Recently I have traveled throughout much of the Southeastern US, namely through Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. During that time I talked with medical staff, business owners, first responders, law enforcement personnel and many others. I want to share some of what I saw and heard.

 

My observations:

-Businesses through all of those states were shutting down in chunks as daily updates and dictates come down from their respective state governments. Some businesses in Tennessee were remaining open due to their normally low amount of foot traffic (like one art gallery I visited in the mountains that sells most of their products online), and at least a couple business owners told me they’d remain open until they were forced to close.

-Police in NW Florida are receiving updates slowly and are not getting much direction as far as what they need to do differently. LEOs are receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) directly from hospitals, sometimes on an individual, “drive-up and ask” basis. This includes masks, gloves and sanitizing wipes.

-RNs are being told N95 masks are only necessary if a COVID-19 patient is receiving some sort of “aerosolizing” treatment, such as nebulizer treatments or intubation. N95 masks are used for an entire 12 hour shift. It certainly seems that RNs around the SE are going to pick up the brunt of the workload. In COVID-19 patient rooms, lab techs, CNAs, even physicians are being encouraged to limit themselves on going in, and RNs are being asked to pick up some duties of these people, like drawing blood. And yes, I am well aware that in many hospitals the RN draw the blood anyway, but it’s not like that everywhere. One RN I know had to stay in one possible case’s room for the entire shift, and was the only one allowed in. This patient turned out to be negative, but just so you know, the nurses are going to be breaking their backs during this pandemic much more than anyone else. If housekeeping isn’t there, the nurse will clean the room. If lab isn’t there, the nurse will draw the blood. If a CNA isn’t there, the nurse will clean up the patient. If respiratory isn’t there, the nurse will give the treatment. Etc. See where I’m going? And your nurse will still be expected to martyr themselves even if there is no PPE. My rant is over.

-Gas prices in Tennessee were as low as $1.54 per gallon, and that price goes up as you continue south. NW Florida is around $2.00 right now.

-Visitation in hospitals and ERs is being limited or eliminated entirely. Minor patients will be able to have one parent or guardian with them, but that person will have to remain throughout the stay. This applies to the majority of hospitals.

-ER staff are spending a significant amount of time fielding phone calls from the public, and some callers are lying and making up symptoms in order to get tested.

-Interstate traffic seemed a little less than usual, but not significantly. In most towns things were definitely slowing down, especially in places in Alabama.

-All restaurants I came across in all four states were either closed, or reduced to take-out only. A few that were open to walk in had spacing requirements for people in line. One place would allow only one person inside at a time.

-COVID-19 was, of course, the main topic of conversation no matter where I was. People in grocery stores seem much more frantic. I was nearly elbowed out of the way at a Publix in Tennesse by a young woman wearing a respirator. She was the only one wearing a mask but she was not the only one with a frantic look in her eyes.

-All public restrooms in rest areas and gas stations had no-touch hand sanitizer machines installed.

-Store shelves were only empty at a few places in NW Florida, but got restocked quickly. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia mostly had everything besides toilet paper (I saw none of that stocked), albeit in lighter amounts. The items that I saw disappearing the fastest aside from TP were rice, beans, canned corn, peas and green beans, bottled water, cleaners and detergents of all kinds and shampoo.

-Overall mood of everyone seemed to be friendly, but there still seemed to be a few who think this whole thing is being “blown out of proportion”. That’s their favorite phrase now. Not as many of them around though. This social distancing stuff seems to be taking hold quite slowly.

 

A few questions I’ve been asked:

-“What’s the big deal with this one versus the 500 other bugs that were supposed to kill us all?” ***Well, I assume most are talking about SARS, MERS and the flu. COVID-19 is MUCH more contagious than those, none of which average more than a 1:1 infection rate. That means for every SARS/MERS/Flu patient, they will infect only one other person on average. COVID-19 is between 3 and 4. On top of that, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is significantly higher than those illnesses right now. And besides, the exact differences are inconsequential since for now, the effect of the crashing economy and the panicking hordes are still probably more dangerous than the virus itself. When your retirement account is slammed, your job disappears and the neighbors start eyeballing your stored food you foolishly told them about, the “why” factor doesn’t quite matter as much in the moment.

-“Why is everyone buying toilet paper? COVID-19 doesn’t cause gastrointestinal issues.” ***Actually, it might, according to some reports out of China. But people are buying TP because they are preparing to be stuck in their homes for long periods of time without leaving. So yeah, I’m not surprised about the empty TP shelves.

-“Have you heard of the vaccine that the University of XYZ came up with?” ***Yeah, I heard about it. And I saw the last ten reports that other universities and companies have come up with vaccines. Most of these reports of near-completed vaccines so far seem to be nothing more than a pile of Facebook bunk (what else comes from FB?). But I will say that it sounds like this new combo of hydroxychloroquine and zithromax sounds promising. So I guess we will see. Until it’s proven and lands in your hands, keep preparing.

 

My personal predictions:

-Florida is likely to get a lockdown like Kalifornia and NY pretty soon.

-We are probably in for a gigantic uptick in confirmed cases simply due to our testing capabilities increasing. A couple weeks ago my hospital (a level II trauma center in a town of 55k people) had to get approval to do a test and mail the swabs to Jacksonville where they’d be sent to Atlanta. Now our local lab can do it themselves and all we need is for the physician to give the RN the order.

-I don’t think your kids are going to be back to school this school year. It’s time now to get online and look for a home-school curriculum. I recommend Abeka and Saxon materials. And please don’t beat your kids. ERs are seeing a slight uptick in child abuse cases over the last couple of weeks. Come on, people.

-The experts we listen to on the economy (the same ones who told us to buy the dip) are saying that we “might” be coming to a recession. My prediction is that we are already in a recession and our government is probably powerless to stop a depression.

-If a nationwide lockdown, or even a lockdown of a heavily populated state, occurs then the powers in charge will only be able to enforce it if the people choose to cooperate with it. Our military and police don’t have a quarter of the numbers it would take to enforce a lockdown if We the People decided not to play ball. I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should play ball. I’m just going to tell you to do what you need to do to survive and keep from getting sick.

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