As a rule Texans fear few things. They respect funnel clouds and shotguns, and dread losing a football game to LSU or having a Democrat in the White House. But the novel coronavirus has them sitting up, paying attention, and doing a lot of hand-washing, if not -wringing. Yet as of March 7, 2020 the state – which is a big place – has just eight KNOWN Covid-19 cases (as yet very little testing has been done — there are likely many more undiagnosed cases). This is not the Texas I knew in the 90’s.
My mom developed glaucoma in her mid-sixties and I’ve noticed my vision is not as sharp as it was just a year or so ago. We’re here in the Bryan/College Station area for another three weeks and yesterday I had an appointment with an eye guy at Scott & White Clinic. The first thing I noticed in the waiting room was people coughing. I sat 20 feet or more from everyone but each hack made me more anxious to get into an exam room. After 15 minutes and three patients’ coughing fits I was called in. The doctor came in, washed his hands, and introduced himself. We did not shake hands. I admitted concern about the chance of a pandemic in the USA, and he replied “That might be too mild a word. I’ve read that around 70% of us will get it” and so have I. I asked about the wisdom of Kat and me attending an Airstream rally in April (limited to 101 ‘Streams all parked nose to tail), and advised him our average age is 70 or more, that there will be many introductions and conversations, and that most of us travel a lot. He paused a moment — remember, I just met this fellow – and thinking out loud said “Might be better to get the virus early, before all the hospitals are full.” Oh-kay.
After that I stopped off in the restroom for a good hand wash. I took care to pull two extra paper towels: one to use to open the door and another to use to push the elevator buttons. I jammed my foot against the open door, balled up the paper towel taking care to form it around the part that touched the handle and swished a quick one-hand set shot into the garbage. Then I noticed half a dozen other wads of towel that had missed, left on the floor.
I had a grocery list which included Clorox disinfecting wipes. The huge H-E-B I like had four shelves of wipes, each shelf about eight feet long. One bottle of Pine-Sol was their sole occupant, left by a customer who found wipes, the real thing. The cashier who rang up my other purchases asked if I’d found what I wanted; I mentioned that there were no disinfecting wipes. “There’s a state-wide shortage.” Not good. Next stop was Kroger and they still had wipes in stock, but none were Lysol, Purell, or Clorox, They had a few of the house brand. Counting my blessings I bought a big one. Kroger uses a frequent buyer card, one of which is on my keychain. I laid it out with the logo side up, barcode side down. She whipped out a paper towel to turn my keys, then scanned it, and still in the paper towel handed them back to me.
I’m trying to keep this light and not panic. But I had the flu in ’58, and if this truly is worse, tough times are ahead. Not just for Texas, or the USA, but for the world.
Now go wash your hands.
Here’s a six hours later update: this is much worse than I thought. Bungling in the swamp has delayed our response and made everything much more difficult.