Well, THIS Was Inevitable: “My Corona” (With Apologies to The Knack)

Well, this is inevitable, wasn’t it? (I’ll admit, the bat costume was a cute touch.)

(And yes, this is of questionable taste as people are dying of COVID-19. But sometimes you gotta laugh, or else you’re just gonna stay in bed with the covers pulled over your head because of all the bad news…)

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SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Update: March 6th, 2020

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

Late this afternoon, Minnesota reported its first case of COVID-19:

The patient is an older Ramsey County [St. Paul, Minnesota] resident who had been on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case. The unidentified person sought health care yesterday after developing symptoms on Feb. 25, according to the Health Department, and is currently recovering at home in isolation. All of the patient’s identified contacts will be asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks and they will be monitored by public health officials for symptoms.

The state’s testing laboratory confirmed the presumptive case today and a sample will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for final testing.

And I tweeted:

With over 100,000 cases on six continents, and many countries (including most of the U.S. West coast and New York City) reporting person-to-person spread within communities, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS A PANDEMIC. We don’t need the World Health Organization to tell us.

The world is facing a situation at least as serious as the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic—and many countries are quite simply unprepared. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will severely disrupt everyday life and society in a way that we have not seen in over a century. What is happening in mainland China, and throughout Iran, and in northern Italy, and in South Korea is no longer somebody else’s problem, on the other side of the world.

It is our problem.

It is YOUR problem.

The question is: how are you going to prepare yourself for this?


I am going to repeat this information for those of you who have not been paying attention, who still think this will all blow over (it won’t):

How to Prepare for a Potential Pandemic

Here, once again, is a reminder of what you should be doing to prepare: mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically.

You will probably need to prepare to stay isolated in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China, as well as places such as South Korea, Iran, and northern Italy). The time to prepare for the imposition of quarantines and social distancing policies by local governments is NOW.

If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are seven suggestions to help you get started:

You will need to have on hand:

  • AT LEAST two weeks of non-perishable food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in many places around the world, including North America. You do not want to leave it to the last minute! If you cannot find any hand sanitizer, you can make your own (see the recipe below).
  • Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
  • Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.). The power probably won’t go out, but it’s better to be prepared than sorry.

Other things that you should do:

  • Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making (and if they’re not making them now, they should be).
  • If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have SARS-CoV-2 if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
  • Train yourself NOT to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth! The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable on hard surfaces anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days (scientific journal article source), and you can transfer the virus from your infected hands to your mouth, nose, and eyes by touching or rubbing them.
  • Watch the following videos from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how wash your hands properly! Yes, I know I have posted it numerous times before. You may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, but you still might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.

How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

There have been reports of panic shopping in various countries around the world, including in North American. In particular, hand sanitizer is in short supply, with many stores being sold out of stock. Fortunately, if you cannot find sanitizer to buy, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2/3-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
1/3-cup aloe vera gel (GEL, not liquid)

Directions: Add the alcohol to the aloe vera gel and stir. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a pump bottle; you can use cleaned soap bottles for instance, or you can find inexpensive pump bottles at dollar stores. If you have empty store-bought hand sanitizer bottles, you can use those.

If you wish, you can add 8-10 drops of essentials oils. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint and orange oils, which have been shown to have some antibacterial properties (source), would be a good choice.


Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are some good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, showing global COVID-19 outbreaks in red

SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Update, March 4th, 2020: The Wuhan Coronavirus Has a Much Higher Fatality Rate Than the Flu

Today The New York Times newspaper reported (original, archived copy):

The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the global mortality rate for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, was 3.4 percent, a figure that primarily reflects the outbreak in China, where the vast majority of cases have been detected.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general, said in a news conference in Geneva that Covid-19 was deadlier than the seasonal flu but did not transmit as easily. “Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported Covid-19 cases have died,” Dr. Tedros said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.”

The estimate takes into account the growing number of infections being recorded outside China, mostly in Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, Covid-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity,” meaning more people can be infected and some will suffer severe illnesses, Dr. Tedros said. The coronavirus does not transmit as efficiently as the flu but “causes more severe disease,” he added.

This new overall case fatality rate (CFR) of 3.4% is significantly higher than regular seasonal influenza, which usually has a CFR of 0.1%. As I have written before, about the broadest research study of clinical outcomes published to date, the actual CFR varies by the infected person’s age, weight, and the presence of any underlying health conditions:

Some sobering statistics from that study of 72,314 cases, the largest conducted to date, are:

– 81% of cases are mild, 14% are severe, and 5% are critical (the case fatality rate for critical cases was 49.0%; in other words, half of the critical patients died)
– the case fatality rates were 8.0% in patients aged 70-79 years and 14.8% in patients aged ≥80 years (I worry for my parents)
– the case fatality rates were 10.5% for people with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for diabetes, 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease, 6.0% for hypertension, and 5.6% for cancer

How to Prepare for a Potential Pandemic

Here, once again, is a reminder of what you should be doing to prepare: mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically.

You will probably need to prepare to stay isolated in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China, as well as places such as South Korean, Iran, and Italy). The time to prepare for the imposition of quarantines and social distancing policies by local governments is NOW.

If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are six suggestions to help you get started:

You will need to have on hand:

  • At least two weeks of food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in many places around the world, including North America. You do not want to leave it to the last minute! If you cannot find any hand sanitizer, you can make your own (see recipe below).
  • Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
  • Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.).

Other things that you should do:

  • Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making (and if they’re not making them now, they should be).
  • If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have SARS-CoV-2 if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
  • Train yourself NOT to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth! The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable on hard surfaces anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days (scientific journal article source), and you can transfer the virus from your infected hands to your mouth, nose, and eyes by touching or rubbing them.
  • Watch the following video from the World Health Organization on how wash your hands! Yes, I know I have posted it before. You may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, but you still might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.

How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

There have been reports of panic shopping in various countries around the world, including in North American. In particular, hand sanitizer is in short supply, with many stores being sold out of stock. Fortunately, if you cannot find sanitizer to buy, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2/3-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
1/3-cup aloe vera gel (GEL, not liquid)

Directions: Add the alcohol to the aloe vera gel and stir. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a pump bottle; you can use cleaned soap bottles for instance, or you can find inexpensive pump bottles at dollar stores. If you have empty store-bought hand sanitizer bottles, you can use those.

If you wish, you can add 8-10 drops of essentials oils. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint and orange oils, which have been shown to have some antibacterial properties (source), would be a good choice.

My local drug store had aloe vera gel in stock, but they were sold out of isopropyl rubbing alcohol, but I was able to order some on Amazon last night, and it should arrive next week sometime. I have enough regular hand sanitizer to last me until then.


Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!

Insomnia, Worry, and Fear: Waiting for the Storm to Hit

Insomnia deepdream part 1 (by Lubomir Panak; CC BY-NC 2.0)

It’s 2:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for over an hour now. I can’t sleep, and in five hours I need to get ready to head back to my job at the university after a much-needed, four-week vacation.

I’m worried about the coronavirus epidemic, which seems to have already tipped over into a global pandemic. I went through my adjustment reaction early, and I’ve done all the preparing I can, but on a night like tonight, it all just feels so hopeless, building a tiny boat made out of paper to ride out a tsunami (or “flunami”, as one witty person put it).

I have, in my usual obsessive librarian fashion, pored through all the newsfeeds and discussion groups, to compile lists of credible, authoritative resources to share with friends, family, colleagues, and you, my blog readers (the most up-to-date list is at the end of this particular blogpost).


The major scientific research paper which estimates the overall case fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 at 2.3% (which has been widely reported by the mainstream news media) was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb. 24th, 2020 and is available here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762130. The title of the paper is: “Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72,314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention”.

Some sobering statistics from that study of 72,314 cases, the largest conducted to date, are:

  • 81% of cases are mild, 14% are severe, and 5% are critical (the case fatality rate for critical cases was 49.0%; in other words, half of the critical patients died)
  • the case fatality rates were 8.0% in patients aged 70-79 years and 14.8% in patients aged ≥80 years (I worry for my parents)
  • the case fatality rates were 10.5% for people with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for diabetes, 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease, 6.0% for hypertension, and 5.6% for cancer

As someone who is older, significantly overweight, and has several underlying health conditions (hypertension, asthma, type II diabetes), I know that I run a significantly higher risk of a severe reaction if I should become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and get COVID-19. So I’m afraid.

As of Feb. 29th, 2020, the World Health Organization is now recommending that people that fall into these categories limit their exposure to crowded areas and to people who are already sick:
“If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.” Source:
https://twitter.com/DrTedros/status/1233678276096331776 (scroll down to the 5th tweet in the series where this quote is taken from).


I’ve already got my bag packed and hanging from the doorknob: Lysol disinfectant wipes, Purell hand sanitizer, some surgical gloves, a couple of 3M respirator masks, some eye protection to fit over my glasses (even though I doubt I will be using the last three items, they are coming with me regardless).

I’ll be packing my own lunch (something I never do) and lugging a large thermal travel mug of black coffee, instead of standing in line at Starbucks. I’ve got this all planned out, exactly how to limit my exposure to other people. And all this elaborate over-preparation is happening in a city (Winnipeg, Manitoba) which is still very far away from any of the SARS-CoV-2 cases currently popping up in North America.

Now it’s a quarter after three. I was kind of hoping that writing all this down, getting it out of my system, would make me tired so I could go to bed and finally get some sleep. But it’s not working.

I’m worried and afraid and I am wide awake, waiting for the storm to hit.

UPDATE 8:25 a.m.: Well, I never did get back to sleep, so I will probably be dragging my ass come quitting time today. But I am feeling a bit better and a bit less anxious than I was last night, which is good.

And yes, I do well realize that my coronavirus coverage has taken this blog on an unexpected tangent, and probably one that is more confusing to my regular readers than any previous tangent I have taken. Please understand that my blogging about it just my way of venting (as this blogpost is).

And I will endeavour to continue writing about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse on a very regular basis, I promise!

And, to address my anxiety, I recently signed up for a two-year subscription to Calm Radio, which I am listening to right now…they’ve got a 30%-off sale on at the moment, but you can also listen for free if you don’t mind the occasional advertisement about their streaming music service. I can recommend them highly! (Even the ads are soothing!)