Greetings from Coronavirus Central, USA (aka Seattle, Washington, and nearby communities, including the top-secret metallic island from which I administer the globe-spanning depredations of NCS). Things are weird here.
I know you’ll rejoice to learn that I have no flu-like symptoms, just the usual cat allergies. Others are not so lucky. According to the latest reports, there are more than 102 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington, 71 of those in the county that includes Seattle, and 16 deaths in Washington, all but two of those in the Seattle area.
Area health care providers are reporting shortages of needed supplies, including masks for healthcare workers. Despite promises by the federal government, there still aren’t enough test kits available to help figure out how many people with symptoms actually have coronavirus. And good luck trying to find hand sanitizer. At least we can still pee on our hands as a reminder to stop touching our faces all the damned time.
Mass social gatherings are being canceled on an almost daily basis. Yesterday the Emerald City Comic Con was postponed until some unidentified dates in the summer (it was scheduled to run March 12-15), and there were also cancellations of three big imminent downtown conventions. Yesterday, The University of Washington (with a student population of about 50,000) canceled all of its on-site classes, and other Seattle-area colleges quickly followed suit. Questions are being raised about whether the Seattle Mariners major league baseball team will play its opening-day game on March 26th.
And last night Starbucks reported the first confirmed case of an infected barista at one of its downtown Seattle stores, a block from where I work (it was promptly closed and disinfected, and all the other workers were sent home on paid leave to self-quarantine for two weeks). If you got a coffee there recently, please sneeze into your elbow until further notice.
As I walked to the Seattle ferry terminal from my job last night to make my way home, the downtown streets looked like a ghost town compared to the usual hustle and bustle of partiers on a Friday night. My thoughts turned to all the bartenders, waitstaff, stage managers, kitchen workers, and the places that employ them, that are all getting squeezed hard right now, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. People like that can least afford to lose their income, and of course if they get sick most of them don’t have health insurance, because socialism!
Of course, the adverse economic impacts are already extending well beyond businesses that depend on people leaving their homes and workplaces to eat, drink, and be merry. Just about every business that brings crowds of people together (other than hospitals and clinics) is feeling the pinch, because people are getting very wary of each other, especially when local health authorities and the area’s biggest employers (Amazon and Microsoft) are encouraging people to “work from home” as much as possible until the end of the month, which of course is just depressing advice for people who can’t perform their jobs from home. Local health officials are telling pregnant women and people over 60 not to leave their homes for any reason, if they can manage that. Good luck to all the fetuses and seniors out there!
To compound all these problems, we’ve got the President of the United States calling Washington’s Democratic governor a “snake” because he had the temerity to complain about the insufficiency of help from the federal government, and Trump’s chief economic advisor has counseled everyone to “avoid Seattle”. What assholes. As one Seattle editorial writer put it this morning, thanks to comments like that from national “leadership”, it’s “starting to feel like Seattle is being symbolically quarantined from America.”
This whole mess may turn out to be way overblown. So far, most of the confirmed coronavirus cases and resulting deaths in Seattle come from a couple of assisted living and long-term care facilities for the elderly, with the victims already especially vulnerable due to pre-existing health problems. And while it’s clear that the virus has been spreading undetected in the community for many weeks, the extent of the spread is unknown – in part because of the inexplicable shortage of test kits – and since we don’t really know how many people have been infected, we also don’t really know how lethal it is. A lot of people could have gotten sick and already recovered, or will recover without dramatic medical intervention.
I’m not suggesting that anyone here or elsewhere should be faulted for treating this as a worst-case scenario. But relatively speaking, we’re still in the early stages of this phenomenon. I guess we’ll have a much better idea what we’re up against in the next 30 days. On the bright side, COVID-19 will probably continue spreading across the U.S. and there will be deaths elsewhere that will eventually match the number of fatalities here, and so Seattle will no longer stick out like a sore thumb on the national map! Go virus go!
Did I mention that the internet at my home has been out since I woke up this morning? Yeah, that happened too, and we didn’t even have an overnight storm or lose power, which is what usually causes this kind of outage. Probably unrelated to COVID-19, unless the virus has learned how to jump from humans to servers. But this internet quarantine I’m now under hasn’t improved my mood, which was kind of foul to begin with, as you might have detected.
The lack of internet access has impaired my ability to listen to new metal, which is the main reason you’re reading this instead of partaking in a more typical new-music round-up, which is what I planned to put together this morning. I can get this thing posted using my phone as a hot-spot, but using my phone as a way to stream music isn’t ideal.
Anyway, since I’m feeling pissed-off and simultaneously a bit depressed about the current royally fucked-up state of affairs here in the environs of the Emerald City, I thought I would at least wrap this up with some pissed-off and morbid music — which I heard yesterday, before I lost internet access here at the NCS world headquarters. (I did drop some hints along the way that I would do this.)
The first track below, fittingly named “Gloom and the Art of Retribution“, is off Aborted’s new EP La Grande Mascarade, out April 17th via Century Media.
The second one, “Cerecloth“, is taken from another CM release, a highly anticipated album of the same name by Naglfar (set for release on May 8th).
The third track, “The Watchers“, has been out in the world longer than the first two but I just discovered it yesterday thanks to a tip from DGR. It’s from the self-titled debut album of Endless Forms Most Gruesome, a musical project consisting of Juuso Raatikainen (Swallow the Sun) and Manne Ikonen (Ghost Brigade), and that will be released on April 3rd by Inverse Records.
And finally, I’ve included a stream of the first two tracks made public from Nuclear Massacre Of GoatKommando, an album by the black/death band Nocturnal Damnation, whose members are split between South Korea and Thailand. It’s due for release on March 30 through Inhuman Assault Productions on cassette tape, and the CD edition will be released through Deathrash Armaggedon Records. The intro track is, fitting for the current context, the sound of warning sirens and screams. The mercilessly mauling second track, which shares the band’s name, is a bone-smasher and a gut-ripper and a face-melter, and a very nice head-banger too.
Enjoy! Sneeze into your elbow! Pee on your hands! Stop hugging everyone you meet! Let the hate consume you….