2020 Grateful 45: Cupid and Covid-19

I was late for the wedding. I’d set my alarm to be up at 7.20 am, giving me a whole ten minutes to get there, but I’d miscalculated the time difference. My college classmate Sum was getting married in Hong Kong and they were streaming the ceremony. When I logged on, both looked happy. Both looked well. Both were maskless, the only two in the church other than the singer, who weren’t wearing a mask. That bloody virus.

Since news broke about the deaths in Italy, Covid-19 has been creeping steadily closer to home. My home. When we were in Sicily a few weeks ago, I could have sworn that Italian TV reported a death in Rome but try as I might to find news of it in English, I couldn’t. This time though, the two deaths and the lockdowns are all over the media as a further 90 are reported to have been infected. The cause has been traced to a 38-year-old Italian who met someone who had returned from China on 21 January.

As Milan Fashion Week looms, Giorgio Armani has announced that they’ll be holding their runway show behind closed doors. The models will be strutting the stage in an empty theatre with the show live-streamed. My friend Sum made the same call. Weeks before the wedding, she asked people not to travel because of the virus. How disappointing that must have been. She looked amazing though, her dress and train worthy of any fashion show. And I loved the check that Chong had going.

South Korea has yet to trace the source of its most recent outbreak. Over half of the confirmed cased in the country (309) are from the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city of Daegu. And while other countries are gearing up for what would appear to be a resurge in infections, Russia is busy denying that it started a rumour that the USA is somehow responsible for it all. And in what has to be one of the weirdest turns Covid-19 has taken, The Guardian reported earlier in the month about the 140 Russians in quarantine in Siberia taking to social media from their confinement and birthing a new reality show.

As I watched, Sum and Chong made their vows. The photographers were snapping away. And when all was said and done, they went into overdrive. Every candid photo taken would have someone wearing a mask. What a way to remember your wedding.

Over in San Francisco, local artist Danielle Baskin has developed what she’s calling a resting face mask, one that is custom made to look like the lower part of your face. It has uses beyond the virus, she says. Think of kids walking up from operations to a sea of white- or green-masked faces – how much nicer it would be to see something approaching real faces.

The demand for masks is now so high that UK dentists are talking about having to cut back on their hours. I can see where fitted masks with ventilators might work against such a virus (good for me, because I’m beardless, but not great for himself), but those disposable ones I buy to use when I’m painting? I can’t see it.

These are effective at blocking large particles and droplets from transferring through the mask but can’t prevent small virus particles from getting around the edges or landing on the mask. Particles sitting on the mask pose a problem when users take it off, as once the SARS-CoV-2 particles are on your hands, you’re at risk if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, or leave traces of the virus on objects and surfaces.

Regardless of what works, it’s now mandatory for people in China to wear them. Weddings or not. Anything is better than nothing. I heard a recording on the radio during the week of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to John F Kennedy. The presenter then told us that to protect ourselves from Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly taking the same 20 seconds it takes to sing Happy Birthday. My Marilyn impression is improving daily.

I’m glad that Sum and Chong went ahead with their wedding, regardless. I’m happy for them. And I’m sure when they’re looking back at their videos of the wedding and leafing through the photographs, the masks will be something to talk about. I sincerely hope that this is the limit to how it affects their lives. My thoughts and prayers are with them and theirs.

The numbers are updated live. As I write, 2464 people have died; 23 326 have recovered; 53 039 are infected, of whom 11 553 are in serious or critical condition. Thirty-three countries and a cruise ship have been affected. Countless millions more around the world are seeing their lives change as people react differently to them.

Disease does not see color. It does not recognize the borders of nation-states or ethnic enclaves like Chinatowns,” she said. “Yet, there have already been reports across the U.S. and other parts of the world where Chinese people or anyone who looks “Chinese” are targeted for exclusion and prejudice. ~ Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley

Business and livelihoods are losing out. Lost wages. Lost time. Lost opportunities. All will take their toll.

I’m grateful that so far, touch wood, the virus has not made an appearance closer to home. I’m grateful, too, that I don’t have any trips to Asia planned that I might have to think about cancelling. Here’s to its arrested development followed swiftly by its eradication. The world is in a bad enough state without it.

Check out The Atlantic and its photospread – Life in the Time of Coronavirus.


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