downtown Seattle yesterday
Like hundreds of millions of people around the world, I have a lot more time on my hands than I did even a week ago. I spend a lot of that new-found time reading the news every day. This hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I haven’t stopped. I began today by reading this global survey by the Associated Press of what”s happening with Covid-19 around the globe. It reports that, as of now, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., more than 275,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths — but at least 88,000 people have recovered. In Italy, the country now being hit the hardest, 5,986 new cases and 627 new deaths were reported on Friday alone, bringing their total to at least 47,021 cases and 4,032 dead.
To varying degrees, people in the U.S. (where I live) are staying at home more than they used to. Governors in California, New York, and Illinois — home to 70 million people — have ordered their citizens to stay at home unless they have vital reasons to go out. Other state governors will surely follow suit within days. In my state (Washington), it hasn’t come to that yet, but the governor has ordered the closure of schools and most businesses and restricted gatherings of people to relatively small numbers, and has pleaded with everyone to stay home even without being ordered to do so. That may change. As of yesterday, there were 1,524 confirmed cases of the virus in Washington and 83 deaths, most of all those in the Seattle area where I live.
The economic toll of all these preventive measures has already been extraordinary, and will get much worse (on that subject, this Washington Post article today is sobering, to put it very mildly). The unemployment rate in the U.S. is spiking, soaring toward levels not seen since the Great Depression. Tons of small businesses have closed, and many will probably never reopen. Giant corporations are begging the government for stupendous sums of money. Vital medical supplies, hospital beds, and trained health-care workers are running short in most metropolitan areas, and the expected tsunami of Covid-19 hospitalizations hasn’t even hit yet. It’s all very depressing, and worrying.
I do intend to pull together a round-up of new metal later today, but since a large percentage of us are basically shut in now, with only limited face-to-face contact with other people (or no contact), I thought I’d start this Saturday by giving our visitors, both old-timers and newcomers, a chance to talk with us and each other here. This is what I suggest: