SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Update, March 11th, 2020: Finally, WHO Declares a Pandemic (And Why I Will Be Taking a Break from Blogging About the Coronavirus)

Both of the statistical dashboards I have relied on in the past (here and here) now only give Canadian map breakdowns of coronavirus cases by province instead of by city. So today, the best visualization of the cases that are closest to me in Winnipeg is via The New York Times (original article, archived copy), where you can see me slightly above the North Dakota-Minnesota border, the Red River:

In Canada, the closest cases to me are in Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta (about 750 miles west of me) and Ottawa, Toronto, and Hamilton in Ontario (about 1,000 miles east of me) and one case in Sudbury, Ontario, a man who recently attended a mining conference in Toronto with 25,000 attendees (780 miles away).

So the closest cases are still 4 in Minnesota, plus 5 new cases in South Dakota. It would appear that, still, I am living in a little island of safety on the frozen Canadian prairies. Of course, it is only a matter of time until Winnipeg reports its first case of COVID-19; I am operating under no illusions that we will remain immune to the coronavirus!

Schools and universities around the world are shutting down in-person classes and and asking students to move out of their on-campus residences, but so far, my employer is still happily up and running. (There’s absolutely zero reason to implement any measures until there are actual cases here.)

However, today has still been a very stressful day for me. The biggest news today is that the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) has finally officially declared a pandemic.

The image that accompanied the tweet sent out by WHO today.

But, of course, there have been any number of news stories about the coronavirus pandemic today, from all around the world, and I will not attempt to summarize them. Somebody else’s job. (As I have said before, Get down off the cross, honey, people need the wood!)

It has been a surreal experience to see something that you originally prepared for 15 years ago (during the H5N1 bird flu crisis of 2005), and which hit your radar on January 25th, explode into the situation that we see today. I have had trouble processing all my emotions as a result.

In the back of my mind, over the past fifteen years, I have been dreading this eventuality. And now that it is here, I discover that you can make the most elaborate, detailed physical and logistical preparations in the world, but if you don’t handle the emotional and mental toll that an ongoing global public health emergency can have on you, you’re still screwed.

And, at the moment, I feel a bit like a marathoner who has stumbled across the finish line, only to collapse in a puddle of sweat. My anxiety is through the roof. I have been on a near-constant state of high alert now for six and a half weeks, and frankly, I am starting to wear out.

I am trying to take good care of myself, but as part of that, I am going to have to take a break now from blogging about the coronavirus pandemic. I have done my little bit to alert people (including my long-suffering family, friends, and coworkers), and warn them to prepare via this blog, which I essentially hijacked from its original purpose. It’s time to return to my usual coverage of social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse for a while.

I do know many of you have personally reached out to thank me over the past few weeks for compiling and sharing the pandemic preparation information that I have published here. I deeply appreciate each and every message. I hope that I helped prod some people to get ready. (I have also learned that there is just no convincing some people. Again, I simply say to myself: Get down off the cross, honey, people need the wood! What other people do at this point is not really my problem or concern. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the Polish proverb says.)

But after this, I will be taking a break from pandemic blogging, for the sake of my own mental health. I might also be taking some longer daily breaks from obsessively following the various news feeds, and let the news come to me more naturally instead. (At this point, it certainly will. It will be wall-to-wall, 24/7/365 coverage, impossible to ignore, even if I wanted to.)

Stay healthy! Expect more blogposts on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse shortly!

P.S. On January 24th, when there were only about 1,000 cases in mainland China, I made a $50 bet with my best friend that we would have a pandemic. I’m sorry to say that I won that bet today.

P.P.S. My order of 99% isopropyl alcohol arrived from Amazon, and was waiting for me when I got home from work today (thank God there are no porch pirates in my neighbourhood!). So I can make some more hand sanitizer (recipe here).

P.P.P.S. I’m just gonna leave this one here…a Sansar friend shared it with me (source):

Not my circus, not my monkeys…

UPDATE 11:01 p.m: North Dakota has now reported its first case of COVID-19, in Minot. At 283 miles or 455 kilometers from Winnipeg by road, this is now officially the closest outbreak to where I am. My little island of safety is getting smaller by the day!

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