Report from Louisiana: The Exponential Numbers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Coronavirus hit close to home this week; my husband and I learned of the death of our friend Ann who fell victim to this virus. One moment alive and well, the next moment she’s gone. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.

Here in Louisiana, we have over 13,000 positive cases and as of yesterday, 477 deaths, and over 1,800 in hospital. Officials are warning that this week will be bad and that everyone should avoid going anywhere at all unless absolutely essential. We are taking that seriously in my house and have only left home twice this week for quick grocery trips. I would love to do curbside pick-up for groceries, but the wait time for your order is two weeks!

Meanwhile, people are practicing social distancing with various degrees of seriousness. One couple I know attended a birthday party at a friend’s home this week, while another person I know met up with her girlfriends in a parking lot to share a bottle of wine and “hang out.” Even the caretakers of LSU mascot Mike the Tiger are taking more careful measures than some people I know.

Some states have already declared this school year officially done, but we are still awaiting that call. Our “stay at home” order extends until the first of May, so it seems highly unlikely that we would have to report back with only three weeks left, yet that call has still not been made.

The border between Louisiana and Texas is closed and checkpoints have been established at the state line. Commercial traffic is allowed to pass freely but everyone else must be screened and fill out paperwork before entering Texas. This is obviously causing travel nightmares.

As we monitor these numbers, these daily death toll reports, be sure to check out Stacy McCain’s post in which he does some pretty interesting analysis of the numbers:

There is an enormous variation in the death rates, with Italy’s rate being about five times higher than the U.S. rate, and the death rate in Washington State, Michigan and Louisiana being more than twice the rate in Florida and Texas. Will these rates change? Maybe, but the fact is that the same virus is having different impacts in different areas, and the “experts” on TV are doing a bad job of explaining this differential, insofar as they are not completely ignoring it. While I don’t claim to be an “expert,” my hunch is that it probably has something to do with viral load at first exposure to the virus. If you attend a two-hour event with dozens of other people, some of whom are infected — or if you’re on a two-hour commercial airline flight, or riding New York City’s subways on a daily basis — then your initial exposure is likely to be a high viral load. On the other hand, a brief encounter with an infected convenience-store clerk will expose you to a lower viral load, and if you do become infected, your case will probably be milder. That’s not an “expert” opinion, just a common-sense interpretation of what some experts are saying, and one which would seem to fit the available data.

This brings me back to my friend that went to a birthday party. What was the exponential exposure?

I’m afraid that a lot of people are not taking all this seriously enough and won’t until it hits too close to home.

Stay safe, friends, and stay home.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Quarantined Thoughts Under the Fedora

Well this week I start my 2nd enforced “vacation” from work in the last six months. The 1st one was when I busted my shoulder and was out just over two months. Now thanks to a positive test of a co-worker of dawife a person she worked with closely she along with me and our youngest are in quarantine.

This isn’t just a quarantine, it’s actually a quarantine within a quarantine because my son and I have been told that he have to practice social distancing from my wife as she might already be infected. So we have to stay six feet away from here whenever possible, clean areas she’s in etc…. Fortunately the house is laid out in a “circle” in the house so it’s easy to avoid each other, also there are two bathrooms so she gets the one downstairs and we get upstairs but the big thing is that she has her quilting room that we avoid anyway.

Of course once she’s in a room quilting the problem isn’t getting her into quarantine, the problem is getting her out.

One instant change has been to the Podcast. The sunday podcast usually starts at 12:35 AM to give me a chance to get home from work but as I’m already home DaTechGuy’s Midnight Court will take place at Midnight EST. That means slightly more sleep for me and because everyone in the house is under quarantine I don’t have to worry about waking up people who have to work.

One other advantage is my taxes, I know that they’ve postponed the filing deadline but even before that for the life of me I couldn’t motivate myself to get off my duff and do them. I do them all on paper and have done so for 30 years. This week with the extra time I’ll finally get them finished and even mailed, albeit from the house.

Lucky for my family my oldest has his own apartment so he is able to go shopping for us. This is handy but there is a real danger of leaning on him too much and when you’re already in quarantine it’s easy to be short tempered so one has to avoid making demands from someone who is doing you a favor by running an errand or two while trying to stay safe from us and getting on with their own life and work.

One might get down at the thought of being stuck in a house for two weeks with dawife and son with nothing but a TV and Dynasty baseball for company but consider at least I have a home with some space, family for companionship and another son who can drop stuff off along with the sicktime to use. Imagine being in a tiny NYC apartment with no space, no family to help out and no relief other than unemployment and the government air that’s on the way.

Things could be a lot worse.