You can’t go anywhere without hearing people talk about the coronavirus (COVID-19) lately. I mean, anywhere. Go for a jog or walk outside, and as you pass other people who are talking, more often than not their conversation is about coronavirus. Same with fellow diners in a restaurant, or co-workers in the office – if you’re still going into the office, that is, and not yet working remotely.
Airlines are reassuring passengers that they are taking appropriate safety measures to ensure that travelers are safe. The stock market is tanking, in part because of the economic harm caused by the virus (or by concern or panic about the virus).
I live in the Seattle area, and closer to home, the situation is a bit surreal. I read a recent New York Times article that prompted me to write something about this. Sure, this is generally a blog about building and launching rockets, but even that is impacted by the coronavirus epidemic and news coverage.
As the New York Times article notes, Seattle is something like the epicenter for this virus in the United States. The first death from COVID-19 in the US was in Washington state, in King County (which is Seattle and some neighboring areas). As of today – March 10 – the Washington Department of Health is reporting a total of 267 COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths across the state. Alaska Airlines, based out of Seattle, is one of many airlines offering no change or cancellation fees for flights scheduled through certain dates. Amazon and Microsoft, whose headquarters are in the Seattle area, have recommended their employees in the area work from home. Facebook (which has a large Seattle office) has said the same thing.
State and local governments in Washington have also advised people to avoid large public crowded spaces or events. In fact, the governor of Washington has declared a state of emergency, as have several other states across the country, and is banning crowds of 250 or more people.
With respect to rocketry and related activities, some local rocketry clubs have either cancelled launches or warned that people not attend. Similarly, the Lake Washington Ham Radio Club, where I got my amateur license a couple months ago, cancelled its monthly meeting due to the outbreak.
What can be done in this situation except escape Seattle for the remote beaches of Hawaii? That’s exactly what we did last week, and in another post I’ll share just a quick overview of what we did (and, of course, some pictures)!