More coronavirus ramblings

The website of the place where I usually get my hair cut says that it is closed every day of the week. They are protecting the workers who cut hair and the customers as well by observing social distancing rules. You can’t cut hair from six feet away. It isn’t a problem for me because last week when I needed a haircut, my wife stepped in and did a very good job. She used to cut my hair when we were first married, but somewhere along the line I started having other people cut my hair. In my case, I don’t think it is too big of a job. There isn’t a lot of hair on the top of my head anyway.

Our city is on an official lock down. The City Council at it second emergency meeting in a week last night adopted an emergency ordinance in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. The ordinance doesn’t name which businesses are “essential,” but it does order a long list of businesses to close. This closure will be reviewed on April 8. The council also passed the first reading of a related bill that will allow extensions and changes by resolution without requiring a second reading. The council debated the ordinance for over 2 1/2 hours and two members voted against it.

I’ve checked the list. Churches aren’t on it. Affected are:
  • Restaurants;
  • Food courts;
  • Coffee houses;
  • Bars;
  • Breweries;
  • Distilleries;
  • Wineries;
  • Clubs;
  • Cafes;
  • Other similar places of public accommodation offering food and beverage for on-site consumption, including any alcohol license with on-site consumption privileges, including casinos;
  • All recreational facilities;
  • Pools;
  • Health clubs;
  • Athletic facilities;
  • Theaters, including movie theaters;
  • Music entertainment venues;
  • Hookah lounges;
  • Cigar lounges;
  • Vaping lounges;
  • Other similar businesses which allow for on-site consumption;
  • Arcades;
  • Bowling alleys;
  • Bingo halls;
  • Indoor climbing facilities;
  • Skating rinks;
  • Trampoline parks;
  • Other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.

We have potlucks at our church when we aren’t in the midst of a crisis, but we’ve never allowed smoking, vaping, cigars, bowling, or trampolines. We don’t even play bingo, which I assume has been suspended in the nursing homes and care centers because they are pretty much keeping their residents in their rooms and away from communal gatherings.

It is hard to tell what additional restrictions may come, as we we don’t know exactly how the pandemic will unfold in our city. Some cities have issued a ban on non essential travel, which is a bit hard to define. Is it essential travel if I go to the church to pick up the things I would need to have to work at home? So far I’ve been going to the church to do my work. Although I’ve heard rumors about how covered with germs and viruses gasoline pumps are, I have no trouble operating one with gloves on my hands. Since we are driving a lot less, we won’t have to go to the gas station very often anyway.

The post office was in operation yesterday, something for which we are grateful, because we mailed out home Sunday School resources for families and we mail some items to elders who do not have computers and cannot access the church website or livestreams.

I happen to know one of the members of the council who voted against the resolution. He believes that shutting down all of these businesses is based more on fear than science. He points out that there is little evidence that the primary mode of spread is surface contamination. Initial outbreaks in the country were related to health care institutions, not restaurants. While theoretically the virus can be spread in any gathering of people there isn’t a lot of information about how effective mandatory closings are.

Those who argued in favor of the ordinance pointed out that there is a need to take strong preventive action and that the disruption is inevitable. They believe that acting quickly may slow the spread of the virus enough that it might even be less impact on businesses than an extended time of mass illness.

We’ll be arguing about this for years however it turns out.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for skin. It is a truly amazing organ that we all have. In the case of a virus that is spread by droplets, skin provides an incredible level of protection. We often come into contact with viruses that do not cause us illness because they do not invade our bodies. Our skin is remarkably good at keeping a separation between our outsides and our insides. And our bodies have secondary lines of defense as well. Once inside our bodies, viruses are met by several different protective factors, including our immune system and the way that fluids are handled in our bodies. Simply drinking water can help flush viruses from our system. Even so, repeated exposure to viruses can result in serious illness. The coronavirus doesn’t do damage in the stomach, but when it gets into the lungs, it can result in distress very quickly.

Scientific medicine does a pretty good job of treating illnesses caused by viruses. But such treatment requires a lot of equipment and our hospitals are not primarily designed to deal with large numbers of victims. Rapid City has barely enough isolation rooms and respirators to deal with the normal seasonal viruses and antibiotic resistant infections that are already spreading throughout our community. It won’t take too many cases of this new disease to overwhelm the system. Our hospitals and nursing homes use disposable gowns, masks and gloves to stem the spread of infections. While it seems like inventories of such gear are high, The hospital can go through a tremendous amount of such items. Cases and cases of gowns end up in garbage cans every day. The supply would be exhausted quickly if a major outbreak occurred.

Our real shortage, however, is people. We don’t have enough skilled nurses to meet the everyday demand in our community. Factor in a few of them becoming sick and an increase in patients and there is potential for a real crisis.

Closing businesses won’t make more nurses available. It won’t increase the inventory of personal protective gear in health care facilities. It won’t address the inefficiencies of insurance and reimbursements for health care. But it might be a good idea nonetheless.

We’re in a place we’ve never before been. We’re making up our response as we go along. We’ll probably make some mistakes. But, as I often say, we’re all in this together. We’ll keep trying to do the best that we can.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!