researchers caution that Japan or anywhere else could quickly become like Italy at any moment. In Italy, the world’s second oldest population after Japan, they can’t make enough coffins for the dead. Over 700 died last Saturday.

I remember earlier this year when my girlfriend had a layover flight in China, her stepfather cautioned that there seemed to be some kind of severe pneumonia going around. That was it. We had no idea it would come to this.

The very first case in Japan was in Sakurai, the nearest city to where I live and where we sometimes get groceries. I saw masks for sale and hand sanitizer that said “one per customer” and that was the last time I’ve seen them. They’ve been sold out ever since.

My hands are getting raw from washing them so much. Every day I wake up and look at my phone for updates constantly. The USA doubted this would spread over there, but this was wrong. Now New York is the new epicenter. Thousands of cases and within a few days, hospitals already inundated. I’m very glad I’m not working there right now and am not sure what I’d do if I was. Would I just quit? There must be a lot of pressure. The economic reality of having to keep your job during all this is horrible.

In rural Japan in Kawakami where I can work from home every day, my girlfriend and I are probably in the best situation possible for our own safety. We’re in the country that has been hit the least and that has the most beds per population.

Everyone is being advised to “socially distance” in order to “flatten the curve.” These are terms that were probably common nomenclature among epidemiologists for decades, yet now it has become common parlance. It seems the USA is taking this the most seriously. All restaurants, gyms, and public gatherings have been closer in NYC and California. Everyone that can is working from home and the governor is advising people only to take public transportation in emergencies.

In Japan, everyone is waiting for orders to follow. Japan cancelled classes for six weeks for students, but the adults have not done so much. In the USA, if there are top down orders people bristle and declare that this is “martial law.” This could be the end for people like that.

There were ideas at first that it was only the old affected. Now it’s known that this is not true. I listened to a New York Times podcast that compared this with the 1918 Spanish Flu and how in that pandemic, everyone knew someone that died. If 2% of the world population of 8 billion right now died, this would be hundereds of millions dead. Worse than the holocaust and WWII, atomic bombing and basically everything we know in modern history. I can’t imagine how horrible this must have been during the bubonic plague, when nobody was even really sure what was happening. Bird masks.

It’s amazing how much can change week-by-week. When Shinzo Abe declared that all schools would be closed, I got the alert immediately on my phone at Taiko. The next day, taiko was cancelled. I thought this was very extreme and protested saying we could hold practices elsewhere. How stupid this idea seems now.

Now I’m watching both Japanese news and the US news. The US is in the thick of it and it is hard to tell if applying US caution to Japan is overkill. Doug says that precautions should feel like overkill though, and if it doesn’t you waited too late.

A doctor friend of mine advised to stock up on food. You know it’s bad when doctors are telling you to build bunkers.

If this gets really bad, which it already is, there are ways the world will never be the same again. Similar to post 9/11. This is a pretty big thing and a pretty big risk that people have anticipated for years. It’s very frustrating because we aren’t able to fight it. More concerning to me was always the idea of a major meteor strike, or something wacky happening in spacetime like our solar system getting sucked into a black hole or a nearby star going supernova.

I don’t think this will wipe us out, but it makes you realize that life is fragile and that our species in all likelihood will go extinct one day. That if there was a virus that had a much higher fatality rate it could mean the end of us. This makes me very sad. Not my own death, but that nobody is able to appreciate beauty anymore. Maybe I’m more afraid of death than my conscious mind admits though.



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