A million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world. One million people infected by this strand of RNA that hijacks cells and starts to copy itself. A grim, symbolic number that is in all likelihood only the flake of snow atop the iceberg.
The confirmed cases leave out the majority of people who do not show symptoms. The only ones who are asymptomatic but who receive tests are those in close proximity to people who are suffering. The rest of the world’s population that does not show signs doesn’t get tested. Even people who show signs that aren’t serious enough to warrant a stay in the hospital are no longer being tested. Everyone is assuming that they have covid-19.
Combine the limited scope of testing with the fact that testing is very hard to do accurately. A nasal or throat swab requires jamming a Q-tip up an orifice so far that most people cannot stand it. A few turns of the bottom of the eyeball or tickling the tonsil and a lot of people gag. Because of the discomfort many samples do not contain enough juice to get a result, particularly at the early stages of the infection when amounts of detectable virus are low.
Those two major factors mean that the number of people with the disease is quite possibly orders of magnitude larger than the official count. That is not necessarily bad news. With 30,000 confirmed deaths around the world there is a 5% death rate if we use the official count of 1 million cases. If there are more like 10 million cases then the death rate drops to 0.5%. That’s a lot less scary.
The more quickly we realize the scope of the spread the faster we will start to come out on the other side. I’m not looking forward to the numbers increasing, particularly the deaths associated, but there is another side of the curve and I would prefer that we discover that we were a lot further along than we thought.
As a reminder that we are still solidly in the confinement, I got checked by the police for the first time on Day 17. I was out for my afternoon run, the sunshine warming the sidewalks. I started doing zig zags, going all the way down my street for one kilometer then going over a block and coming back up to the other end of the limit before turning back around again. Few cars roll down the streets, that makes it easier to keep a rhythm.
Just as I came upon the Canal St Martin there were two cops controlling a jogger. I checked to see that there was no traffic and attempted to cross the street to the canal side. The cop waved me down. I turned back and waited my turn as they finished with the other jogger.
I kept a meter of distance and pulled out my attestation. I had been using the same one since the new one came out, writing the date and time in pencil and switching between the shopping box and the exercise box. I unfolded it along with my ID. It was clear that I had been marking off two boxes on the same attestation. How strict would they be?
The officer looked at both and thanked me. He was already eyeing the group of four drunk who were sitting together in their usual spot next to the canal, bottles of wine half consumed and glints of liquid ease in their eyes. What would the officers do? Fine them? I could anticipate the laughter. Disperse them? To the other side of the canal? Arrest them? No, this is France. We don’t do that here. I didn’t stick around to see what happened next. I continued on my zig zag run back to my home. I looked at my running app, 5K, it is hard to do more in the immediate neighborhood.
It is of the utmost important to have a major stock of vegetables on hand in order to limit the amount of carbs that we eat given how sedentary we have become. The brief runs do not replace the 10Ks, the body pump classes, biking back and forth to work, and just being out and about. We discovered a service called Epicery that uses delivery personnel to pick up loads of fruits and vegetables from local stores and deliver it to your home. My wife placed an order. The produce arrived swiftly: beautiful tomatoes, carrots, and the sexiest bag of spinach that I’ve ever seen (did I mention I’m going stir crazy?).
One of the advantages of the restaurants all being closed is that the high quality produce that would normally be reserved for grand tables is now dispersed among the masses. Even the Carrefour City, the micro grocery store at the end of our street that sells a bit of everything, is loaded with remarkably good-looking fruits and vegetables. The guy who works there was so proud during my last visit that he was trying to sell me white asparagus and telling me about the farm that it comes from in France. I didn’t buy any (already had asparagus at home) but I did take a second to realize that this was my first semi-interaction with someone that went beyond a simple transaction behind a plastic protective screen since the beginning of confinement.
Within the barriers of confinement there can be spontaneity.