Looks Like We’ll Be In Lockdown For At Least A Year

Now that it’s finally clear that we will be in this sucky situation for minimally 12 months, I’m trying to come up with a new life plan. Ideally, a passion project that provides meaning and excitement for the next 18 months.

The challenge?  

It has to be something I cannot wait to get out of bed for every morning BUT at the same, it has to be something that can be done while living as a recluse, Garbo-style.

Maybe that’s why Sweden’s been on my mind

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Sweden has decided to go with a very liberal lockdown policy which has raised a lot of eyebrows around the world. However, I must add that after speaking with my friends in Stockholm, it is a bit of a myth that no social distancing is going on.

What is true is that Sweden is at the forefront of the social distancing movement, e.g., more than half of households are single-person and more people work from home than anywhere else in Europe.

What has been controversial is that the death toll in Sweden is higher than in neighboring Denmark and Norway, but significantly lower than in Italy, Spain, and the UK, per Bloomberg News

The Swedish government did offer a handful of recommendations including suggestions to stop nonessential travel, to work from home, to keep a distance from others in public, and for regular handwashing. Additionally, the government banned gatherings of over 50 people and enacted a moratorium on visiting places like nursing homes. They’ve also added obesity and being over-70 to their list of high-risk factors.

That said, if the Swedish way holds and the country opens up to foreign visitors later this year (including for my over-70 cohort) while America stays locked down, I am seriously thinking of transplanting myself to my favorite hotel in Stockholm and weathering the pandemic there for however long it takes until America re-opens. Wintering in Sweden will definitely be a different experience but one I believe I would find pretty fascinating. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, scroll down for more on Sweden’s approach as well as 10 other intriguing discoveries on how we’re handling the pandemic.

1. Sweden Vs. The Rest Of The World
  • The Swedes believe that no government can keep people locked up until there is a vaccine.
  • In their view locking down whole societies for a period of time doesn’t guarantee lower death rates, it just postpones them.
  • A Harvard model projects a 60% suppression of the disease will result in a higher peak later on and a higher number of total deaths than a mitigation strategy like the one Sweden used, where the spread is reduced by no more than 20 or 40% so that the disease can pass through the population to create herd immunity during a period when the vulnerable are protected. Other models come to other conclusions, depending on what you put into them. Nobody knows yet, and only time will tell.
  • According to the Swedes, herd immunity might yet beat herd mentality.

For those of you interested in the Swedish approach here are 5 recent articles worth reading:

  • High-risk groups. Link here.
  • Nursing home fatalities. Link here.
  • How long will this go on? Link here.
  • Life in lockdown/quarantine in Sweden. Links here and here.
2. Princess Sofia Cuts Down Royal Duties To Do this
  • Just one more reason why I love the Swedes.
  • On Instagram, she announced that, after undergoing training, she is now a medical assistant at Sophiahemmet hospital.
  • She posted a picture of her navy blue scrubs, and her new name tag, with “Sofia” printed in all capital letters.
3. Still swooning for Hilma Af Klint.

The new documentary on this Swedish artist was just released

  • Her retrospective at the Guggenheim was one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen. It gave me, and many others, “the spiritual chills.
  • This documentary includes interviews with family members and is an absolute visual treat (albeit slow-going; it picks up steam at the 35-minute mark).
  • Although a little ponderous, I still recommend it. Here’s the link to the movie (it’s $12 to stream).
  • And if I end up in Sweden, I will surely be doing some Hilma af Klint sleuthing.
4. Self-Isolation Tips from the medieval “anchorite” women
  • In doing research on self-isolation, I came across this article about late-medieval Europe, where certain people, especially women (known as “anchorites), permanently withdrew from society to live walled in, alone in a room attached to a church.
relevant advice from these professional self-isolators: Keep busy to keep sane!
  • Anchorites and writers of manuals for anchorites reflected on how to keep sane.
  • Keeping occupied prevents one from climbing the walls. British Cistercian monk, Abbot Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167), tells his sister, an anchorite, in A Rule of Life for a Recluse that: “Idleness … breeds distaste for quiet and disgust for the cell.”
  • Routines are key. Anchorites recited sequences of prayers at fixed points in the day. According to modern survival psychology, dividing a problem or stretch of time into manageable steps is crucial when faced with a crisis. Equally important is performing each step one by one, never looking further ahead than the next step.
  • Mentally absorbing hobbies, such as crafts, gardening or reading, are another time-honored strategy for dealing with self-isolation.
  • These suggestions are easily translatable to today. According to survival psychology, performing manageable, directed actions with a purpose is crucial in crises.
  • Incidentally, anchorites were also advised to keep cats!
5. We’re all speaking COVID Now

“I find it fascinating that words which we weren’t using 3 months ago are suddenly completely normal and natural and are probably featured in the majority of conversations that we are having.”

Fiona McPherson, Oxford English Dictionary’s Senior Editor of New Words
  • The Oxford English Dictionary is always monitoring linguistic developments, and the spread of the virus through the world can be seen in its monthly lists of top 20 keywords.
  • In January, eight were related to the pandemic; by February, that number had risen to 14, and then, in March, all 20 words were linked to COVID-19.

Some of the new entries are:

  • Self-isolation, first recorded in 1834
  • Social distancing, first used in 1957
  • WFH (work from home), first used as a noun in 1994 and as a verb in 2001
  • Elbow bump, from 1981
  • Personal protective equipment, dates back to 1934 while the PPE abbreviation was first used in 1977
6. The Covid Diet: kimchi and sauerkraut

Sales of fermented cabbages like sauerkraut and kimchi have spiked: 

  • Sauerkraut sales surged 960% year-over-year in the week of March 29 (Source: Bloomreach)
  • Kimchi sales have jumped 952% in the week of Feb. 16.
  • Experts say people are turning to the acidic dishes to protect themselves against the still-mysterious COVID-19 bug — even though there’s no evidence they will prevent or cure the disease.
  • The sales boom comes amid reports of low coronavirus death rates in Germany and South Korea, where sauerkraut and kimchi are traditional staples.

I have been a huge fan of Google Maps but never has it been more useful than it is at this moment when we’re all social distancing in stores and, of course, want to be able to shop when they are least busy.

If you’re not already using this feature, I highly recommend you add Google Maps to your home screen.

8. Is Anybody hiring during covid-19?

Over 22 million Americans are currently unemployed (over 50% of people in Los Angeles County have lost their jobs!).

But there is hiring going on – especially by food retailers like Walmart, Target, Kroger. Amazon, meanwhile, is on a major hiring spree. They are looking to add 175,000 people for warehouse and logistics positions.

And as tech has become our lifesaver, software engineers are the most sought-after workers in the tech sector.

  • There were 46,188 new listings for software engineers on Career Builder.
  • The next most popular listings are for Java developers and project managers, followed by systems engineers and IT help desk specialists.
  • Facebook is hiring 10,000 workers mostly in product and engineering.
  • Google currently has over 3,000 open positions including software engineers and program managers.
  • Amazon is looking to fill over 20,000 roles in tech (apart from the 175,000 positions they have open in warehousing and logistics).
  • Apple is also looking for software engineers, product managers and retail workers even as the Apple stores remain closed.
9. Zoom/Facetime get togethers
  • I’ve now tried Zoom, FaceTime, Webex and Microsoft Teams. My favorite, by far, is FaceTime. I’ve also come to the conclusion that for me, it is only really enjoyable with one or two friends at a time. Larger groups get too glitchy and hard to follow to be fun – for me! And for all those folk who are trying to set up virtual cocktail parties, count me OUT!
  • But all of these teleconferencing tools are subpar in my opinion. I can’t imagine the frustration people must be experiencing if this is how they have to interact with colleagues all day long.
  • Everyone I know who is working from home cannot wait to get back to an office or co-working space. And I don’t blame them.
And what about TV shows broadcast from home?
  • Reporting, whether it’s business or the local news, is now strictly amateur hour.
  • I try to watch Bloomberg every morning but it’s gotten so pathetic I’m muting it most of the time. Half the interviewees, coming in on Skype or whatever, lose their connection mid-sentence. And by the time they’ve gotten them back on the air again, you’ve forgotten what they were saying in the first place.
  • The anchors are talking over each other. If more than one guest is on, everyone starts talking at once and then stops all at once. Awful.
  • I cannot wait for everyone to be back in their studios (with professional hair and makeup). But who knows when that will be!
10. Why has there been so little oversight of nursing homes?

  • The big takeaway, when they do the final analysis of how this was handled, will be the failure of government (federal, state and local) to assess the danger accurately.
  • Instead of identifying the actual epicenters, the States rushed to close businesses big and small, leaving nursing homes largely unchecked as they turned into death pits.
  • For the last two weeks, Cuomo has gotten peppered with questions about nursing home deaths every day. His response for over a week has been that they are private businesses and the State cannot monitor them. “We only know what they tell us,” he said. Really? And yet if a New Yorker walks too close to somebody and without a mask they can get fined $1000. But nursing homes can’t be monitored because of “privacy issues.” Give me a break.
Nursing homes are the epicenter not only in the States but all over the world.
  • Belgium Records Half of Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes (link here).
  • Nearly half of Western New Yorkers dead of COVID-19 are nursing home residents, according to data released by the New York State Department of Health Monday.
  • Coronavirus cases up 46% in Bucks County nursing homes. Link here.
  • In the UK, 4,000 residents in care homes are estimated to have died from coronavirus. Link here.
  • Half of All Coronavirus Deaths in Some European Countries Are Happening in Care Homes. Link here.
And finally, from The Hill, let’s contemplate what we are willing to give up to feel 100% safe

On Wednesday, Cuomo said that the pandemic response will be over “when people know ‘I’m 100 percent safe, and I don’t have to worry about this.’” That 100 percent safety expectation is not how we conduct the rest of our lives.

Just a thought as we hunker down to spend another 12-18 months of our lives as shut-ins.

I for one, have never led my life aspiring to be 100% safe. And at 70, I don’t plan to start now.

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