The Very Air We Breathe

Wuhan 02Spring of the Year, 2020

As we celebrated New Year’s Eve last year, there were dozens of cases of a new virus in China with no evidence at the time that this virus was going to be spread by humans. On January 11th, as we partied on, the first death was reported from this novel virus. Mr. Yu was a regular customer at the live animal market in Wuhan, but he had other health problems, so, as his death came right before the Lunar New Year in China, there wasn’t much mention.

Then in January, the first case comes to the United States when a man in his 30’s develops symptoms after returning to Seattle from a trip to Wuhan. The Chinese authorities close off Wuhan by canceling planes, trains, ferries, and automobiles. At this point, 17 people have died and more than 570 others have been infected in other countries, including Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the U.S.

WHO logo 2On January 30th, the WHO declares a Global Health Emergency, and the next day President Trump restricts travel from China. By this date, 213 people have died and nearly 9,800 have been infected worldwide. On February 5th, a cruise ship in China is quarantined. On the Diamond Princess, 3,700 are quarantined onboard, and 700 cases later will be confirmed.

On February 7th, a Chinese doctor who tried to raise the alarm dies. He had been reprimanded in early January and was forced to sign a statement announcing that his warning was unfounded and an illegal rumor. On February 11th, the WHO proposes the official name for the Coronavirus, COVID-19, and by the next day the death toll in China reaches 1,113 and the confirmed cases rise to 44,653. There are 393 cases outside of China in 24 countries.

LouvreOn February 15th, France announces the first Coronavirus death in Europe of a Chinese tourist. On February 17th, Chinese officials draft legislation to curb the practice of eating wildlife. On February 19th, 444 passengers begin leaving the Diamond Princess, but the infected have to stay on board.

A secretive church in South Korea is linked to a surge of infections and that number of cases rises above 200. More than 400 other church members report potential symptoms. On February 12th, the Coronavirus appears in Iran from an unknown source, and by February 22nd, Italy sees a major surge, and officials lock down downtowns and gatherings. On February 24th, Trump asks for $1.25 billion from Congress for preparedness. Iran’s cases begin to grow, adding more deaths than in any country besides China. On February 26th, Latin America reports its first Coronavirus case, tracking a Brazil flight there from a businessman returning from Italy.

By February 28th, 800 people have been infected in Italy, and 14 other countries’ infections can be traced back to Italy, while Belarus, Estonia, and Lithuania all report their first infections.

First cases in Africa and Nigeria on February 28th appear from an Italian citizen who returned to Lagos from Milan. On February 29th, the U.S. records its first Coronavirus death and announces travel restrictions. On March 3rd, the U.S. approves widespread Coronavirus testing. On March 11th, President Trump blocks most visitors from Europe, and on the 13th he declares a national emergency.

Meanwhile, my friend Kymm and I are on spring break enjoying the sun and sand in New Smyrna Beach, when the CDC recommends no gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S., and Trump advises no groups of more than 10. Latin America and Venezuela announce quarantines. In Ecuador and Peru, there are lockdowns. Colombia and Costa Rica close their borders; however, in Brazil, the president encourages mass demonstrations against his opponents in Congress.

EU flagOn March 17th, France imposes a nationwide lockdown prohibiting gatherings of any size and postponing elections. The European Union bars most travelers from outside the bloc for 30 days. California is ordered to shelter in place, or at least northern California. On March 19th, China reports zero local infections. On March 21st, American companies increase efforts to restock our hospitals. Manufacturing companies change over to mask-making. Hawaii orders a mandatory 14-day quarantine to arriving visitors and residents.

On March 23rd, Prime Minister Boris Johnson locks Britain down and eventually comes down with the Coronavirus. The Tokyo Olympics are delayed, and India announces a 21-day lockdown. Trump signs a Coronavirus stimulus bill for $2 trillion into law. Who knew we had 2 trillion dollars?

By March 26th, the U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases. The CDC issues a travel advisory for New York. On March 30th, more states issue stay-at-home directives. By April 2nd, global cases top 1 million, and millions lose their jobs with 10 million Americans out of work.

On April 10th, Coronavirus deaths surpass 100,000 with 1.6 million infected around the globe, and cases surge in Russia. On April 13th, a handful of European Union countries begin easing restrictions. Locally in Tampa, we close our beaches, our governor can’t decide if we should go to church or not, Tampa imposes curfews, and masks are thought to be mandatory but then they aren’t. We are all sheltering at home, becoming prisoners of our own devices. We do classes with Zoom. It is a very strange time in which we’re living. We wonder: how will the new world look after our release?

Bucs logoI’m sure I am trapped in a science fiction tale, because a sportscaster announces that Tom Brady is now a Buccaneer, and the next thing is that Rob Gronkowski is coming out of retirement to join Brady in sunny Tampa.

I wake up this morning and ask “Alexa! What’s new?”

She answers, “Tom Brady was caught violating the ‘no people in parks’ rule.”

“Well, he is not a Patriot anymore,” I reply.

“Alexa, this is not funny. I want to wake up and start 2020 over, because this story you are spinning won’t end well, and life will never be the same.  Please say it isn’t so.”

“I’m sorry”, she replies.  “I can’t help you with that right now.”

Jan Vaupel retired ten years ago from teaching school in California to begin her adventure in Florida and was delighted to discover OLLI. She has enjoyed many cooking classes, especially Italian and Spanish, but her passions are writing and hiking with Gail Parsons. She enrolled in Gail’s classes, including the Exploring Hillsborough County Wildlands and Bird Watching and is now part of the OLLI Hiking SIG. She has also taken creative writing classes and several watercolor classes  with Harvey Berman. She is currently in an OLLI writing group called the Imaginative Crew.


8 Replies to “The Very Air We Breathe”

  1. Good job Jan. By the way that first class was: “Exploring Hillsborough County Wildlands” which led to creation of the Hiking SIG.

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