From the Times:
Two of the top doctors [Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx] advising the White House on the coronavirus pandemic went together to the Oval Office with some sobering data to present to President Trump: Even with the aggressive measures in place in to slow the spread of the virus, as many as 200,000 Americans could die during the outbreak. “We showed him the data and he got it right away,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday morning during an appearance on CNN.
President Trump: Alright guys, come on in, let's get this done, I am very, very busy, as you know. I'm behind on my Tweets. We've got a fantastic breakfast buffet in the corner there, help yourselves. Breakfast sausages. Really good. Tremendously meaty.
<Birx and Fauci exchange worried glances>
Deborah Birx: Thanks, Mr, President, we're fine.
Trump <coughing>: You sure? Some melon there for you health nuts! It is the best melon, many people have said.
Anthony Fauci: Mr. President, can we go over these projections? The numbers are looking grim.
Trump: Listen, Tony, Debbie, I know I said Easter. Reopen the country. But I promised Jared: Now it's Passover. We've got to get the synagogues and all the delis open. I am a big fan of the Jews. No one loves the Jew and the Jewess more than me! And I also love pastrami, as you know. And corned beef, that's good too. Not as peppery, but a very good cured meat.
Birx: Mr. President, let me show you this chart. It has projected deaths from COVID-19. Even if we continue with the social distancing...
Trump: What's that, Debbie, a bar chart? Listen, I can't stand those. Too confusing, all these towers, it's very, very bad. They don't make sense. Pie charts, Deb. Much, much better. Much more clear. Plus who doesn't like pie? Nobody. There's nobody who doesn't like pie. Tony, am I right?
Fauci: Mr. President, if you look here, at this bar, you can see that the country may be facing 100,000 to 200,000 deaths over the next few months.
Trump: How many Democrats?
Fauci: What? How many of the potential fatalities will be registered Democrats? Is that what you're asking, Mr. President?
Birx: Sir, we can't know that.
Trump: OK, well how many in New York City? That's close enough.
Fauci: Mr. President, if we could just focus here on the numbers. We cannot possibly open the country by Passover. Or Easter.
Trump: April Fool's Day? Many, many people celebrate that. Major holiday.
Birx: No, Sir, that's in two days.
Trump: So what are you telling me? Forget these complicated "statistics!" <throws charts on the ground>. Just tell me the situation.
Birx: 200,000 people may die. We cannot reopen the country in April. Period.
Trump: OK, OK, Jesus, lady. I get it. So look: the US population is like 1.5 billion. So, in percentage terms, that's still low. The dead, I mean. Like 1%. Or less even, I don't have time to do the math, I'm very busy, but it's not that many, right? Like most of those people would be dying anyway, right? In car accidents and green energy explosions?
Fauci: Actually, just a slight correction, Mr. President, the US population is about 330 million.
Trump: No, Fauci, we're in the billions, not the millions. Trust me. No real country is in the millions, You have to be in the billions, otherwise you're a loser country. Well, China has a few billion, but most of those are peasants, so they only count as like maybe half.
Birx: Sir, with all due respect, we need you to issue an order recommending social distancing through April.
Trump: Debbie, sweetie. I know that the deaths are going to peak right around Easter. OK?
Fauci: You do? How do you know that?
Trump: Because that's what I posted on Twitter this morning. Easter. We're going to time the deaths with the anniversary of the resurrection. That's what will make the best memes. I'll use them on social media. For my campaign. "You died, but Christ came back." It's catchy, isn't it? Like as a slogan? I need the evangelicals.
Birx: Sir, if I could just...
Trump: And one more thing. Let's make sure everyone knows about the emails.
Trump: Hillary's! The warnings about the virus were in the missing emails! That's why we were not prepared! It's Hillary. She's ruining Easter. And Passover.
Birx: Sir, about the closures...
Trump: OK! OK! Man you are a pushy broad. Fine. We'll keep the country closed through April. We'll make your "cure" worse than this CUPID disease. But I want everyone to know one critical piece of information.
Fauci: What's that?
Trump: The back nine at Mar-a-Lago is playable! Now get the hell out of here. And take the melon.
Last night was a treat! Went out for drinks with friends, then out to dinner (Vietnamese: yum!) then to a movie.
Later, I woke up.
How I long for the days when I could avoid people because I wanted to, not because I had to. I spent five minutes at Target waiting for a women to move away from the eggs. Five. Minutes.
After that, I played COVID Chicken: Also known as the "who's going to go first down the aisle?" game.
This is when two people are at opposite ends of a narrow grocery store aisle. Who should enter first? Is it a stand-off? What if we're both shopping for the same item? Say, a bag of rice? (Joke's on us, there is no rice!) Occasionally, one person will "take a lap:" hit a different aisle before returning, hoping the other shopper has finished. (Unless they're reading all the expiration dates on the eggs. Got news for you, ma'am: we're not going to run out of eggs. Hens lay an egg a day, virus or no, Just sayin')
What I don't understand, truly, about the grocery stores is how they have ZERO frozen foods. Nothing. I can understand hoarding ice cream. Fine, get your calories how you wish. But are people really stockpiling frozen lima beans? Is frozen cauliflower now a prepper food? I really don't get it. Never imagined I'd be longing for ice-encrusted spinach, but there you go.
After shopping I took an absolutely surreal walk into town. Why was it surreal, you ask? Because I was walking down the middle of the street. It's like The Walking Dead, but with no zombie excitement. Just... people and their dogs. (And, by the way, a-hole on 17th, COVID is like a snowstorm. The dog shit rules still apply. Pick that crap up, it's not contagious.)
On the way home, I passed this gorgeous little item:
Let's put aside, just for a moment, the fact that the "FREE" sign really should've had an exclamation point, because WOW, what a fucking deal. Let's also ignore the fact that the warranty is probably expired and your home is 100% guaranteed to explode if you install this (yes, kids, note that it's gas, not electric.)
The real question here, in my view, is was this properly cleaned and fully sanitized with Lysol before it was put on the sidewalk? Especially those filthy disgusting knobs?
If yes... well, free oven. Now if only we could find some food to cook.
Recent news reports indicate that both Prince Charles and Boris Johnson have contracted COVID-19.
Apparently, they are quarantined together in Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, and a recording of a recent conversation has gone (ahem) viral. Below is the transcript.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales: God I feel bloody awful. Wot!
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: What?
BJ: What? Charlie, what is it? I'm not following <coughing fit>. Christ it's dusty in here, princey. Bloody mausoleum. Can you open a damn window? At least pull the drapes!
HRH: PM, I'm not going to tell you again: you must cough into your elbow. Stop wiping your hands on the bloody sofa cushions. Bloody Eton. Did they not teach you any manners a'tall?
BJ: At least I didn't get my ass kicked at Cheam, you toff! I heard you majored in Asian Flu.
HRH: That was a serious illness. Similar to what we've both contracted this go around.
BJ: Annus Horribilis.
HRH: What's that mean?
BJ: It's Latin. The loose translation is: you didn't go to Eton.
HRH: I did history, archaeology and anthropology at Trinity.
BJ: I rest my case. Anyway look on the bright side of this virus.
HRH: Which is?
BJ: If your Mum gets it, you might actually gain the throne! You know, if you live.
HRH: Indeed. I wonder: would it be awfully inconvenient for you to invite her for tea? And then perhaps have one of your coughing fits?
Laughter is heard.
BJ: Charlie, you devilish sod! Let's hope the tabloids don't hear about that dastardly little plan.
HRH: Is that an email you're typing out?
BJ: And... send! Uh, no, old chap. Just running the old government remotely. Whole of the country is on lockdown, you know.
BJ: Yes, Charles. This virus is serious. People are not able to work.
HRH: You mean like polo? Nobody is able to play?
BJ: No, Chuckles. Work. Jobs. To make bloody coinage.
HRH: I don't follow. Are they not all on the dole? Like myself?
BJ: Nevermind. <coughs, wheezes.>
HRH: If only we were able to easily import life-saving drugs from the E.U. Ahem. But you bloody well solved that difficulty, didn't you?
BJ: Britain for the Whites! <coughs> I mean... for the Britons!
HRH: Let me guess, you were for this virus before you were against it?
BJ: Pro-virus polled well for a smidge. When it was just infecting Siam.
HRH: China. In March, didn't you suggest that we in the United Kingdom "take it on the chin" and then you bragged about it being a smashingly good idea to be shaking hands with everyone?
BJ: Did I? That was so long ago. Who remembers?
HRH: It was during a bloody press conference you twit. And can you please run a comb through that haystack you call hair?
BJ: I wear it this way to hide by big ears.
HRH: You don't say? Maybe I should see your stylist. Would she cut a royal?
BJ: Only if he had it coming!
Laughter is heard, then horrible coughing fits.
BJ: My God man, I'm not sure we're going to make it.
HRH: Don't despair, old boy. This is England. The Yanks will bail us out. They always have before!
BJ: Trump's in charge now.
HRH: We're doomed.
A selection of recent photos...
March 26, New York City, from the Times
New York-Presbyterian Hospital began so-called “ventilator sharing” this week at its Columbia Irving facility, hospital officials said. The technique has worked in scientific studies and was used after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. This is believed to be the first time that it has been used as a long-term strategy.
Transcript of President Trump's press conference announcing new ventilator sharing guidelines.
Trump: Thanks Dr. Fauci. Amazing job you're doing Tony – you look like a Tony, can I call you that? – amazing. Many people have said you're disloyal, not towing the line, trying to get people to believe in "science" – a thing that is very, very important, as you know, not when it comes to climate change: FAKE NEWS! – but my science is very good, very sound, very positive science, not negative science, like yours.
Anthony Fauci <smiles unconvincingly>
Trump: Now, as you all know, that very, very nasty Governor of New York – and I love New York, best city, I have many, many tall buildings there that I own... well the bank owns most of them, but they lent me the money, Deutsche Bank, one of the biggest banks in the world, a very, very good bank, very good, very loyal people there – but this Cuomo – Complainin' Cuomo, as I call him – he's been saying some very, very mean things. About ventilators. Not enough of them, shortage. Tony, do we have enough of these ventilating machine things?
Fauci <smiles, nods unconvincingly>
Trump: We have tremendous stockpiles. Piles and piles of stocks. I'm told there is a strategic reserve of ventilators. With the gold and the oil, we have these air-pushing machines that can push tremendous amounts of air into the lung. Or lungs, some people have two, I'm told. You should see these machines, they are beautiful. We have more than enough. But we're sending them from Texas on a ship, a Navy vessel, so it may take a few weeks for them to arrive. Vice President Pence is overseeing this historic effort. Isn't that right?
Mike Pence: Yes, mein Führer.
Trump: So there may be a short delay in getting these venting (or vending, as I like to call them) machines. But everything is fine, don't worry, if you're watching this from a hospital bed – or chair, people have said chairs are now being used. Which is actually much better for the posture, as I think you all realize – I have new guidelines I am issuing today. Right now. This has never, ever been tried before – well, Obama actually tried it and it was a colossal failure – but we are going to do it. We're going to:
Make America Breathe Again. We're going to make sure that everyone who has lung failure is able to use a ventilator for at least ten seconds per minute.
As I said: This has never been tried before. No one had the courage to try it. But under my orders, if you have this virus – which is not as horrible as people say, many, many people have recovered from this. Not in Italy, but in other countries. It's like a head-cold, really, not even that bad. But if you do have it – and your insurance is up to date, because we must support our very good private insurance companies in this crisis, many hardworking people there – you will be given a small amount of air to breathe. Not too much, because we can't have people abusing the healthcare system, like under Obama. Many, many people were stealing oxygen who really did not deserve it. But if you need air to live, my administration will provide it. Tony?
Fauci: Oxygen is needed for breathing, Mr. President, you're correct.
Trump: So, I'm right, as you just heard, I'm very smart and I understand sciencey things. Sharing ventilators. This is our Normandy. Our Moon Shot. Our Bay of Pigs. And my prediction – and this is just a prediction, but my predictions are usually right, many people have said this – is that by Easter, we will have five people sharing one ventilator. Five. This is a medical miracle. If we all come together, as a people, we can beat this very mild, Chinese virus – the Kung Flu, as I've heard it called–and get the stock market back where it was.
Which remember: it was very, very high. The highest it's ever been. Higher than Obama's.
Thank you, and God Bless America.
A selection of recent headlines (with their sources).
“Do I Need to Stop Sleeping With New Guys Because of the Coronavirus?” (Slate)
Yes, shit for brains, you do. Make a goddamn sandwich and watch porn, like the rest of us.
“Things Suck Right Now, Buy Some Candles” (Daily Beast)
Because you buying candles is going to save 3 million jobs. Soy is best. You know, for the planet.
“Coronavirus efforts shift consumer interest toward booze, guns” (Axios)
GTFO! Really? Booze and guns? Not candles?
“Kentucky Legislature passes controversial voter photo ID bill” (LA Times)
1. Voter suppression efforts: Check!
2. Global pandemic response: Let’s take a vote, shall we?
“Tom Brady Makes It Official, Signs With Tampa Bay Buccaneers” (NPR)
Good. Timing. Tom. Just like when you caught that pass against the Eagles in the Superbowl. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t.
“Princess Cruises had poor track record of illness before coronavirus” (USA Today)
STFU! Really? You’re telling me those 3000-person floating petri dishes may have been dangerous? Norwalk virus wasn’t fake news?
Long-time readers of Housebound (you know, since last week; it just seems like forever) know that here we have an unhealthy--or, more charitably, excessively hygienic--obsession with toilet paper, and potential shortages thereof. Here’s a story showing that we are not, in fact, nuts.
“Deputies pull over stolen trailer full of toilet paper in Guildford Co.” (WECT6 News)
18,000 pounds of toilet tissue, folks. Remember when it was just untaxed cigarettes? How I long for those simpler times.
I read yesterday that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed to 2021. I don't know how you're feeling, but I know I was really looking forward to sitting inside for two weeks and watching TV. What a nice change that would be!
Today's post will focus on critical survival strategies when housebound. Due to a severe shortage of COVID-19 testing kits, the Trump administration has released the following guidelines for a "self test" to be administered at home.
Self-test for COVID-19
1. Are you holding a used boarding pass from Wuhan, China to any destination anywhere?
If yes: Thanks for spreading! Go directly to the hospital.
If no: go to Step 2.
2. Are you Italian?
If yes: Hope you're not over 60, Signore!
If no: go to Step 3.
3. Does the term "Princess Cruises" give you PTSD?
If yes: Why did they let you off the boat, matey?
If no: go to Step 4.
4. Do you think the virus is a liberal hoax?
If yes: Exactly! You're not even sick. It's probably food poisoning!
If no: You're a Communist. Go back to China.
5. Will the virus be gone "by April, with the warmer weather?"
If yes: Are you interested in working for the CDC?
If no: Negativity is contagious, snowflake.
There are a number of cocktais floating around the interwebs that claim to be "new" or "original" with clever names like "The Fluzey" and "Keep Your Distance" and "Six Feet... Under" (kidding, I just made up those names, but they are good.)
But, in fact, being an amateur mixologist and a shut in, my drink is one that I have actually already made myself. And it's called, of course, "The Shut In."
The Shut In - Josh Piven Edition
2.5 oz decent gin (I used Death's Door, which is a mediocre Midwest gin; I'm saving the good stuff for martinis)
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower liquor (available at liquor stores, if you can find one that's open)
1 oz Cucumber water (see note below)
-- Josh Piven
I just read that Amazon Prime may be making a decision to delay shipments of "non-essential products" for up to a month.
Let me be clear: I don't know in what universe a 5lb bag of Gummi Bears is considered non-essential. But I know I do NOT want to live there.
I almost spilled a nearly-full bottle of Purell hand sanitizer today.
I know what you're thinking: What is his address, and will anyone notice if he "disappears"?
I do feel somewhat guilty for having a bottle, especially since hand washing works just as well. But sorry, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands--and I won't be dead! Because: Purell hand sanitizer!
Took my inexorable afternoon walk today. Now I know how a dog feels: just rattle the keys and I’m running all over the house in excitement.
People still don’t get social distancing. I’m ready to put a sign on my jacket: KEEP BACK 6 FEET! Seriously people, don’t crowd me. I bite.
Has anyone been intimate with their partner since the pestilence? Aside from the general stress weighing us down every waking (and many sleeping) hour, do we even think this is a good idea? Love In The Time of Corona?
Putting aside the fact that trolling the bars is a non-starter, even for those cohabitating, is cuddling really a good idea? Because if we haven’t yet infected (or been infected by) those around us, isn’t intimacy pretty much a guaranteed means of doing so?
Not if you follow these newly-released official government instructions.
CDC-Approved Guidelines for COVID-19-era Intimacy
Lack of adherence to the following instructions may result in procreation.
1. Each participating adult shall put on a white Tyvek suit (the kind you see on CSI. C’mon, you know.) The zipper goes in the front, doofus.
2. Place swim or ski goggles over the eyes. If no goggles are available, cover the eyes with Saran Wrap.™
3. Place mittens or thick ski gloves on hands. (Note: Do NOT use disposable rubber gloves! Those may only be used by medical professionals gettin’ jiggy with it.)
4. Cover the mouth and nose with a bandana. Tie in the back, like you’re robbing a train.
5. Check partner’s health insurance card for future expiration date.
6. Sit side by side on couch. Hold hands.
7. Watch Sophie's Choice.
Starting out with some really distressing news today: My Weekly Screen Time is way the f-k up. My average was four hours per day. Is this healthy? I'm thinking probably not. Then again, compared to, say, going to a movie, it's like being a health nut. It helps that the Wifi is very reliable. I'll be the first person to say this, ever: Thank You, Comcast. You're the best! Is it possible for me to pay more? I'm sorry I even considered cutting the cord.
Is anyone besides me ready to put needles under their fingernails if they get one more piece of corporate spam telling us how hard they're working during this very, very difficult time. They're focused on keeping their employees safe! Does that include sick days and paid time off? <Throat clear. Crickets.> I'm so very thankful Delta is removing copies of Sky Magazine from seat back pockets to keep me safe. When can I expect my bag fees to be refunded? Right after the bailout, maybe?
I don't want Housebound to get too political. I'd rather stay on subjects we can all agree on, like sex and religion.
That said, perhaps we, as Americans, should be called upon by our leaders to make somewhat larger sacrifices than having to use the drive-thru to get our Starbucks Venti Double Mocha Caramel Lattes. (Also: are there Starbucks with drive-thru windows? Is that a Midwest thing? Sorry, never seen it. )
I know we're supposed to strive for normalcy and all that. And yes, I get that one person's spending is another person's salary. But I don't remember reading that in 1941 FDR begged Americans to support the economy by maintaining their Frappucino habits. I don't recall Rosie The Riveter posters with Rosie sucking on a Juul and drinking a macchiato. Is this the best we can do?
Probably. Probably it is.
Modestly, I feel I am doing my part. As I comedy writer, I'm contributing. Bigly. Entertainment couldn't be more important during what's basically war time. In fact, many, many people are saying that I'm "the Bob Hope of bloggers." I would never say that, but you know what? I think they're right. I am doing a very good job. The best, many are saying. Really, when this is all behind us, the pre-game NFL tributes should be focused on those stationed on the frontlines of this catastrophe: our healthcare workers.
But the Superbowl halftime show? Jewish humorists.
Man, I am saving a ton of money on razor blades!
Just to be serious here for a second, when--in the months and probably years to come--we look back on this time in our shared history, I believe the experts will note something truly remarkable.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Never have so many had more time for personal grooming, and less of a need to do so.
Because where are we going? Nowhere. And who are we impressing? Nobody.
And speaking of grooming.
When I got out of the shower today--at 11 am, because 11 is the new 8--I looked in the mirror. To my shock and horror: Is that gray hair I see? Covid-based, anxiety-driven gray hair? No, no, it’s just the sunlight! Filtering through the window!
Except it’s pouring rain.
Turns out, I’m going blond. Nice!
I don’t know about you, dear housebound reader, but I am not sleeping well. Not. At. All. Even worse than usual, and that’s saying something. The drinking never helps, of course (though it always seems like such a good idea at the time, doesn’t it?) I’ve tried counting sheep. But somehow, the sheep always end up as dead carcasses stacked like cord wood outside emergency rooms.
Is it anxiety?
Of course it’s f-ing anxiety! Every time I clear my throat, I’m secretly listening for a death rattle.
Then, of course, after a few anxious minutes, I calm down. Regular ole’ flu kills tens of thousands each year! I tell myself. (What does it say about our times that that widely-cited statistic counts as the good news?) We don’t shut down the schools all winter, do we? The economy doesn’t grind to a halt for seasonal flu, does it? Cases are falling in China! Canada closed the border? Hell, they were undercharging for our yogurt anyway, weren’t they? Or something? Who needs ‘em!
And then--just as I begin to think positive--my wife is kind enough to inform me that her colleagues are microwaving their paper money! Cooking the cash! I swear I am not making this up. So, now I’m thinking, is this like a bag of popcorn, where you need to stand next to the microwave and listen closely to make sure your Jacksons don’t start burning? Wouldn’t boiling them be safer? Should the water be salted first?
The irony of this whole thing is that, as a writer, when I go into the office I close my door to be alone, and undistracted, so I can concentrate. Now I’m in enforced semi-isolation and oh how I miss my loud inconsiderate colleagues! Well, miss may be too strong a word. But I hope they are all staying healthy.
My office plants, on the other hand, are likely dead. We’ve finally discovered something that can kill a spider plant: COVID-19.
I went running today. Not from the roving gangs of looters; that comes later. Just for exercise.
If there wasn’t a shortage of ventilators, I would claim one.
I don’t run. Repeat: I. Don’t. Run. Biking, skiing, walking briskly to beat a thunderstorm: yes. I do those things. But Covfefe--sorry, Covid--has made us do strange things. My super-fit high-school-age daughter (whose middle name might as well be: “I can’t, I have crew”) has been pushing me to join her on her conditioning runs. I finally relented. First thing in the morning (read: 11am) we set out on the river trail.
Do people require tape measures to mark off six feet of distance? Jesus.
The running went… slowly.
The old people on walkers were going faster than I was. The freight train filled with fracked oil crept past me. Somehow the stationary fishermen beat me.
Folks, let me state the obvious: now is not the time to be gasping for breath and coughing up a lung in public. (Though admittedly it did cause people to adhere to the six-foot limit.)
I’ll just chalk up my sad performance to the high viral load I’m probably carrying.
I got the call this afternoon. My office is locking all the doors to the building tonight at 8pm. In fact, to the entire campus. Universities are apparently not life-sustaining businesses. (Much of the faculty will be shocked.) It's now or never to go and rescue as many office plants and steal as many pens and Post It Notes as I can. (Kidding. Those are probably contaminated.)
Today, March 20, as I write this, it is 80 degrees and humid in Philadelphia.
Just a gentle reminder, dear reader, of the other existential crisis.
When’s the $1 Trillion for that arriving? Soon, right?