COVID-19 DIARY STELLAROSSA TOOWONG

 

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Pictured: Stellarossa staff member Andrea and author with the Director of Medical Services, Jim Houston and the General Manager Sean Hubbard of The Wesley Hospital on the 12th of June, 2020. Copyright The Wesley Hospital.

June 12

I’ve worked in a lot of different places and sooner or later every office worker finds the local café that makes their coffee just the way they want it. Ever since I started working at Toowong in 2018 it’s been the Stellarossa café for me.

I’ve seen a few young baristas come and go, young people moving onto the next big adventure but every single one of them has been a star at their job and as a person.

My first year the Owner/Manager gave me a Christmas card.

When the coronavirus took off in March it was them who told me Tom Hanks had it.

It was the Manager who looked off in the distance two weeks later when I asked him how was business and he replied it had slowed down.

I remember one morning standing in front of those young baristas advising I may not be in next week. We were all feeling the uncertainty of the times and I wanted to offer something more than words.

When I came back after Easter having worked from home I had already been putting notes in the tip jar.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 24th of March they had been doing take-away only and there was a new owner, Kate, who had taken on the business at the height of the pandemic.

With business down she was trying to ensure all of her staff got at least one shift each week. Some of them were not eligible for assistance even if they needed it.

As a former hospital wardsman, I had wanted to give something back to nurses.

In March there were questions about whether we would have enough PPE for our health staff, if the disease would continue to spread and at some point if our health care system would be overwhelmed.

Our nurses were putting those concerns aside to be there for us even if it meant they may end up facing what doctors and nurses had faced in Lombardy and Barcelona and New York.

When I read about the BuyThemACoffee initiative in an article written by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt on Weekend Notes, I knew I had found a way to thank our nurses. Founder Kaylie Smith had been advised by nurses what they really wanted was a coffee.

After donating to the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I later wondered if I could do something similar involving Stellarossa Toowong.

I got in touch with the BuyThemACoffee initiative to get advice from them on what I should do. Then I contacted the nearby Wesley Hospital and things quickly began to take shape.

The Wesley Hospital advised they would like to receive gift vouchers for their staff which would keep the logistics of the exercise simple.

The Wesley Hospital, is part of UnitingCare Health (UCH), a not-for-profit private hospital group operated by UnitingCare Queensland, which provides health and community services on behalf of the Uniting Church.

The Wesley is one of the largest private hospitals in Queensland with over 2,000 staff who provide highly specialised care to their patients.

I set up a GoFundMe page on the 21st of April, 2020 to hopefully raise $250 for Stellarossa Toowong.

GoFundMe Page

 

I wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Local small businesses are doing it tough due to the economic slowdown of COVID-19.

At the same time health care workers are on the frontline of dealing with this global pandemic, facing increased workloads and risk.

Inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near my workplace and they advised some coffee vouchers for staff would be appreciated.

Local cafe Stellarossa, which serves the best coffee in Toowong, will be on hand to provide the coffees from the vouchers.

Anybody who works near Toowong Village will be aware of how tough local businesses are doing at the moment, trying to take care of staff and keep their workplace running in these uncertain times.

As a former hospital wardsman, I can attest to how selfless and hardworking all hospital staff are.

This is a chance to do something kind for those whose kindness and courage always shines through, but particularly in times when we’re hurting.

This is chance to support workers and their workplace through the economic downturn. 

Our aim is to raise $250 but whatever final goal we reach. you can be certain your donation will put money in the cash till of a small business and a coffee in the hand of a health care worker.

Both will be grateful for your donation which will make a difference in their lives.”

As a former wardsman,  I was planning for the cards to go to nurses and doctors, volunteers, admin staff, allied health, doctors, cleaners and kitchen staff.

Stellarossa HQ swung their weight behind it showcasing the GoFundMe page on their facebook page on the 12th of May. A few flyers were handed out and put up around the store.

Stellarossa Facebook

Friends, strangers and work colleagues at the Queensland College of Teachers (including The Social Club) and even one of these young baristas (Hannah) who I had partially set up the page to help did the rest. I am truly touched by their generous spirit.

These types of business have been likely to have a daily turnover of $300-$400 during the height of restrictions.

By the 21st of May, at a time when nobody has not been financially impacted these wonderful donors had raised $450 to help Stellarossa Toowong and to give thanks to heroes we should never take for granted and are always there for us when we need them.

I was away sick as a precaution during this period but on the 4th of June I was able to give the manager/owner of Stellarossa Toowong $450 in cash on behalf of all those generous donors.

The manager advised me the money raised would be enough for 112.5 coffees but she had chipped in the rest of the money to have enough for 200 cards.

That is the calibre of the people I’m talking about here.

In the coming days, things were arranged with the Wesley Hospital to deliver the 200 gift cards.

 

Kate who was keeping her business running and supporting her staff through tough times was too shy and busy to attend.

Instead I went over to the Wesley Hospital with one of the young baristas Andrea who is in her second year of studies as a physiotherapist.

The General Manager, Sean Hubbard and the Director of Medical Services, Jim Houston was on hand to take delivery of the vouchers from us and to thank us.

Photos were taken from their media team including of the delivery of the vouchers to staff around the hospital which were uploaded to The Wesley’s facebook page.

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Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook page.
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Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
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Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
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Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
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Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.

Wesley Facebook

Friends, work colleagues and strangers had done a wonderful thing and I feel so fortunate to have just been a part of it.

 

June 13

That Saturday I picked up Karen from a shift.

She had gotten some unexpected work for the university in place of exam invigilation which had been wonderful news.

We were late for our nephew’s eighth birthday.

It was the first whole family gathering we had with all of my in-laws together since the crisis started.

Everybody maintained social distancing but it was good to be with everybody.

The reclaiming of what had been put on hold continued.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ISSUES IN THIS SPACE

Scott Morrison told by Queanbeyan local to get off lawn

June 04

In a week when the US leader was clearly protestors from their public city with the full might of police force so he could stand around doing an unplanned photo op where he couldn’t even find some words to say of merit.

My national leader was taking it in all his stride when yelled at by a disgruntled home owner.

Talking up a reno scheme he was assembled in front of a property with press journalists lined up on someone’s lawn to film him.

That wasn’t bloody good enough for the guy inside his house, waltzing out in thongs and tracksuit jumper he asked the journos to move. The Prime Minister didn’t waste a second to apologise and encourage getting off the man’s lawn.

Both the lawn enthusiast and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison exchanged apologies gave each other the thumbs up.

After all the man had just re-seeded!

The disparity between the two images was incredible.

A lone man telling his Prime Minister to move his press conference with a quick apology and thumbs up.

Contrast that with hundreds protesting the injustice of racial inequality of their country only to be forcibly moved so their President could try and save face for his failings.

I’ve often commented on the bulldoggish nature of Morrison as a virtue and a flaw. There was none of that on display here. He couldn’t have risen higher in my estimations.

 

 

On the horizon though was another issue for the Prime Minister which would prove more testing. Black Lives Matter protests were starting to take place here in Australia with a march already on Tuesday in Sydney having taken place when public gatherings were limited to 20 people.

On Wednesday there was a candlelight vigil in Brisbane.

Speaking to Ray Hadley on 2GB radio Thursday morning the PM warned against “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia.” while acknowledging that Australia had problems “in this space” that it needed to address.

He was not wrong, there had been over 432 deaths of Aboriginals in police custody since a Royal Commission was held in 1991.

As the week went on it became clear our political masters were choosing to let mass protests go ahead rather than risk further unrest. This would lay bare either the danger had passed or that the protestors had initiated a new break out. Either way it would undermine their ability to enforce rules going forward as most of them were in a rush to lower restrictions anyway.

We stood at a precipice.

Once again the Prime Minister called on our better natures “We don’t need the divisions that we’re seeing in other countries – we need to stick together and look after each other.”

 

 

I was back at work in the office on Thursday too having been away for two and half weeks. I took the chance to pay the money that had been raised on the GoFundMePage to Stellarossa Toowong.

The manager told me the money raised would pay for roughly 112 coffee vouchers but they had gotten 200 and would chip in the rest themselves.

You have to marvel at the kindness of people sometimes.

I started making arrangements with the Media Team at the Wesley hospital to make delivery.

On the 4th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,229 confirmed cases in Australian with a daily increase of eight. The number of dead 102 with a daily decrease of one. That would be Blackwater Miner Nathan Turner.

 

 

In the rest of Europe there were plenty of protests too and in London they were turning ugly with reporters assaulted by protestors or just plain crazy people.

As I watched Nine News Europe Correspondent Ben Avery and camera operator Cade Thompson needing to make a run for it as the crowd attacked them even with a security guard.

Europe Correspondent Sophie Walsh was accosted by a random man who was chased away by her cameraman Jason Conduit.

I urged my sister to stay inside in the coming days.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – STEP ONE IN RE-OPENING

COVID-19: U.K. calls on the engineering industry to produce ...

11 May

Monday I was away sick from work on the 11th of May.

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the a move from Stay Home to Stay Alert.

BJ flagged schools wouldn’t re-open until June and that hospitality no earlier than July.

The country had been in lockdown since 23MAR2020 with leaving your home limited to essential goods, medical needs or exercise around your neighbourhood.

Now BJ urged you can travel across the country and go out in the parks as long as you maintained social distancing.

People working in construction and manufacturing should return to work because those jobs could not be done by home.

Schools and non-essential shops would remain closed.

Hospitality would not be expected to start up again at least until July.

The infection rate had to stay below 1.

Prime Minister Johnson cautioned “We have been through the initial peak — but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a news conference on coronavirus.

The leaders of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland urged their people to stay home still.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Irish and Welsh counterparts said they would not be droping “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.”

First Minister Sturgeon advised people could exercise more once a day.

“For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we have made, given the critical point we are at, it would be catastrophic for me to drop the stay at home message.” she said.

Furthermore she added she would not change Scottish advise “In favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.

At different times during its history education has expanded in Scotland at a rapid rate.

On the 11th of May in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the World Health Organisation reported there were 219,187 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,923 on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to lower restrictions.

The number of dead stood at 31,855 with a daily increase of 268.

How Clean Air Cities Could Outlast COVID-19 Lockdowns

 

12 May

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked from home.

On the 12th of May Trump was having a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden.

After an exchange with Weijang Zhang he cut the conference short and stormed off like a little bitch.

Below is a compilation of the disgusting behaviour he has repeatedly shown in press briefings during the crisis.

 

On the 12th of May the WHO reported in the United States of America there were 1,298,287 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 26,642. The number of dead Americans was 78,652 with a daily increase of 1,736.

I wonder how many of those dead Americans would think it was fair to ask such negative questions when the situation in America was so clearly a positive one.

I wonder as their families stood at tombstones for loved ones they could not go and visit in the hospital or attend the funerals of had they thought “Yeah, those reporters should watch their tone!”.

What I wonder honestly sometimes is how a country that was born out of throwing off the rule of the most powerful Empire the world has ever seen is so divided now that it will argue on whether this individual is fit for office.

It kind of breaks my heart.

 

 

In Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg got tested for COVID-19. He had been tested following a coughing fit the day before in which he presented an economic update to Parliament. 11MAY2020 was originally intended to be the day he presented the National Budget but due to COVID-19 this has now been rescheduled to October.

The number of unemployed was cited as 10% or 1.4million Australians. This was the highest unemployment rate since the early 1990s recession in Australia and in which unemployment had risen at a far slower rate then during the pandemic.

The 10% won’t include underemployment or those who are technically employed but not working while under JobSeeker.

This was a big moment for the Treasurer to advice how dire the situation was but also all the measures he was putting in place and all the difference their unprecedent spending has done to help Australians.

Instead it was all about his coughing fit.

 

14 May

On Thursday I was back in the office.

A MacDonalds at Fawkner in Melbourne Victoria had 90 staff tested and isolated pending results after a break-out of eight COVID-19 cases from the fast food outlet including four staff members and four family members of a worker.

 

Coronavirus Australia: McDonald's worker in Melbourne tests ...

 

15 May

I was in the office on Friday and I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last time I would be in the office for the month of May.

The National Rugby League announced they would have their season restart on the 28th of May.

Players took 20% pay cuts, there were compulsory flu jabs for all and all kinds of measures to put in place including a return to playing to empty stadiums.

New Zealand Warrior players accepted spending 18 days in quarantine and a relocation from Auckland to Gosford, NSW.

The Melbourne Storm will be based out of Albury-Wodonga. A town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria with a major Army presence.

Rucks were out and we were back to one referee but sports fans this was unexpected and something to celebrate.

From midnight Friday certain restrictions were lifting in Queensland specifically.

Ten people could now go to a cafe, pub or restaurant and dine in. They would have to sign in with their details in the event of a need for contract tracing. That meant starting Saturday places like Stellarossa Toowong would be able to have patrons dine in to a certain limit.

Other states were following similar paths but not the Northern Territory.

With no active cases reported in weeks and having been the first to close their borders the Territory from midday was opening up nail salons, massage parlours, yoga studios, cafes, restaurants and….. after 53 long days…..pubs!

On the 15th of May the World Health Organisation reported 6,989 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 14. 98 Australians had died and there was no daily increase.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHAT MATTERS

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April 20

On Monday the 20th of April, the bulk of staff at work had been away for two to three weeks. We now found ourselves back in the office to get our flu shot and get back to working from home.

One of them, a particularly beloved colleague dropped off snacks for everyone which just speaks to why we love her.

While arrivals and departures were staggered you could feel it in the air. People were happy to see each other again if only fleetingly.

I was fortunate, I was there to work all day.

I enjoyed all the creature comforts of my office desk and but more so being around some of my colleagues whom I had missed. It was good to get back into the rhythm of working in the office and efforts were underway to see if some staff could rotate.

Nevertheless for the rest of the work I worked from home.

Across the State, Term 2 started and for many students it started remotely in the home.

There was a fantastic episode of the ABC program Four Corners that night that covered the early days and decisions from Australian governments at all levels to help their citizens through some dark days.

 

Image

April 21

Taken with Arnold Schwarznegger’s social media posts and his pets Whiskey (the minature pony) and Lulu (the donkey) I decided to buy a new hoodie he started selling.

All proceeds from the sale went to the charity he helped create – After School All Stars. It runs after-school programs for students across the country particularly in poor communities that need it even more.

There are 19 chapters helping over 90,000 kids across 468 schools in 60 cities from 13 states.

The charity had pivoted with the lockdown, knowing some of the kids involved in their programs get their best daily meals from the meals at school – they resolved to provide food for these families.

That was enough for me.

I belaboured figuring out what would fit me in US sizes trying several internet sources and it’s quite possible the Hoodie won’t arrive until September at which point temperatures will be rising in springtime Brisbane.

Doesn’t matter.

If one American child eats a meal based off my poor fiscal responsibility then that’s alright with me.

 

 

Of course if I had been completely selfless I could’ve just donated directly to the charity but I really wanted that hoodie. Although as restrictions relax I may look silly walking around outside with a hoodie that preaches to stay inside.

Some studies find that over 10% of America’s population live in food insecure households.

Kids can’t grow and can’t develop their minds if they’re lacking a balanced diet and it is estimated that could be as many as 16 million children each year.

America produces enough food to feed more than its population.

Food insecurity in America doesn’t come from a lack of food – it comes from people not having enough money to buy the food.

There are expectations that food insecurity in the country could easily double given the increasing amount of unemployed Americans.

30 million applied for welfare and unlike in Australia the amount of claims that will ultimately be approved and the length of how long they can be on welfare is limited.

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported 751,273 cases in the America with a daily increase of 27,668. The number of Americans who died with COVID-19 was 35,884 with a daily increase of 1,681.

 

Closer to home in Australia the tertiary education industry was facing a daunting prospect with international student enrolment set to decline with a loss projected between 3-5 billion dollars.

I spent seven years working at the Queensland University of Technology on contracts and as a temp hoping again and again I might become permanent. Now permanent workers may need to worry about their jobs.

International students who have spent years studying here in Australia now find themselves struggling to pay rent and unable to afford flight homes. Over 500,000 international students were in Australia when COVID-19 hit.

On the 12th of April Education Minister Dan Tehan announced an 18 billion package for to shore up income from domestic students in universities. Yet a huge source of income for Australian universities were international enrolments with some projecting a decline between of 3 to 4.6 billion dollars this year alone.

Universities themselves were trying to assist students financially struggling due to loss of casual employment and unable to apply for support from the government. Up to $110 million dollars through hardship support funds.

Countries like the UK and Canada had put relief packages in place for international students.

In Australia the Prime Minister was suggesting it was time for them to go home and the price of a plane ticket would only be $10,000.

Those in the industry were of two minds.

It has once again been revealed how reliant we were on international student enrolment. Maybe this would push a reform where it was needed.

Yet universities carry out research and grow the minds and capabilities of our brightest who go out and work in industry and make innovative solutions. Could we really afford due to a loss of income to see our universities lose researchers, budding academics and students to the pandemic? Some of them international ones too.

Not to mention families overseas may remember how we took care of their children during this crisis.

After paying a lot of money for them to receive an education here, when they were cut off from them, when it was difficult and expensive to get home, when other countries provided for such students here we were shrugging our shoulders.

What would they think of Australia?

PhD Positions at Queensland University of Technology, 2016-2017

On the 12th of April, Universities Australia estimated 21,000 jobs could be lost in the next six months.

On the 21st of April, the Vice Chancellor of the Central Queensland University floated the idea of voluntary redundancies for some staff.

 

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported Australia had 6,625 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 13. There were 71 deaths with a daily increase of one.

A guy I used to work with a few years ago in a part-time job I had was doing a push-up challenge to raise funds for mental health charity Headspace.

https://www.thepushupchallenge.com.au/pushuperer/65013?fbclid=IwAR3UCzdFCm5hvyW2Ud4w0rqBNeHpxoZVLUypX1NHusgdHtvMA8zTM9mQlz8

He set himself the goal of completing 3,046 push-ups over 21 days from 11MAY2020 to 31MAY2020. On day three he completed 326 push-ups alone. So I donated to his cause as well.

Headspace is foundation that helps young people and their families with their health in particular mental health.

 

I was also very inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative and got in touch with them. I was hoping to help out my local café at work Stellarossa Toowong but knew I couldn’t hope to raise as much as BuyThemACoffee. I asked them for advice which they very kindly gave and thanked me for my small donation. I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near where I worked. They advised instead of delivering coffee for staff they would really appreciate coffee vouchers.

So I set up a GoFundMe Page to raise $250 to buy coffee vouchers from Stellarossa Toowong and have them delivered to the staff at the Wesley.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/stellarosa-coffee-for-wesley-hospital-staff

Work colleagues and friends immediately responded and over the next four weeks we were able to raise some money.

Closing out on any given day a business like this at this time might have three or four hundred dollars in the til. 

There was a new owner/manager at the store and at this point she was having one staff member work a day.

Most of the employees are young and find themselves ineligible for jobkeeper or jobseeker in some cases.

They’re great at what they do.

The new owner knowing this was treating them all fairly and spreading the work to all of them but there was not a lot of work to go around.

Despite this one of the baristas even donated to the GoFundMe page.

 

East Timor, war, coffee and Australia's 'debt of honour' - ABC News

ANZAC Day was also coming up that weekend and collections for support services for veterans and their families were not going to be able to carried out like they had been for the past 100 years. So I donated some money to the ANZAC appeal.

I don’t want to create the wrong impression, we need money.

Maybe I should’ve saved every extra cent I had.

But I have had a few thoughts over the past few weeks.

One that comes back to me occasionally is simply this.

What you do now – matters most.

 

ABC’s Foreign Correspondent ran an episode that day following Emergency Responders and Healthcare Workers through New York City.

In a week where Trump spitballed using bleach to cure COVID-19 here was a program showcasing American heroes.

 

 

It showed the Naked Cowboy still hanging out in Times Square bringing cheer and goodwill to passerbys.

I will admit I thought there was something foolish in him not packing up his bags and trying to avoid putting himself at risk.

Yet something touching in his desire to remain and lift spirits and risk the potential consequences.

I thought how American, that level of optimism and foodhardiness, that mix of courage and absurdity.

He was not the only one.

In the program we followed veteran Ambos, retired cops bringing supplies to those still on the streets, volunteer nurses who quit their jobs to come take care of the sick and dying in greatest city in the world.

And people were dying. Many, many, many people.

Yet here were these Americans trying to help.

WHAT WE DO NOW – MATTERS MOST.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – CHOCOLATES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Per Day

As the phoney week came to a close the Australian government had taken the unprecedent step to shut down international travel. We were closing off from the world and the sense of threat was only growing.

20 March

On Friday in Australia there were 873 cases with well over an eighth coming from that day alone. The daily increase was 164. The number of deaths was seven with a daily increase of one.

In the United States of America there were 15,219 cases with a daily increase of almost a third at 4,777. There were 201 deaths with a daily increase of 51.

President Trump at White House briefing that day was asked by NBC reporter Peter Alexander “So, what do you say Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?“.

Trump replied “I say that you a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.

Trump continued to rant insulting Alexander and his network NBC and saying that he was doing sensationalist journalism.

Just prior Alexander had asked about an anti malarial drug Trump was touting as a possible cure and has continued to do so. This follow-up question was intended as a softball one.

 

It would be unfair to pull out quotes made by public figures earlier in the outbreak. Public figures also need to reassure the public and point to a rosy vision for the future.

For the experts who had a knowledge about this they could see clearly what was happening. Certain Asian countries responded faster having living through the SARs epidemic.

Yet until the outbreak in Italy I think some understanding has to be given to our leaders for the unprecedented nature of events.

However as the crisis escalated Trump’s quotes become more and more a rebuke to what was actually going and the advice that his experts staff and other state leaders in the country have been saying.

To be quite blunt he has failed as a leader to rally the entire nation behind a cause, to create bipartisan participation between states and federal levels and to show an empathy for the suffering of others.

Whenever you hear Trump talk, it’s always about him.

One of his tactics too is to go on the attack, to lay the blame on others. Early on he attacked state leaders, tweeting New York Governor Cuomo has to do more.

That may be a fair criticism in terms of the early days of the crisis but since then I cannot think of how Cuomo could have done more.

He’s given daily briefing, stayed calm, communicated consistently in an ever changing situation and fought for what his state has needed to combat this virus.

Trump on the other hand is a terrifying sight to behold almost on a daily basis.

That is not to say the administration hasn’t done some good things but compared to other countries it has often been behind the curve and there is a constant push to get back to re-opening the economy partly based on what appears to be political motivations.

It is also true a lot of Americans want to do the same but I suspect this is because there is no effective welfare for them like there is in other developed nations. I worry a great deal about the plight of the American people with this President in charge.

These quotes even if they were part of a larger context are jarring in the face of what is happening in the country.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 26FEB2020

It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 28FEB2020

It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” 13MAR2020

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 17MAR2020

🐣 25+ Best Memes About Slaps Trump | Slaps Trump Memes

As the working week ended on the 20th of March in Australia I had faced the possibility of starting the next week working from home.

On Friday came I was advised I would be in the office on Monday but to be flexible as the situation continued to develop.

As the crisis had escalated I had wondered how it would affect the world in terms of social habits that were dying off with new technologies.

Would more working offices move to hot desks and working from home? Would cinemas die? Would globalisation be altered? Would there be a push for more national agriculture or manufacturing? Would we practice better hygiene?

Would we slow down and appreciate the little things more?

It seemed digital connection would be hastened by this crisis and as the week drew on it appeared this would be very much the case and I was suddenly struck by a realisation having spent most of my working life being in no working place more than two years full time.

I knew I liked working in the office. I knew the routine offered me a discipline and motivation that I benefited from and I liked the air conditioning. I knew I liked my desk and I liked getting my large mocha from my local café Stellarossa.

That week though I felt very keenly what I would miss the most and it was the people around me.

Cadbury Favourites Party Pack 570g - The Australian Food Shop

In a moment of lunacy that Thursday night I bought four packets of Cadbury Favourites  Party Edition and placed them around the office in different work areas after most people had gone home. With the packets was a printed out note.

These days often we can be heard saying the phrase “Interesting times.”
It’s a shorthand that suits for a variety of purposes.
What we mean is we are living in changing times; we are living in challenging times and yes, we are living in scary times.

Being scared makes sense.
Our way of life is changing for the moment, sports teams are playing to empty venues if they’re playing at all. Shop shelves are bare of things we use on a daily basis. Businesses are closing down and people are losing their jobs. A disease has criss-crossed the globe at a rapid pace and while thousands have thankfully recovered COVID-19 has exacted a death toll and will.

Being scared makes sense but it is not who we are.

Over the recent bushfire season over 18 million hectares of the country was burned. That is 186,000 square kilometres. The bulk of that fire was fought by a handful of rural firefighters and local residents making do under the circumstances. Millions of dollars were raised for the recovery efforts in a matter of days.
Close to 25,000 official Mud Army volunteers responded to the Brisbane floods in 2011 without a care or thought for personal safety or WHS considerations.

There wasn’t as much sports being played in the early 1940s either or during the Great War. There was rationing back then too and a global pandemic to follow.

When the times are interesting…people – all people from around the world are not found wanting.
This is certainly true of the staff of the Queensland College of Teachers.
Things are going to be different in the coming weeks and it is not always going to be easy. But we’re going to get through it together…. standing at a suitable safe distance from each other…sometimes at home. Hey, I told you it was going to be different okay.
So be there for each other, for your loved ones, spare a thought for those who are going to be doing it tough, help those who are vulnerable, thank our health care workers who will be the most exposed and overworked in the coming months to keep us healthy, for our teachers who are with our kids all day calming their nerves and keeping their education on track.

We are living in interesting times, but we will get through them together.

Also, chocolate.

-Lloyd Marken

No photo description available.
Copyright Micah Reynolds.

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

The Surprising Truth About Dark Moon Energy And Its Benefits

The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – MARKET PENETRATION

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

Market penetration – the extent to which a product is recognized and bought by customers in a particular market.

News believe it or not works like a line of products being offered up to the market.  There is niche news, alternative news, comfort food news and leading news.

After all… news is consumed and when you need to get the word out you can only hope you achieve market penetration quickly.

These days its hard for the news to get our attention and even harder for one voice to reach all audiences.

In the second week of March COVID-19 had achieved market penetration and by the end of the week it would be dominating our attention.

March 04

The next James Bond movie No Time To Die was due to open 02APR2020 and in America 10APR2020 but with only a month to go and amidst a publicity ramp-up and marketing spend the release date was moved.

With the Chinese box office compromised and territories like Italy and France shut down the Bond feature became the first blockbuster of the year to move out of the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would not be the last with A Quiet Place II, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, F9 and the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman: 1984 all following suit. This all made sense to me, my concerns at this point like the filmmakers were with the risk to lives.

This followed production halting on the latest Mission Impossible film on the 25th of February which was set to film in Venice, Italy.

 

March 07

Karen and I had dinner with friends and travel restrictions were on people’s minds but the coronavirus did not dominate the conversation. Toilet paper shortages were definitely in the news but Karen had recently bought some from a bargain store when the stocks were out in the major supermarkets. We were fine for now.

 

March 08

On Sunday we had a family gathering for the birthdays of two of my siblings. We did not think this would be the last time we were going to see each other in person for a while. But that has certainly proven to be the case.

March 09

Italy went into national quarantine with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte restricting travel only for work and family emergencies and the cancellation of all sporting events.

March 10

At work we were all practising social distancing.

On Tuesday we had a team meeting and discussed at length what was needed to be able to have all staff work from home.

The framing was if someone had to self isolate. The other thinking was in order to minimise risk, staff may work 50/50 at home and in the office on a rotational basis.

I had just purchased a new laptop of the 27th of February and started to think of rushing to load up software on it and start using it but first I wanted to wrap up transferring some things from my old laptop.

With market penetration I was certainly starting to think about coronavirus differently. It was here and we had seen the devastation it was wreaking in Italy. I had watched John Oliver’s 01MAR2020 episode for water cooler conversation but we were going beyond that.

After the meeting I turned to a work colleague and observed that I had been working at the Queensland University of Technology during the Swine flu and Bird flu scares and the Ebola outbreaks to the West in 2014. I had lived through MERS and SARS too. With all the international students at QUT we had never had a meeting to prepare for contingencies like this.

The penny should have dropped there.

 

Rita Wilson (with Tom Hanks) | Iconic Beauty Looks From the 1995 ...

March 12

I was standing at Stellarossa Toowong getting my morning coffee when the barista told me “Tom Hanks has got coronavirus.”

I asked if this was one of those things news pranks and she assured me it was not. Wow I thought. Sure enough back at my desk I saw a news headline saying Tom Hanks and wife have coronavirus. I walked over to my boss who was about the same age and joked I feel like saying “Her name is Rita Wilson, show some goddamn respect” of the actress, singer and producer in her own right.

This may sound horrible but the diagnosis of a celebrity let alone such a beloved one might have proven the moment for a lot of people that this thing was to be taken seriously. Tom Hanks getting it kind of drove home the point that anyone could.

Pregnant superstar Katy Perry performed in Bright, Victoria to give back to bushfire ravaged communities, to thousands of people. This followed on from her performance in the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup Final on the 8th.

On the 10th, Miley Cyrus had cancelled her appearance at a Melbourne bushfire relief concert due to coronavirus concerns. While Perry was lauded for her performances the decision by Cyrus was already starting to appear sensible.

This was Thursday, the same day that the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic. “The number of cases outside China increased 13-fold in the past two weeks. Now there are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died, with the numbers expected to climb.

That day the World Health Organisation reported that China had gone from 80,302 cases on the 3rd of March, 2020 to 80,981 on the 12th of March, 2020 with a daily increase of 26.  The death toll was reported as 3,173 with a daily increase of 11.

In Iran there were 10,705 cases with 1,075 of those having just been reported that day. 75 people died in Iran that day bringing the death toll to 429.

In Italy there were 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 987 cases total reported with a daily increase of 281. The national death toll stood at 29 with four from that day.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, 134 new cases reported that day increased the national total to 594. Two new deaths brought the total to eight in the country.

In Australia there were 140 cases with a daily increase of 18. The death toll stood at 3.

In Canada there were a total of 93 cases with no new daily increases. The first death had been reported the day before.

In the episode Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that aired on the 1st of March, 2020, Oliver noted that “Trust in institutions is critical when trying to contain a possible pandemic.” On reflection of what would happen in the days following the 12th of March these words only ring more true to me.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – 03MAR2020

FILE IMAGE of the Brisbane suburb Toowong.

A crisis unfolds through so many strands, it starts with a murmur and then all of a sudden the ground is shaking and nobody knows if the earth is going to open up and swallow you whole. Maybe you just need to find your footing, maybe the ground will stop shaking and you’ll sigh a sigh of relief and move on. In no time you might even forget how scary it all was.

School children are being encouraged to write diaries in these days as they live throughout history. A little personal account of a global event. I have been inspired to follow suit if a little too late to truly be in spirit of the act.

Already it is hard to retrace but I will try.

March 03

Where I work is not far from the University of Queensland in terms of a drive. I work in the suburb of Toowong just outside the main Brisbane CBD along Coronation Drive in the river.

I am fond of getting a morning coffee from the nearby Stellarossa Café in Toowong village.

On the 3rd of March, 2020 it was reported that a 20 year old resident of Toowong and UQ student from China was confirmed to have coronavirus. (Remember when we were calling it that.)

I remember flicking through the front page about this at Stellarossa. The student had spent 14 days in Dubai as a precautionary measure. He landed in Brisbane on the 23rd of February, 2020 and became unwell two days later. He was the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in my home state of Queensland.

There were 33 cases in the whole of Australia on the 3rd of March and the first Australian had died from the disease two days earlier.

His name was James Kwan and he was 78 years old. Having spent his career in the tourism industry he was on holidays aboard the cruise ship the Diamond Princess along with 150 other Australians when it had been forced to go into quarantine throughout February in the Japanese port of Yokohama. After a long journey that included diagnosis and isolation in the Northern Territory he returned to his hometown of Perth and passed away in hospital.

In China the World Health Organisation was reporting a cumulative total of 80,302 cases since the first rumblings back in November, 2019 with only a daily increase of 128. There were 31 new deaths from Coronavirus reported in the country adding to a total death toll of 2,946 deaths.

In Iran there were 2,336 cases and with a daily increase of 835. Eleven people died in Iran that day with 77 total dead already.

In Italy there 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 188 cases total reported so far with a daily increase of 44. The first two deaths in the country had been reported on the 2nd of March.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, there were 51 cases with a daily increase of 12. There were no death reported in Great Britain until the 6th of March.

In Canada there were three new cases and a total of 30 reported in the whole country. The first death would be reported over a week later on the 11th of March.

China, Italy and Iran and the Diamond Princess were in the news already but on the 3rd of March the coronavirus had come to my home town and most specifically to where I worked.

And then Tom Hanks got it…

-Lloyd Marken