COVID-19 DIARY – A YEAR INTO IT

20200313_210011At the Brisbane Comedy Festival, March 13 2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken

March 13

For me it always come back to Friday the 13th of March.

As we entered 2021 there were lots of anniversary milestones.

The first reported case in America, in the UK, in Australia, when restrictions came into place for air travel.

Monday the 16th of March was actually when new restrictions came into place in Australia but it is Friday the 13th that holds the most significance for me when the restrictions were announced.

That whole week things had been brewing.

Schools shut down in France, only food stores and pharmacies were allowed to be open in Italy, the stockmarket crashed, government ministers across the world were testing positive for the virus and the World Health Organisation was declaring a global pandemic.

We knew we were building to something but Friday the ripchord was pulled.

The Formula 1 in Melbourne was cancelled, the Prime Minister announced there would be no mass gatherings of 500 people or more come Monday. How quaint that now seems.

Formula One's Australian Grand Prix cancelled amid coronavirus fears |  Formula One | The Guardian

I went to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that night and met up with some friends to review Dave Hughes doing his stand-up show for Scenestr magazine. There was a sense of one last hurrah before leaping into the unknown.

We didn’t know what was to come but we knew it was coming.

Nothing was going to be the same for a while. What would become the new normal? The sooner we found out the sooner the whole population could become comfortable with it.

There was an uncertainty in the air but also a resolve.

Now that things were happening we just knew we had to get on board with it and reassuringly most people’s thoughts turned to others and how to help them.

Whether it was fundraising for Meals on Wheels America,

The Salvation Army here in Australia,

charities that help Australian veterans like Mates4Mates, Soldier On with patron 101 year old Sgt Bert who is a genuine Rat of Tobruk, and veterans’ families Legacy,

or The International Association for Human Values as they provided food to daily wage earners who had lost their jobs in India,

or the Endeavour Foundation who help people with disabilities,

or Medecins Sans Frontieres as they provided medical aid across the world for COVID or disaster relief,

or the charity Headspace that provides mental health support for young people,

or the After School All Stars Program for school children in America that pivoted during COVID to provide food during lockdowns,

or the GoFundMe page BuyThemACoffee organised by Kaylie Smith who raised over $80,000 dollars to provide free coffees for nursing staff across the country,

or a little initiative in support of a small cafe in Toowong called StellaRossa that saw 200 coffee vouchers delivered to hospital staff at the nearby The Wesley Hospital,

or The London Ambulance Service Charitable Fund

– the legacy and example of Captain Tom Moore lived on in many acts far and wide.

Money isn’t everything either, whether it was a phone call, a skype, some flowers or a gift, or where possible a visit.

People looked out for each other and buoyed each other’s spirits.

I know I owe a great deal to many calls to my parents and to the humour and kindness of my dear friends and wife.

Recently a work colleague tracked down a Lego kit from the 1980s, created a package to house it with some kind words on it and handed it over to me.

I think it is one of the best gifts I have ever received.

I don’t like to think about what it might have cost him but the most important thing to me is the thought that went into it and the reason he gave it to me is truly humbling.

I posted my first post about COVID-19 back on the 22nd of April covering events starting the 3rd of March. I eventually caught up with current events and with each post scheduled two days apart I had a whole month of posts scheduled throughout July at the end of June.

Then I went on my secondment and subsequently fell behind.

I’m still playing catch-up.

This will be the 148th post in a row on this topic.

The COVID-19 Diary changed my blog, made it more personal which I need to be vigilant about not doing too much of.

I have written about other things but always in the context of this COVID year.

I probably imagined that I would write about it for at least a year or two but not necessarily at this length.

20200606_150919 Copyright Lloyd Marken.

During June in the wake of Black Lives Matters and receding COVID numbers I wondered what I would write about next.

I felt more removed from events happening around the world – rather than writing about what was happening to me I was merely curating news.

Then the outbreak from hotel quarantines happened in Victoria and it seems there has always been something ever since including lockdowns and scares in Brisbane.

Also I became aware of the need to write about nice things happening like my holidays, secondments and weddings.

20200703_094616

The Polish Place. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Subsequent waves were devastating countries like the U.S. and U.K. and Brazil and now places like India. Just as that first wave was in China all that time ago.

With fellow bloggers and family in those countries they have never been far from my mind as I wrote about the situation in Australia which by comparison made me feel very fortunate.

It seemed a tall order to have our scientists come up with a vaccine in twelve months back at the beginning but they did.

20210214_191802

Copyright Lloyd Marken

Being a year on makes you wonder where we will be a year from now.

Hopefully better off.

Hopefully there will be less diary entries.

Hopefully.

I do strongly suspect I will still be writing about COVID to some extent for some time to come.

Last year I saw my family in early March for birthday catch-ups.

I didn’t see my parents again in person for roughly three months. Then not again until November,

Then Christmas.

Then around New Years.

Then March again for the birthdays a year on.

That was nice.

Awesome Time Lapse Video Of Planet Earth Taken On The ...

On the 13th of March of 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 138,347 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 9,432.

There had been 5,087 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 362.

On the 13th of March, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 118,774,981 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 482,705.

There had been 2,637,553 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 9,548.

We felt we had beaten it': New Zealand's race to eliminate the coronavirus  again

On the 13th of March, 2020 in New Zealand there had been 5 confirmed cases with a daily increase  The first case reported in the country had been on the 28th of February, 2020. The first recorded death would be on the 29th of March, 2020.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in New Zealand there had been 2,066 confirmed cases with a daily increase of five. There had been 26 deaths.

Ladakh to Kerala, vaccine rollout begins | India News,The Indian Express

On the 13th of March, 2020 in India there had been 78 confirmed cases with a daily increase of one. The first recorded cases were five on the 30th of January, 2020. The first death due to COVID-19 was recorded on the 13th of March, 2020.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in India there had been 11,333,728 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 24,882. There had been 158,446 deaths with a daily increase of 140.

Canada: military reveals “horrific” conditions in aged care homes ...

On the 13th of March, 2020 with a daily increase of 59 cases the total number in Canada jumped to 152. The first death recorded March 11, remained the only one in the country.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in Canada there had been 899,757 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,018. There had been 22,371 deaths with a daily increase of 36.

A row of patient transport vans are parked outside the Epping Gardens aged care home.

On the 13th of March, 2020 there had been 189 cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 49 of those cases reported that day alone. There had been three deaths in my country at that point.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in Australia there had been 29,102 confirmed cases with a daily increase of twelve. There had been 909 deaths.

What to know about social distancing strategies amid coronavirus ...

On the 13th of March, 2020 there were 802 cases in total reported in the United Kingdom. Over a quarter of those had just been reported that day – 208. There were two new deaths leading to a total of 10.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in the United Kingdom there had been 4,247,068 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,759. There had been 125,343 deaths with a daily increase of 175.

New York City Mass Graves On Island Are Increasing Because Of ...

On the 13th of March, 2020 in the United States of America there were 277 new cases with a total of 1,264 overall. There were 36 dead, 7 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there had been 29,000,561 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 60,312. There had been 527,068 deaths with a daily increase of 1,570.

Coronavirus digest: France reports over 50,000 cases in single day | News |  DW | 25.10.2020

In France on the 13th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported an increase from 2,281 to 3,640 in the country. There was a daily increase of 31 dead in the country taking the total of 79.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in France there had been 3,946,733 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 25,120. There had been 89,632 deaths with a daily increase of 290.

Coronavirus: South Korea declares highest alert as infections surge - BBC  News

On the 13th of March, 2020 in South Korea there had been 7,979 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 110. There had been 67 deaths with a daily increase of one.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in South Korea there had been 95,169 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 490. There had been 1,667 deaths with a daily increase of five.

COVID-19 and the Iranian Shadows of War | Chatham House – International  Affairs Think Tank

On the 13th of March, 2020 in Iran there had been 11,368 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,289. There had been 514 deaths with a daily increase of 85.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in Iran there had been 1,731,558 confirmed cases with a a daily increase of 8,088. There had been 61,069 deaths with a daily increase of 53.

Image: A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Colosseum in Rome on March 7, 2020 amid fear of Covid-19 epidemic.

In Italy the WHO reported a daily increase of 2,547 cases bringing the national total to 21,157. The death toll increased by 252 taking us to 1,268.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in Italy there had been 3,175,807 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 26,790. There had been 101,564 deaths with a daily increase of 380.

Medics work in ICU of Huoshenshan Hospital- China.org.cn

On the 13th of March, 2020 in China there had been 80,991 confirmed cases with a daily increase of eleven. There had been 3,181 deaths with a daily increase of eight.

On the 13th of March, 2021 in China there had been 102,276 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 73. There had been 4,849 deaths. That’s not fuckin true but anyway that is what was reported.

Photos: Sobering images show Brazil's mounting coronavirus death toll

I thank you for following me on this journey, for sharing it with me. It has meant a lot to me to continue writing and to have people who read and comment or offertheir own knowledge. As we continue I hope the journey gets easier and I hope you are there with me.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – I’M NOT DISAPPOINTED, JUST ANGRY

Parklands Christian College coronavirus case prompts order for ...

 

July 30

In Victoria there were 627 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths.

Given what would be occurring to frontline health care workers I donated again a very small amount to the BuyThemACoffee Initiative who were giving coffees to hospital staff in Victoria.

Border closes were in fluctuation.

New South Wales was closed to Victorians.

Queensland didn’t want anybody coming from Victoria or Greater Sydney.

South Australia didn’t want anybody coming back from Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Tasmania thought it was best if people stayed put in Victoria, NSW, Qld and the ACT.

The Australian Capital Territory did not want travellers from Victoria.

The Northern Territory did not want visitors from Victoria and New South Wales. 

Western Australia did not want anybody from anywhere coming over.

Jim and Peter Staffieri waiting in the dark outside Epping Gardens Aged Care home.

On a cold Victorian evening two sons Jim and Peter waited outside Epping Gardens nursing home for hours. They got to wave to their 92 year old mother Luisa Staffieri as she was loaded on an ambulance and taken to hospital. She has COVID-19.

There are 61 residents and 22 staff at Epping Gardens who have been infected.

34 residents were taken out of the home to hospital on Monday and more Tuesday.

Thank Christ.

I mean it, thank you God.

Because there is no doubt in my mind. Once there is a case at a nursing home, dispersal of residents to hospital care is the smart play and the only play.

It won’t save them all but we can’t get enough of them out and we can’t do it fast enough.

As the ABC reported, “Peter said he was glad to see his mother transferred out of Epping Gardens because he had “no confidence” she would get the care she needed in the home.

At least in the hospital she’ll get the care that she needs, I think it would be too late if she got sick here,” he said.

There were 87 outbreaks at aged care homes that had already claimed nine lives.

Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) training to serve overseas on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions were also going into Victoria setting up shop in nursing homes like Ebbing Homes while patient transport vans took patients to hospitals.

 

A row of patient transport vans are parked outside the Epping Gardens aged care home.

Two dark green tents are erected on a lawn outside the Epping Gardens aged care home buildings.

The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt dubbed the AUSMATs the “SAS of the medical world.” They’re good, they have to be to do their job. Comforting words that sell print.

What we’ll need is something short of everything we’ve got to preserve as much life as possible.

The Federal Government was also supplying 500,000 reusable face shields and a further 5 million face masks from the National Medical Stockpile. See Ballbag, the state needs something you just give it.

 

 

Thursday was a big day in Queensland.

A couple returned from the Apollo Restaurant in Sydney, came back before it was declared a hotspot, self-isolated, tested positive and as a result had not spread the disease.

That was one couple.

Then were two 19 year old women had travelled from Melbourne through Sydney to Brisbane on the 21st of July.

They lied on their declaration forms about where they had been and did not quarantine.

On the 30th of July they were vilified in the press and received $4,000 in fines as calls were made to enact harsher penalties for such law breakers. One of the girls had a sister who was also infected.

For eight days they had been out and about in the community.

One worked at a school, one after an after hours school care centre.

Fear and anger spread through the community.

The area they live and work in is within the general area of where my parents live and where my older sister lives.

Statistically things were even more dangerous for them back in March and yet now I felt some concern.

We all had felt a second wave was inevitable but the circumstances were beyond disappointing.

It was a bitter pill to swallow.

I naively exclaimed at one point why were hand bags so important to go to Melbourne for?

Then it was suggested that there may have been a certain pressure placed on them to make such a trip. I don’t know.

But on the 30th of July I could have sworn in two weeks Queensland would have many more cases and would be on higher restrictions.

I am always happy to be proven wrong.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HAPPY EASTER

The Light of the World | Art UK

 

April 10

Good Friday.

I was at home and realised unlike other Easter weekends, I would not be getting a free feed at family gatherings or going out to restaurants with friends. Fortunately Karen had already made plans, we survived.

A skype session has been arranged for my in-laws by my brother in law.

I skyped with my parents and then with my inlaws back to back in the afternoon. The difference a few extra people struck me immediately and I resolved to set up a skype session with all of my family including my sister over in England. We arranged it for Easter Monday.

It was a nice to see and speak to family while we were in social isolation. I had pushed for it with some foresight knowing how much her family means to Karen and her family had made it happen.

 

April 11

Easter Saturday

America overtakes Italy for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world.

 

April 12

Easter Sunday

It was the reports coming out New York and their hospital system that made me take stock of nurses closer to home. I looked for something to do to support nurses here and came across BuyThemACoffee initiative through Weekend Notes which I have been published in over the years.

Sydney based Marketing Manager Kaylie Smith had been driven to do something and after consulting healthcare workers online she discovered all they really wanted was a cup of coffee.

Enlisting cafes that could use the business, during the downturn, she set about raising money on GoFundMePages to pay the cafes to make and deliver the precious java juice.

Since starting the initiative, it has spread to other cities across Australia and seen over 100,000 cups of coffee bought and delivered to our wonderful healthcare workers.

Kaylie Smith did not sit on the sidelines and critique from a social media armchair. She got involved, she dared to try and get an idea off the ground and she’s made a difference.

Well done Ms Smith!

Thank you also to prolific writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt who wrote this great piece in Weekend Notes that caught my eye and allowed me to make a donation to the BuyThemACoffee initiative.

Fundraiser by Michelle Hogan : Buy Them A Coffee - Queensland

 

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is released from St Thomas hospital and gives a speech in which he said “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

And I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal near Porto.”

And the reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching, and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed. So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.

The 55 year old Prime Minister retreated to the county estate Chequers to recover.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds due to give birth in two months tweeted “Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky. There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.

 

13 April

Easter Monday

Trump held a bizarre press briefing where he ran a powerpoint video of what a great job he and the administration was doing.

Trump had earlier retweeted a supporter’s tweet calling for Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.

Dr Fauci has been a calm and consistent speaker during the crisis about what the risks may be and what suitable actions should be taken.

Dr Fauci was called to the podium earlier to explain comments in the press earlier where he pointed out quite correctly that if actions had been taken earlier there would have been a better outcome initially.

He labelled these comments a “poor choice of words.” 

“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Dr Fauci.

When asked by a reporter if he had been forced to make the statement.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shot his hands up and urged “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.

For many Dr Fauci’s continued presence in tackling the crisis in America is reassuring and his courage to put ego aside and placate the narcistic Trump was one more measure of the man.

One day Dr Fauci will have quite the book to write if he wants to and I’d be very interested in reading it.

Trump has been anything but statesmen like in these press conferences held during a national crisis.

When asked questions he doesn’t like, he insults reporters and their networks while he still fails to answer the questions.

To provide answers for a country in need.

Struggling through prepared speeches he seems to barely comprehend and going off script with his usual patter at a time when only good and suitable advice should be conveyed.

On the 13th of April, one CBS reporter finally got one over him – her name Paula Reid.

 

I finished the day in a skype conversation that put me in touch with my sister on the other side of the world and involved four households. It was the closest I got to having my family over Easter and I was very grateful.

Many families have not been so lucky, many families have lost loved ones in the past few months. At the time of Easter I guess I took comfort in my faith, placed my faith in my God and tried to do good things and practice gratitude. I know many other people are doing a lot more and I thank them.

-Lloyd Marken