May Day! COVID Chronicles 5-1-2020


Hello stranger!  What better time to post an update to this blog than when we are all stuck at home in quarantine?  These are unprecedented times we are living in, my friends. We are quickly approaching the 3rd month of society’s shutdown and stay-at-home orders from our local and federal government. These orders, along with social distancing guidelines, are the best measures to mitigate the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic that has taken over the world since the beginning of the year.  By many indications, the first cases of the virus originated overseas late last year in the Far East.  Unfortunately, since the virus’ arrival here in the U.S., we were slow to react and have been playing catch-up from the beginning.  This was due to a combination of factors, including possible inaccurate data and a delay in communications from international sources. But more importantly, and disconcertingly, our federal government’s incompetence in dealing with the severity of this pandemic is largely to blame.  The Trump administration scoffed at the seriousness of Covid-19 in the beginning and likened it to the common flu, saying that it will more than likely go away on its own.  On February 27th, Trump exclaims in a White House briefing “It’s going to disappear,” “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”*^  His administration’s refusal to acknowledge the virus as an imminent pandemic continued into late February and early March, even after numerous warnings from international and federal health officials since the beginning of January**^.  It was not until the World Health Organization officially declared it as a global pandemic on March 11th that President Trump subsequently declared a national emergency on March 13th.*^  This excerpt from Marketwatch.com aptly describes the response: “For weeks after the first U.S. case of the coronavirus was confirmed in January, government missteps caused a shortage of reliable laboratory tests for the coronavirus, leading to delays in diagnoses.”**^^

Based on the data and science gathered, the people most vulnerable to this virus are the elderly and immunocompromised. But the truth is, it can cause harm and even be fatal to anyone at any age or condition. We can have the virus, have mild or no symptoms whatsoever, and be a silent carrier unknowingly infecting others. We just don’t know how it will affect any one individual.  For the majority of people that require hospitalization from this illness, it infects the respiratory system and causes fever, severe coughing and swelling in the lungs.  It can cause pneumonia and severely inhibit the victim’s ability to breathe, to the point where they need to be put on a ventilator.  And in the very worst cases, they never come off that ventilator and succumb to the disease.    

It has been a struggle for society as a whole to have enough testing and treatments to keep up with the rampant spread of this illness. It is now a race against time to come up with a viable treatment to slow the effects of this virus, let alone a vaccine to prevent and cure it.  And there is a glimmer of hope in regards to possible treatments, as they announced today that the antiviral medication “Remdesivir” has shown some promise in clinical trials. It has just been granted Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) by the FDA as an emergency treatment that can possibly quicken the recovery times of those infected by Covid-19.  Remdesivir was previously tested as a possible treatment for the Ebola outbreak back in 2014 ^.  There is also a possible vaccine coming to the forefront that is currently being researched by Oxford University in England.  The university is partnering with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop the drug in large scale, should it prove to be effective against Covid-19 in humans.  Results of the drug’s effects on several hundred people that were vaccinated should be complete by mid-June 2020 ^^.

As of 3:50pm on 5/1/2020, there are 3,321,402 confirmed Covid-19 infections worldwide, with 237,180 total deaths in 187 countries*. Unfortunately, America has the most cases of, and most deaths from, this virus in the world. In the United States, the national deathtoll due to this pandemic is now a very sobering 64,203 out of a total of 1,091,038 positive U.S. cases*. The country with the 2nd most confirmed novel coronavirus infections is Spain with 213,435 people infected, less than 20% of what the U.S. has.* What makes America beautiful is that it’s the land of freedom, dreams and opportunity. But what makes our country such an attractive destination, and such a melting pot for humans worldwide, also makes us the most vulnerable during global pandemics. And nowhere is this more evident than where we are in New York City, the epicenter of this crisis. In NYC alone there have been a total of 174,921 cases thus far and 18,399 deaths**. For perspective, there were 2,977 casualties from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 – an event many of us thought would be the worst disaster we would ever see on US soil during our lifetimes. The Vietnam War had 58,220 American deaths* over a span of 11 years. The current Coronavirus deathtoll has eclipsed them both, as the number of deaths continue to climb daily. Since 2010, the average total deaths from the common flu (influenza) in America is between 12,000 to 61,000***. It is now painfully clear that this is not like the common flu, not even close. 

Personally, I am on Day 51 of self-imposed lockdown and have barely been outside, aside from a handful of grocery runs and short walks for fresh air. And of course, no excursion to the warzone outside that is the streets of NYC can be taken without the combat gear of facemask and gloves. And currently in NY State, by law, you must wear some sort of mask or face covering when out in public through May 15th.  There’s only so many newscasts one can stand, and a finite number of shows and movies we can binge on Netflix before starting to go stir crazy. Cabin fever is a real phenomenon, as I’m sure the majority of people can relate to at this point. But I’d rather deal with cabin fever at home than a 105 degree fever while on a ventilator in a hospital with Covid-19.  Or worse than that, unwittingly infect an elderly family member and send them to the hospital. 

The news right now is not all bad though, because there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.  Many areas are showing signs that the rate of infection is slowing and the number of new infections and deaths are on the decline.  As a result, many states are looking into plans to re-open the economy and allow non-essential businesses to resume operations.  In NYC, the U.S. Naval hospital ship “Comfort” has left the shores of New York because we no longer need it for an overflow of Covid-19 patients since cases are on the decline.  After treating close to 1100 patients, the last remaining patient infected with the Coronavirus located at the Jacob Javits Center was discharged today, and the temporary US Army hospital at the event center is now closed.  This is all a direct result of most of the country’s shut-down of non-essential businesses, and restrictions put in place by public health and government officials to encourage all citizens to stay home to stop the spread of this disease.  We are, however, not clear of danger yet and we must not be complacent.  If we don’t collectively continue to follow public health and social distancing guidelines, things can become worse again before they get better.  

There are obvious heroes that have emerged from this global crisis, and they are the brave doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and first responders who are risking their own lives to care for the victims of this pandemic.  They are the true definition of selflessness, compassion and humanity.  Bravo.  All the other essential workers, grocery store and pharmacy employees, train and bus drivers, etc. deserve praise as well.  Thank you for sacrificing your well-being to keep us functioning as a society during these crazy times.  Thinking of them makes it all the more infuriating when you see the imbeciles in some areas forming large mobs of people in the streets, protesting their town’s lockdown and screaming through megaphones for their town to re-open.  And of course, many of them are not wearing masks to prevent the spread of any virus – and most, if not all, are standing within inches of each other.  Even if they do not care about endangering their own health, it is this type of irresponsible, selfish and ignorant behavior that can prolong this crisis and make things worse for everyone else.  

So Stay Home, Stay Safe.  If you must go out, cover your face!  Wear your gloves!  Stay 6 feet apart!  And wash those hands!  

This too shall pass…We will get through this, but we must do it as a team…from home.    

Sources:
*^‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline

‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavir…Tom McCarthyThe president was personally warned about the growing crisis beginning in mid-January – but continued to give fa…
**^  As Trump administration debated travel restrictions, thousands streamed in from China

As Trump administration debated travel restrictions, thousands streamed …Katherine EbanIn defending his strategy against the deadly coronavirus, President Donald Trump repeatedly has said he slowed i…
**^^Trump’s ban on China travel: his claims vs. the facts

Trump’s ban on China travel: his claims vs. the factsAssociated PressTrump’s order was not solely his decision nor did it fully close the U.S. off to China, the Associated Press sta…

*  COVID-19 global stats & data from Johns Hopkins University**  Covid-19 U.S. and NYC data from John’s Hopkins University & The New York Times
***  data from CDC.gov
^    info from CNBC.com
^^  info from CNN.com

Clarity for 20/20

2020, PERFECT VISION. HOW FITTING. TIME TO FOCUS OUR SIGHTS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN OUR LIVES. AND GET RID OF THE NEGATIVITY AND TOXICITY. WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY, SAFE & PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. 2020 LET’S GET IT! #HAPPYNEWYEAR #HAPPY2020 #FOCUS

9/11 Never Forget

It’s been 18 years since the most tragic and horrific day in the history of the United States of America, September 11th 2001. A few days ago, as I drove by the 9/11 ‘Tribute in Lights’ I had to take a picture as I marveled at its majesty while lamenting what it symbolizes. On this day that altered American history 18 years ago, I remember being on the subway on my way to work. People that came into the train were talking about how a plane had just ‘accidentally’ flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We would later find out that it was no accident.
When I got to my office, through the big south-facing windows from the 17th floor of my SoHo office building, I saw the second plane fly smack into the middle of the second tower. Shortly after, I witnessed the two mighty towers that were engulfed in flames completely crumble to the ground. What I saw through the windows with my own two eyes that morning still haunt me to this day, and will remain in my mind until my very last day. The landscape and skyline that we took for granted for so long was now forever transformed, as were our lives from that day forward. The pungent stench and clouds of debris from all the fallen metal, concrete, glass and other materials would remain in the NYC air for many many months to follow. The thousands of lives lost and the families and friends they’ve impacted affect us all.
I personally have friends and family that narrowly escaped peril on that day, and I lost a former colleague. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I think a little bit of each of us died on that solemn day. All we can do is keep fighting, no matter what struggles and hardships we face. Not just for ourselves, but for the ones that matter to us. Never give up. Never give in. But never forget.

Spring Fever!

Baseball is finally back folks! 🙌 Today is Opening Day of the regular season for Major League Baseball. Being a native New Yorker, I will be biased and mainly following the progress of my local teams for the next 162 games, and hopefully beyond. There are many storylines to follow as the season begins as both New York clubs have made changes to bolster their respective teams in the off-season. Will the high-powered Yankees improve on last season’s playoff letdown with the addition of oft-injured all-star hitter Troy Tulowitski, among others, to supplement their power duo behemoths Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge? Will the Mets be able to make it back to the playoffs with the addition of veteran hitter (and former Yankee star) Robinson Cano and 24 yr old star closer (with an MLB-best 57 saves in 2018) Edwin Diaz?

The Yankees will be at home in the Bronx to host the lowly Baltimore Orioles, with their 2nd best pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on the mound (#1 Yankee starter Luis Severino starts the season on the disabled list until May with a rotator cuff injury). And my boys in Orange & Blue, the NY Mets will start the season in Washington DC to play a 3 game series against the Nationals. This game in particular should be one to watch as it features 2 of the best pitchers in baseball (and winners of the last 3 NL Cy Youngs): 2018 National League Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom of the Mets vs. Max Scherzer (’16 & ’17 NL Cy Young winner) for the Nationals. This has only happened twice before in the history of Major League Baseball where the top 2 Cy Young award vote-getters match up on opening day of the following season. And it is happening twice again today with deGrom vs. Scherzer in the National League and Blake Snell (2018 AL Cy Young winner) of the Tampa Bay Rays vs. runner-up Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros in the American League. The last time this happened was 40 years ago on opening day of the 1979 baseball season. The Cy Young award is baseball’s highest honor for pitchers, given out after the end of each season to give recognition to the best in the game. deGrom easily won the award in 2018 with an MLB-best 1.70 earned run average, while Scherzer was no slouch as runner up with a record of 18-7 with a 2.53 era. Of course, being the Met fan that I am, I’m hoping that Scherzer has an uncharacteristic off-day and the Mets crush every ball that he hurls at them. The more likely scenario for this game is that scoring will be at a premium and this will be one of those proverbial “pitchers’ duels” with these 2 superstars toeing the rubber today. And deGrom should be able to focus a bit better coming into opening day, fresh off his brand new five-year, $137.5 million extension with the Mets. This new deal makes him the highest paid athlete in New York based on average annual salary. deGrom had publicly stated that he wanted to complete contract talks before the start of the season to eliminate that distraction, so kudos to the Mets and new GM Brodie Van Wagenen for making that happen. Prediction: Mets win 3-1. Let’s play ball! 🥎🥎🥎

**Stats & info from MLB.com and the MLB At Bat mobile app

Superbowl LIII (53) – GOAT edition

Superbowl 53 is officially upon us, folks. The biggest sports event of the year (and most expensive, with 30 second ad spots during this year’s telecast costing an average of $5.25 Million, the most expensive it’s ever been*) is happening this Sunday February 3rd at 6:30pm EST in Atlanta, GA. It is estimated that well over 100 million people will be tuning in here in the U.S.* Superbowl 2019 will feature the LA Rams, going for their 2nd superbowl win in their history, and the perennial Superbowl contenders the New England Patriots, going for their 6th Superbowl victory. The Patriots have been the AFC champions three years in a row, and consequently are making their 3rd consecutive Superbowl appearance. If the Patriots pull off another championship win this Sunday, it will tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most superbowl championships in NFL history (6).

And all 5 of the Patriots’ championships so far have been with Tom Brady at the helm as their starting Quarterback. If they achieve a 6th Superbowl win this Sunday, it will only solidify Brady’s status as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Brady’s 5 championships are the most for any quarterback in history, with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw tied for second best with 4 Lombardi trophies each. Love him or hate him, there is no denying his achievements and his status as a living legend. What Michael Jordan is to basketball, Brady is to football. If he wins his 6th Superbowl on Sunday, he will have even more in common with Michael Jordan with 6 world championships each. And although the Brady-era Patriots have had its share of controversies over the years (e.g. spygate, deflategate), they are mere minor blemishes on an otherwise stellar and storied career. At 41 years old, he is showing no signs of slowing down and had publicly stated that he plans on playing until he turns 45. Although nothing is guaranteed and anything can certainly happen, I know I wouldn’t bet against the best QB of all time. Have a happy Superbowl Sunday folks!

*( info from http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/super-bowl-53-commercials-how-much-do-ads-cost-in-2019/l9ghpuv7kwwq1uhwy9xd35rhm )

Oh, so good!

2019 is definitely off to a great and groundbreaking start for Hollywood with the Golden Globe awards telecast this past weekend. Not only did she co-host the show, but Sandra Oh became the first Asian actress in over three decades to win best actress honors for her role in the BBC America original series “Killing Eve”. Oh made history in 2018 as the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy award for lead actress in a drama for the same role. The 2018 smash hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians also deserves an honorable mention for being nominated for 2 awards, namely: Best Picture, Musical or Comedy and its female lead Constance Wu for Best Actress, Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film grossed over $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. A sequel is currently in the works with a planned release date of June 26, 2020. Let’s hope this is a sign of more positive change and representation to come. Not just in Hollywood, but in our society as a whole, in 2019 and beyond!

Bored To Life movie review – Molly’s Game

 

Aaron Sorkin is best known for writing Academy Award winning screenplays (The Social Network) and Emmy winning TV shows (The West Wing).  In Sorkin’s directorial debut in the movie “Molly’s Game”, he does an admirable job in bringing the true story of world-class skier turned poker princess Molly Bloom to the big screen.  The film is based off of Bloom’s self-penned memoirs, and Bloom was consulted throughout the making of the film.  After an unfortunate accident on the slopes during competition (an occurrence which was created for the movie but did not happen in her real life) brought Bloom’s Olympic career and aspirations to an abrupt halt, circumstances and fate brought her out to Los Angeles and to the doorstep of a Hollywood insider/ restaurateur.  She was hired to be his office assistant, which transformed into doubling as the organizer and manager of his weekly private poker game.  Molly knew nothing about poker, but did the necessary research and absorbed her surroundings while hobnobbing and schmoozing with the Hollywood and sports world elite.  After learning what she needed to know about running the game, and getting the contact info for the game’s exclusive clientele, Molly eventually separated from her employer and began organizing and managing the weekly game on her own.  This became an extremely profitable enterprise for Bloom, making her multiple millions at its peak.  She brought her talents to New York to run an even bigger and more profitable poker game for years before the Russian mob and, eventually, the FBI impeded her plans.

I was fortunate enough to be at the movie’s premiere at Lincoln Square in New York City on December 13th.  Aaron Sorkin got up in front of the audience to give an introduction to the movie.  He described Jessica Chastain (who plays Molly Bloom) as “no other person I would rather be in the trenches and battlefield with” when making a movie, and he went on to talk about Molly Bloom as his “forever Heroine”.  And after seeing the movie, you understand the accuracy in both of his descriptions.  Chastain gives an outstanding and believable performance, as does Idris Elba as her criminal defense attorney Charlie Jaffey.  Veteran actor Kevin Costner also gives a notable performance in the role of Bloom’s demanding father, Larry Bloom.

I can appreciate Sorkin’s attempt to provide some insight into the world of underground poker clubs and poker at the casinos.  Having been around the poker scene for many years myself, both in the casinos and the private clubs, I can say that this movie falls somewhat short of its goal to look and feel authentic on at least one occasion.  I get it, it’s a movie, and movies are made to entertain people.  So scenes tend to be portrayed a certain way for a more dramatic and memorable effect.  But there is almost a zero percent chance that someone that knows anything about poker, even a novice, could be convinced to fold the nuts (i.e. – the best poker hand at that particular point in time) just by annoying table banter from another player, no matter how influential the other player is or how flustered he gets a fellow player.  And that is what Michael Cera’s “Player X” character is somehow able to do in this movie, bully another “newbie” player into folding the nuts purely from convincing table banter.  Unlikely in real life, but entertaining in the world of make-believe.

The movie’s attempt at showing realistic poker scenarios does redeem itself to a degree in another scene, however.  The methodical case study of a poker player on tilt is brilliantly portrayed by Bill Camp as Harlan Eustice, a solid and conservative veteran poker player who is normally a consistent winner at the game.  That is, until he thoroughly loses it after an inferior player bluffs him off what would have been his winning hand at one of Molly Bloom’s private L.A. games.  The downward spiral that ensues and his mental breakdown pretty accurately depicts what every gambler can relate to – chasing after that elusive win as you go deeper into the hole and your bankroll dwindles during an extensive losing streak.  You can almost see the black cloud hanging over Harlan’s head as he loses hand after hand and his mental state switches from anger to depression, and everything in between.  It is also later revealed that “Player X” staked Harlan into the game, meaning Player X paid for Harlan’s buy-in in order to invest in him and share in his profits, or take on his losses – which is a very common practice in the poker world.

Aside from some of the embellishments and over-dramatization in a few of the poker scenes, the movie does do a good job of putting us into the shoes of Molly Bloom and giving us a realistic feel for her struggles as well as her triumphs.  Overall, it is an entertaining and cautionary tale, showing us the highs and the lows of the human experience as one goes through the journey of figuring out their path in life.  I give this movie a solid 3.5 out of 5 pints of Bud Light.

🍺🍺🍺🍻

For NYC

A vignette by K.M.

I felt the energy of the night so intense it broke me down to a sobbing cry … New York City can do that to a person … Elton John told us to turn around and say good morning to the night … and that’s how Manhattan is … mornings turn quickly into nights … nights turn quietly into mornings … and now I have to leave … my morning has arrived.

The vigor of New York will turn a writer into a novelist carving their stories into novellas not praised for the beauty and flow of words but for the size of the tales inked from near eternal nights and carried into the early light.

Is it the brain or the heart that allows us to love … can you love a city in the same passionate way you do a new lover. As the metropolis ingests it’s devoted practitioners fueling its subways and taxis and eateries … the brain and its autocratic function wrangles the heart for every last drop of the city’s stimulus.

The solemn morning begins to illuminate over a different horizon. I close my eyes and let the warmth of the fresh sun set an ember to my imagination.