When you look at the latest pandemic indicators, Manitoba is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the province reported a record number of daily COVID deaths (nine), a record number of people in hospital with the disease (218) and a record percentage of tests coming back positive (10.7 per cent).
The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba has doubled since Oct. 26 — a mere 16 days ago.
Intensive care unit capacity is almost maxed out. Health-care workers are getting infected with COVID-19 and two have died.
Contact tracing is backed up anywhere from days to weeks. Provincial epidemiology can no longer pinpoint how and where COVID-19 is spreading.
Meanwhile, my employer, the University of Manitoba, has imposed its strongest set of on-campus restrictions yet, including the use of three-layer facemasks and eye protection when unable to practice social distancing (there have been a total of 29 positive COVID-19 cases at the University since the beginning of the academic year):
- The wearing of 3-ply, disposable masks is mandatory on all UM campuses for all academic and research activities. Masks will be distributed in the situations for which they are required; a mask should be worn at all times on UM grounds. Further, unit supervisors will communicate directly with employees regarding the need for these masks to be worn, and will provide these masks if required.
- All work that may done remotely must be done remotely.
- Employees accessing UM campus(es) must be reduced as much as possible – only essential activities should take place on campus.
- Employees accessing UM campus(es) to be reduced to a maximum of 20 per cent.
- Individuals are encouraged to limit their time on campus(es) as much as possible.
- Cancellation or postponement of all in-person discretionary activities (either being contemplated or previously approved) until at least January 2021.
- Closure of all but absolutely essential common spaces and lunch spaces; all other UM spaces will be closed. A reduced number of study spaces will remain open.
- Eye-protection (shields or goggles) are recommended for all laboratory work or in situations in which 2-metre physical distancing is not possible.
- All UM sport and recreation facilities will be closed.
- The University Centre Pharmacy and the Fort Garry Bookstore will be reduced to 25% of normal capacity.
- Suspension of all research involving human participants.
The University of Manitoba has already announced that the upcoming winter term (January-April 2021) will be conducted almost entirely online and remotely, the same as the current fall term.
While things are certainly bad here in Manitoba, they are still nowhere near as bad, compared to the grim numbers of COVID-19 infected and dead in the United States. The situation in North Dakota and South Dakota, immediately to the south of us, is particularly grave (and yet, neither Republican-governed state has issued a facemask mandate). North Dakota nurses have rejected a recent government decision to allow hospital staff who test positive for COVID-19 to stay on the job.
All the major news media are rebuking Donald Trump for his stunning abdication of leadership as he and his craven team of flunkies fight against a clear election loss to Joe Biden, or assisting in any way in a respectful, orderly transition:
President Donald Trump had predicted in almost every campaign rally that the media would stop talking about the coronavirus pandemic the day after the election. But as it turns out, no one is ignoring the worsening tragedy more than the President himself.
Instead of taking charge as the country plunges deeper into the worst domestic crisis since World War II, Trump has disappeared inside the White House, saying nothing on camera since he baselessly claimed a week ago that the election was being stolen from him by President-elect Joe Biden.
He’s spending time with advisers, not strategizing on how to tame the out-of-control health emergency but seeking a path to win an election already declared lost. He’s also found time to purge the top leadership of the Pentagon, and with few appointments on his public schedule appears to spend his days watching news coverage and tweeting misinformation about voter fraud.
In essence, Trump, his family and his advisers are spending all their energy desperately trying to save a job — the presidency — that he appears to have no intention of doing in any meaningful sense.
History will damn Donald Trump and his administration for their mistakes, misdeeds, and inaction during what will be the worst surge of the coronavirus pandemic crisis yet in the United States, leading to untold suffering, misery, and death among Americans.
Meanwhile, I am escaping messy, painful reality again today (the first official day of Manitoba’s emergency code-red pandemic lockdown), by spending most of my time in various social VR and virtual worlds (and, of course, writing about them on this blog).
My little hobby provides me with an outlet for socializing while stuck in my apartment during lockdown, when we are all urged to stay home by various levels of government in an effort to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system. Creating and styling new avatar looks as inexpensively as possible puts me in a state of positive mental flow, and it gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment (no matter how small).
Shopping for fabulous free fashion finds for my small army of Second Life alts also helps me pass the time when I am bored (I often do it before I turn in for the night). I still firmly intend to bequeath as many of them as possible to other people via my will when I pass on, so I figure, why not add to their inventories? 😉
Before the pandemic hit, I used to visit places like Second Life to experience the unusual, the exotic, and the fantastic: those places which could never exist in the real world. Fairyland forests. Space stations. The Old West. Victorian steampunk. Blade Runner-esque urban noir environments, where the rain comes pouring down.
But nowadays, instead of teleporting to impossible worlds, I am using Second Life to visit virtual recreations of mundane places in which I have not set foot since the pandemic started. Places like the inside of supermarkets, for example:
I have not set foot in any retail establishment since I began working from home in self-isolation in my apartment for my university library system on March 16th, 2020 (except for two trips to my local drug store, one to get my flu shot and a second one to stock up on my favourite brand of shampoo). Today is officially Day 242.
All my grocery shopping is done online through the Walmart website, where are I schedule a date and time for grocery pickup. I drive to my nearest Walmart, I park in one of the designated parking spots for grocery pickup service, and someone wearing a facemask loads my groceries into my car while I stand a fair distance away, wearing a facemask myself. The pharmacy delivers all my prescriptions to my home. And I have no need or desire to visit any shopping malls (in fact, I gave my mother and stepfather, who are both in their eighties, a very stern lecture when I learned that they had gone for a walk through Polo Park Shopping Centre earlier this summer, just to get out of the house).
I am remaining focused on maintaining my mental health, which means that I am doing things that make me happy, like writing for this blog or visiting Sansar, Sinespace, or Second Life (I am spending a lot of time lately at Bray’s Place). Every so often I write up a cranky blogpost when I am a bad mood, like yesterday’s rant about the Futurist Conference taking place “in” Decentraland (for which I have since apologized). I still have lots of books to read (paper and digital), and I still have lots of cleaning to do around my apartment, among other chores.
And I am still spending a lot of time, especially in the evenings, watching Netflix on my iPad, either perched in front of my Windows desktop, sitting at my kitchen table, or lying on my sofa. I have moved on from gorging on the post-apocalyptic, science fiction, and zombie apocalypse fare, and I am now watching a lot of crime dramas.
I just finished binge watching Broadchurch over the past week, and I can recommend the TV series highly. It was some of the best TV I’ve seen this year: a gripping crime drama featuring two bickering detectives, taking place in a seaside U.K. village, with a rich cast of well fleshed-out characters that you genuinely grow to care about over the three seasons of the show’s run (from BBC, on Netflix).
And, having finished Broadchurch, I am now watching another British crime drama, Retribution, about the investigation of a murder of a newlywed couple in Scotland.
I have to say that I am definitely getting my money’s worth from my Netflix subscription! Netflix just has so much more content to choose from than rival services such as Amazon Prime, Crave, and Apple TV.
I had a subscription to Amazon Prime last year, but I cancelled it because I didn’t find the breadth of content I was expecting (although I may renew just so I can catch up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). I joined Crave (a Canadian streaming service) just so I could watch the final seasons of Game of Thrones (since G.R.R. is apparently never going to finish the series of novels upon which they are based, and I wanted to know how it all ends). But after that, I didn’t find much else I wanted to watch, so I unsubscribed earlier this year.
And I got a free one-year Apple TV subscription when I bought my iPhone earlier this year. Again, after watching The Morning Show and the alternative-history space drama For All Mankind, there wasn’t a lot of other content I was interested in, so I plan to let my subscription lapse rather than renew it.
For my LGBTQ content, I rely on two relatively inexpensive subscriptions to OUTtvGo (a Canadian service) and Wow Presents Plus (for their RuPaul’s Drag Race shows, including the recently concluded Drag Race Holland). I cannot get enough drag TV! As I have said before, RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the things keeping me sane in this dumpster-fire year. (And yes, I am still doing digital drag in Second Life.)
Stay healthy and stay sane!