Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 27, 2020

Life and Death in the Epicenter

Filed under: coronavirus,Counterpunch,health and fitness — louisproyect @ 3:08 pm


When it comes to warding off COVID-19, I’ve been ahead of the curve. Last October, after a bout with acute bronchitis that lasted most of the month, I resolved never to go through such an ordeal again. I started using hand sanitizer and avoided touching my face. Like my glaucoma, it is a geriatric illness. When I checked the New York Times archives for tips on dealing with bronchitis, I was shocked to discover how many well-known and powerful geezers came down with it: Konrad Adenauer, Boris Yeltsin, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Paul Robeson. None died from bronchitis, but around half were hospitalized, a routine treatment for powerful heads of state (except for Robeson.)

While bronchitis is not life-threatening, COVID-19 certainly is. As a septuagenarian, I am vulnerable. On top of that, the illness indicated that my immune system was compromised, just as you’d expect. Getting through this pandemic is a matter of life and death for me, especially since I live in New York City, the epicenter.

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  1. From one geezer to another: Thank the gods, Louis, that you had that acute bronchitis last fall. As trying as it surely must have been, you learned even more basic-survival tactics. And that is good. We need to have you around for…another couple of decades.

    Thanks for another fine essay, by the way.

    Comment by William Boyd — March 27, 2020 @ 5:05 pm

  2. Are you planning on writing about Andrew Cuomo? I’d like to read your take on him and NY politics in general, especially since the media and Democrats are now fawning over him.

    Comment by Calvin — March 27, 2020 @ 7:07 pm

  3. This is an excellent article, Louis. On target throughout and written with great insights and passion.

    One thing you wrote brought back an unpleasant memory. When I was in graduate school in Pittsburgh, I lived in a rooming house. My roommate was a guy from my hometown. An engineer-to-be who spent his work life with the company for whom my father labored. He refereed to New York as Jew York. I couldn’t believe it. I often wanted to smack him, and this would have been the right time! Especially since many of my economics professors were urban Jews: Perlman, Chesler, Cohen, Katz, Katz. I was so happy to be in a city then, and those profs were so damned smart. I admired them greatly, even if I came to vehemently disagree with the fact that all but Chesler were devotees of neoclassical economics. Chesler, my favorite, was from the Bronx. The first Katz went to Columbia. For me, NYC was what I thought of as heaven. And BTW, Pittsburgh had and still has, one of the largest Jewish populations in the country.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — March 27, 2020 @ 7:19 pm

  4. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos recently, and people are saying that this Covid19 virus was spread by G5 technology. That’s pretty scary stuff. They say that for G5 to work, cell towers will have to be about five feet apart. What’s the point of it anyway, higher-resolution YouTube videos on a 3″ screen, warning of the dangers of G5 technology? It doesn’t make sense.

    Comment by Warren Oates — March 28, 2020 @ 10:30 am

  5. Much the same process that you describe in regard to NYC has also destroyed the richness of life associated with SF and the East Bay, and it is even devouring the multi-ethnic communal life of lower density Sacramento. But Sacramento always seems to escape full absorption as the economy usually goes into a major recession just in time, and it seems to have happened again. And we may have started stay-at-home and social distancing early enough to avoid the horrors of what is happening around you in NYC. People here started social distancing in advance of the county’s order about a week and a half ago.

    Like good Midwesterners, people in Sacramento follow the rules. In the areas i go through, the number of people out and about is sharply down. By and large, we socially distance, except, rather worryingly, at the supermarket. I take my son out to do basketball drills for our daily activity. He shoots, I fetch the ball, and we stay away from everyone else. Frequently, we look over at the other end of the floor and see a couple of people or a family doing the same. I’ve only seen one pick up game since the county order was issued. He’s a little frustrated not being to see his friends, but, after about the first week, he understands. My wife has asthma, and she was really ill recently with a severe cold or flu, so we are careful. It was, oddly, rather fortuitous, as she works as a chaplain at a local hospital, and her doctor won’t allow her to go to work because asthma is a serious aggravating condition for people who contract COVID-19.

    “Against the Grain” is a wonderful, provocative book, although Scott can be a little dogmatic at times. As you observe, his challenge to the historical orthodoxy that describes the human transition to sedentary societies as a form of positive, inevitable progress for the species (as I experienced in school back in the 1970s) has great contemporary relevance. “The Art of Not Being Governed”, his more expansive, ambitious work, provides much food for thought as well, as he examines the societies of vanishing contemporary hill people in South Asia. I highly recommend it

    In any event, our thoughts are with you and your wife as they are with everyone threatened by this terrible pandemic. Please continue to do whatever you need to do to protect yourselves, and don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone, including medical professionals, if necessary, to deal with the challenging mental health issues that can be associated with it. We may have to be separated, but we can still call upon our emotional bonds with people to get through this together.

    Comment by Richard Estes — March 28, 2020 @ 4:18 pm

  6. Thank you for this great piece. I hope you stay safe and healthy.

    The analogy to zombies is apt. Here in Southern California’s inland territories, we only go out for grocery (or whiskey for me), and keep our distance from folks, though some people don’t keep their distance from us; we have to remind them regularly. After shopping, we strip down and put all our clothes in the laundry and take a shower (the only showers I take!!).

    We also do grocery shopping for elderly relatives and friends in town. One relative is the head of the Japanese American Citizen’s League in town and a survivor of internment camps (Heart Mountain and then Tule Lake) and four bouts of breast cancer. She loves the grocery delivery ‘service’ as she calls it. We love her.

    One thing we have noticed on the news from different parts of the country is how much the private citizens are stepping up in all manner of things, from donating safety equipment, sanitary wipes, etc. to donating money to fight this virus. It’s clear that the government has been so depleted of resources and capacity to care for the citizens that in times like this a good portion of the needed help has been ‘privatized’ by default.

    If only we had a strong socialist organization, this would be a key organizing moment to highlight the necessity of an infrastructure that is geared toward meeting people’s needs, not private profits. Maybe this event-moment can change people’s minds about ‘socialized healthcare’. it may also remind the Brits about the dangers of depleting their NHS further, as Bo Jo had salivated about.

    Love to everybody, stay safe and strong!

    Comment by Reza — March 28, 2020 @ 8:48 pm

  7. Good article overall, but your fear of catching COVID-19 from touching avocados at the supermarket is overblown. Person to person transmission presents the greatest risk by far. Catching the virus from supermarket produce isn’t impossible but provided you take all the precautions, particularly washing your hands frequently and refraining from touching your face, and wash your greens before eating them, the risk is extremely low.

    If you’re really paranoid, wash your avocados with regular soap and water and wait 24hrs before consuming. I looked into this issue before buying bell peppers and tomatoes and every site with reputable and reliable COVID-19 info emphasizes the negligible risk of catching the virus from supermarket greens provided you take basic precautions.

    Comment by Eric Blair — March 30, 2020 @ 7:35 pm

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