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Day 16 Update: Global pandemic + Quarantine + Head Lice.

29 March 2020 - 

So we’re still here making ceramics in Barcelona.

Woke up a few days ago to discover my 2 ½’ tall black hairy friend with a tail had little white, very tiny - like magnifying glass tiny - white bugs crawling on her. So that was concerning. 

Well I guess that counts as a pandemic reason to leave the house and head over to the vet which has a microscope with some of the little white, very very tiny, bugs - minus the dog.

Speaking of little bugs, that pandemic.  

We’re now finishing up two weeks staying at home. It looks like our local population infection rate has reached 0.1%. We’ll be at 0.2% tomorrow, 0.5% in one week and 1.3% in two weeks. The ICU beds are basically full, though they are bringing on capacity as fast as they can. Here's a link to the spreadsheet and the source data for Barcelona and a few cities in North America.

In Barcelona

Down at the port of Barcelona they are manufacturing basic ventilators from 3D printers, other parts and a downloadable design from Rice University. Folks are sewing masks, and hand making face shields in their homes for cleaners, cashiers, and other workers to free up masks for healthcare workers.

In addition, the Spanish government is receiving 500 million masks next week to help get through a few weeks, they are sourcing more. France ordered 1 billion masks. Airbus is running emergency freight flights between China and Europe to bring in supplies.

Folks are asking what life is like in Barcelona right now. This article yesterday was a pretty fair depiction of it, plus much better written than I ever could.

We’re now being asked to stay home for another two weeks with more restrictive measures of only essential services allowed (food, health, communication).

We also have new infection protocols from the government for when we go outside. The government is noting that “family spread” is causing a lot of infections. That means when one person goes out to get food, work etc. and comes home and gets everyone sick. So now when we go out food shopping - when we get home:

  • We have a plastic bag where we drop our keys, wallets and leave at the front door
  • We have “outside” shoes and leave these by the door
  • We immediately wash our hands for 20 seconds without touching anything when getting home
  • We take off our clothes, place in a plastic bag then take to the washing machine and wash at at least 60º C
  • We shower
  • We disinfect our phone and any glasses we were wearing.

Needless to say we don’t run out to get ice cream.

Good news is the rate of new infections is slowing. From 20% locally and nationally has moved in the past week down to 10-12%. Though even if we slow more, and hopefully we do we’ll still have 3 to 4x that amount of infections in 10 to 14 days. In sum, the sooner you get going (err stopping) the sooner it can be managed.

Wendy and I look at news and talk with folks in North America. Every single time we get off the phone, video call or finish reading the article we say “They still don’t get it.”

For what it's worth, it’s fine to be afraid of this stuff. I hope it’s a normal human reaction. I had my first ever panic attack the other day. I guess it happens, you adapt, get your head wrapped around it and move forward. 

Economics

Well this is a big puzzle. 

Debt, inflation, interest rates, bankruptcy, liquidity - kind of like an entire economic zoo for which I really don’t want an entrance ticket.

Having spent time in Argentina right after the end of one of their seemingly endless episodes of hyperinflation, way off in the distance (like 3 to 6 months - that’s a joke) one thing I'm keeping an eye on is inflation. 

Here’s a little article that gives a simple framework how to think about recovery. Super basic, kind of a let down. Though in these circumstances there is so much unknown, that they basically can’t write anything more cause no one knows. Let’s just hope to be like Canada and not Greece. 

How does this all end?

It will end, the sun will come up and things will be good. I envision it ending with me being with Wendy and all of my friends on a sunny weekend day at the park cooking up some delicious barbeque.

I found this article about the 1918 spanish flu and policy responses helpful in thinking about what to do. In sum I took away four things:

  1. Local governments act sooner rather than later (you cannot act soon enough)
  2. By acting you can decrease deaths by 50%
  3. Local actions are more important than grand national plans
  4. This will take 12 to 20 more weeks to get clarity on a distant end game (healthwise). 

(As random Internet searches tell me), it’s referred to as the Spanish Flu because Spain was one of the few countries that kept detailed national data about the outbreak.

 

Despite the political speculation at the end. This article I thought layed out where we all end up in a few months. 

So I’m off to work on some ceramics Internet marketing and Wendy is in the studio making ceramics.

Oh, those little white bugs were not lice. They were due to humidity and birds coming into the city now that the humans are not out on the streets. Who knew. So just a pandemic to deal with, with that perspective things are not so bad.

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Hope to see you at that barbeque. Oh, don't forget to wash your hands.