New Normal

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 New Normal

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” Camille Pissarro

No one would describe me as a corona virus optimist, though I do think about traveling next summer. I don’t see face masks, face time or zoom going away any time soon. I hear terms like the great reset for what to do with your life now.  There is no part of our lives that will remain untouched from this virus and quarantine.

There were so many things we took for granted or simply did not notice. Experiences I have when traveling, like drinking a cup of coffee, have never felt the same at home. For the past year we have slowed down. Many of us are no longer on the move. I appreciate being able to do simple things now that i used to take for granted. Here are the first ten things I have done since getting the vaccine that did not seem noteworthy until I couldn’t do them anymore. 

I made a non emergency dentist appointment. I no longer have to be scared of the elevator which is always filled to capacity. 

I had lunch at a friend’s  house inside. We were supposed to meet at the park but it was raining. There was no parking so I ended up nervously using her valet parking. I am terrible at parking so valet is something I miss a lot. We had really bad  takeout food.  It didn’t matter  because we were so happy to do something normal. 

 Friends and family have come over for lunch and a beach walk. – mostly outside but the weather has been cold  so they came in. 

I went for a walk on the Venice Canals with a friend. (I’ve avoided them because the sidewalks are narrow and people around here don’t wear masks). We walked to my favorite Cha Cha Matcha which luckily is still there (as opposed to many other businesses on the street that are gone). I had my first drink in a plastic cup that I did not make myself in almost a year.

We had a birthday lunch and movie for my six year old goddaughter.

 Acupuncture is something I do on a weekly basis  and have not done in a year. !!!!!!! I realize I don’t  need to do it so much but it was great to finally be able to go. 

i had my first outdoor  restaurant lunch at one of my favorite sushi places – Yumi.  I tried to support them during the pandemic and did takeout whenever I could. They were also the last restaurant I went to before the shutdown.

Beauty day – manicure, pedicure, waxing, eyebrows, hair color and blowout. 

I got a new car. I did not feel comfortable to test drive or go around to different places. I hope I like it. 

We are going to a hotel in Santa Barbara for the BF’s birthday next week. It will be dinner not cooked by him  in a restaurant without sweat pants or jeans, massages, and walks on a different beach. We had to cancel the big birthday trip at the beginning of the shut down so this feels hopeful. 

Are you also appreciating the normal things in your life that you used  to take  for granted?

 Stay safe,

JAZ

 

To The Vaccine

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To The Vaccine

“There is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it.” John Greene

It is safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other. In the early days of the virus, information was changing daily. At first, I too was on the fence when I learned the vaccine was going to be fast tracked. I try to take a more natural approach to health care. But as my father used to say about religion, we are people of science. I was tired of the quarantine and too at risk to take the surprisingly cavalier approach to Covid that many of my fellow humans did. I was getting the vaccine.

 The rollout of the vaccine was not easy in Los Angeles. There were stories of people paying lots of money to get them. The next group after health care workers were seniors who struggled with disappointment and frustration as the website crashed, vaccines ran out and appointments filled up quickly. It was much worse than trying to get Hamilton tickets. Vaccinate@la.com was a mess. I heard stories of people in other states who had actually  been sent appointments or called as opposed to filling out the same forms over and over only to be told that there were no appointments.

At one point the city stopped giving them. I could not get one. My friend had two appointments. I decided to try and use her extra one. It was at Dodger Stadium which at the moment is the world’s largest vaccination site. It is a drive through and you never leave your car. The BF waited five and a half hours for his vaccine two weeks before. I went very early in the morning and was nervous. I had made sure that they sometimes accepted walk ins and had a way to register in person. There was momentary confusion about the appointment not being in my name, but eventually they let me have it. I was in and out in forty minutes. 

I’m not sure if we are ground breakers or guinea pigs but the only thing I felt as the first shot went into my arm, was grateful.  The historical significance of that moment was not lost on me either. I found myself quite emotional thinking about all those who have died of COVID-19 and how many more lives around the world will be lost until the vaccine is available to everyone.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Taking A Break

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“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels

Today I faced a difficult decision. I need to take a month long break from blogging. Decisions don’t happen automatically. If you blog, you know that taking a month off could be brutal for your audience and traffic. People get used to reading it and then they don’t.

I wanted to write a travel blog and though blogging through the pandemic has been helpful, it isn’t what I want to write about – or live through. Well, I do want to live through it. I get excited about writing and researching trip ideas. I love telling the stories of my travels. I like thinking of my life experiences in stories.

But I feel with no new trips, (not even to the mall) my ideas are getting stale. Though my dog is an endless-source of fascination for me, I’m sure you are not that interested in hearing about us. You must be feeling as bored with my dinners at home every night for ten months as I am (though they are always delicious). Memories of trips are fine but I have covered those.

I think in a month we will have a better idea of where we are in this pandemic. With our new COVID plan and a new president the future looks better. I hope you will be here when I return. Thank you so much for reading .

Stay safe,

JAZ

 Ten More Foreign Films

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 Ten More Foreign Films

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of out better selves?”  Mad Max George Miller James McCausland

After ten months of isolating, most of us have exhausted the list of films and TV shows we wanted to watch if we had the time. Lately foreign TV shows and films with beautiful photography are a way of traveling for me. Here  are some that I have watched or rewatched that you might like. Most can be found on Amazon Prime.

Shoplifters  Japan

Winning the Palm D-or at Cannes is more prestigious in some circles than the Academy Award. Shoplifters is a quiet story which asks the question  what is a family?  This family lives together in a poor section of Tokyo relying on the grandmother’s pension and shoplifting to survive. As the film unfolds, secrets are revealed and your conventions of morality are tested.  This is my personal favorite of all the films.

Parasite Korea

I rewatched Parasite.  If you have not seen it, I think it is brilliant. It is a mix of black comedy, classic thriller and drama. There are twists and turns at every corner. Parasite tells the story of the Kim family.  Struggling to make ends meet, the Kims decide to con a wealthy, unassuming family into hiring them in various household positions while posing as completely unrelated, highly qualified individuals. The very best films are those that become more and more impressive the longer you think about them and Parasite is an intelligent and layered narrative masterpiece. The Academy got it right this time. 

No Chile

No is a true story of the ad campaign that helped persuade Chileans to cast their ballots against the dictator General. Augusto Pinochet. After eight years, due to international pressure to legitimize his government, Pinochet allows a referendum on whether he will be allowed another eight years in office. This movie dramatizes the “No” campaign devised by young advertising executive René Saavedra, played by Gael García Bernal. This young media type apparently proposed to take their resistance to tyranny and sell it like some Pepsi alternative to Pinochet’s Coke. It is a fascinating and heartfelt study of democracy.  

Honeyland  Macedonia

Honeyland is a documentary about a wild beekeeper in Northern Macedonia. Hatidze lives in an abandoned village with her frail mother and no electricity or running water. It is beautifully shot and for whatever reason you can watch this poor, caring, optimistic, brave woman and her bees for hours.  Lucky for the filmmakers, during the three years of filming, a family moves in next door  which adds more drama. The story tells of the delicate balance between humans and nature and should not be missed. 

Timbuktu Mauritania

 Timbuktu is a poetic response to the jihadist occupation of the title city and its imposition of Sharia law. It is the story of a city shattered by  bigotry and violence. At the center of this is the tragic story of one family: a herdsman, Kidane, his wife, Satima , and their 12-year-old daughter. Kidane angrily confronts a fisherman who has killed his cow with terrible results. There are beautiful, visual moments that give us scenes from the life of a traumatized nation. It is a difficult film to watch because it depicts a future that no one wants to see. 

Aquarius Brazil

Aquarius revolves around the story of Clara a retired music critic who is the last remaining tenant in her beautiful beachfront apartment building in Recife. She refuses to be evicted by the company who now owns and wants to demolish the building no matter what they do to her. Clara is a woman who refuses to be confined by age or circumstance and I think this is Sonia Braga’s best role since Kiss Of the Spider Woman. The film is a story of past and present with social and personal conflicts seamlessly intertwined. I loved this character.

Force Majeure Sweden

An avalanche erupts during a middle class ski break in the Alps. The father seems to only be looking out for himself not his wife and kids which emphasizes the marriage problems. Mid Life Crisis mountain man and his young hippy girlfriend arriive which reflects on their relationship. It  is a dramedy about how we cant control nature or our lives and is being remade into an American film called Downhill.  I recommend the original.

Ash Is Purest White  China

Ash is Purest White is a love story between Qiao and Bin in an ever changing China. It is their on again off again love story which would make her a victim but she ends up being strong and true to herself. It is a bit long but the photography, history  and poetic aspect of the film is beautiful, The character of Qiao, is  played in a spectacular performance by Tao Zhao.

White Material France

Amid turmoil and racial conflict in an undisclosed African country, a French woman fights for her coffee crop and her life. The film explores colonialism and its lingering effects and the poisonous nature of violence. No matter how much Maria  played beautifully,  by Isabelle Huppert believes she is African, or that her son is African, she will always be an outsider because of the cultural, historical, and racial issues that exist between her and the locals. Her identity and the “white material” of her life are what the rebel army is hoping to eradicate. It is a haunting, unromantic portrayal of the land and the people who inhabit it. 

Il Divo Italy

Il Divo” tells the shocking story of Giulio Andreotti, an Italian senator and later Prime Minister who many believe was behind the murder of several journalists, mafia members, and fellow political figures. It is a great performance by Toni Servillo. It tells an abundance of information that we as Americans probably don’t know but it doesn’t matter because the purpose seems to be just to show the scope of Andreotti’s power and evil. It is weirdly  both strange and mesmerizing. (if this one doesn’t show up, click on watch this video on you tube)

Stay safe,

JAZ

Where The F Is That Waiter And  Other Things I Haven’t Said In Ten Months

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Where The F Is That Waiter And  Other Things I Haven’t Said In Ten Months

“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. “ Frank A. Clark

Remember what normal  used to sound like. Here are some things I have not said in ten months.

I think our seats are right over here,.

Can you believe this traffic?

Check please.

There’s this new place I want to try for brunch. 

Can we meet for a coffee and talk?

The plane is late.

Airport security hates me.

Are you packed? 

I’m getting my hair blown out. 

Where’s my passport?

I’ll pick up milk on my way home.

I will be in Beverly Hills today – Do you want to have lunch?

The gym is so crowded.

See you in class.

i have acupuncture at 2:00. 

Did you shut your phone off?

The movie starts in five minutes.

I’m going to the spa.

I’m at the nail salon.

One large popcorn no butter.

Do you have change for the valet? 

Where do you feel like eating tonight?

Let”s grab drinks. 

Can we meet for a coffee and talk? 

Does this look good on me?

Here, taste this.

I want to see that new exhibit at MOCA before the ballet.

When can we have dinner?

I’ll  pay cash.

I hate the mall.  

Where’s the restroom?

Sorry, I’m germaphobic.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Antisemitism, The Far Right And Me

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Antisemitism, The Far Right And Me

“Tolerance is not a synonym of weakness.” Satyendra Singh

Growing up with the children of Holocaust survivors, I learned it is always an anxious time to be an American Jew. If there isn’t a genuine threat to my safety, my brain can easily invent one. 

The BF says it’s because when my grandparents were being raped and pillaged in Eastern Europe, his grandparents were looking at real estate on the Eastern Shore. We have different anxiety levels.

According to the AntiDefamation League, antisemitism is up and growing over the last five years.

In the past, most antisemitic acts were random acts of violence from  personal hatred of Jews. But lately, the acts are from extremist, political ideology. Most recent acts of Antisemitism are being committed by the Far Right -in particular, white supremacist groups that are embraced by the Right. 

It’s mind-boggling to me that the Jewish Orthodox community has embraced a president who said that the group in Charlottesville who shouted “Jews will not replace us” had some very fine people. He shares the same conspiracy theories about George Soros funding immigrant migration that some synagogue shooters do. 

Antisemitism seems to be the backbone of most far-right groups and conspiracy theories. It certainly is behind QAnon and growing more so. The claim that rich Jews, including the Rothschild banking family, secretly control the world has long been a recurring feature in antisemitism and is behind QAnon theories. I was told that as a child as one of the explanations for Hitler’s popularity. I remember looking around my working-class Jewish neighborhood wondering how anyone could believe something like that.

The age-old anti-Semitic story claiming that Jews kill Christian children to harvest their blood for ritual purposes is making a comeback. I have a personal connection to that one. My last name means “holy seed” because my ex-husband is a descendent of a group of rabbis who defended a Jewish person accused of killing a Christian child to use his blood for a Passover service. They were ultimately killed in his place. I certainly didn’t think I would be hearing that ancient one again. QAnon sounds more and more like a rebranded Nazi cult. I didn’t hear Trump come out against them either.

Antisemitism has been called the world’s oldest hatred. It’s been used throughout centuries to explain all the bad things that happen in a society. It becomes more prominent in times of economic distress and political unrest. My mother used to say that the world needs someone to blame for their troubles. We have a lot of troubles right now. 

Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe as well. It isn’t just “hillbillies raising a confederate flag.” This isn’t an isolated hatred. Don’t stay silent. Two Qanon supporters were elected to Congress this year. Isn’t that how the Nazis started? No one took them seriously and look what happened.

PS I wrote this blog post on Monday.  On Wednesday among the many ugly, white supremacist groups storming the capitol were Nazis.  Carrying swastika flags and wearing shirts that said things like “Camp Auschwitz STAFF, work brings freedom” and “6MWE” (which stands for “six million weren’t enough,” a reference to the number of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust). The Nazis made themselves right at home in the Capitol stoking  fear and sending a clear message of the hate and violence they represent. They were not patriots, Jewish Ivanka.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Twenty Five Things I Want To Do in 2021

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25 Things I Want To Do in 2021

“Speaking of the happy new year, I wonder if any year ever had less chance of being happy. It’s as though the whole race were indulging in a kind of species introversion — as though we looked inward on our neuroses. And the thing we see isn’t very pretty… So we go into this happy new year, knowing that our species has learned nothing, can, as a race, learn nothing — that the experience of ten thousand years has made no impression on the instincts of the million years that preceded.”  John Steinbeck

Well, this will be different.

 Get a corona virus vaccine and go back to traveling and my normal life. 

 Stay healthy.

I want my children, family and friends to stay healthy. 

I hope small businesses and restaurants  get through this.

 Not check what crazy thing Trump did today.

 Eat in a restaurant with my friends and family.

 Rent a house in Portugal.

Get a massage.

 Take my trip to France and Germany that was cancelled. 

 Stop being afraid every time I leave the house.

Go to a film festival or music festival.

Get acupuncture.

 Go to a spa.

See the Grand Canyon.

Continue Qi, Gong, Yoga and Meditation.

Move.

 Go anywhere.

 Go to the theatre, ballet or a concert.

Go to Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Belize.

 Go to the movies and eat popcorn.

Fly on an airplane.

Go to Marfa.

 Go shopping in a store.

Go to the Galapagos.

Leave the house without alcohol spray, hand sanitizer,  wipes and a mask. 

Fly safe, Stay safe, and Next year will be better!!!

JAZ

Pandemic – Nine and Half Month Check-In

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Pandemic – Nine And A Half Month Check-In

“In the end, everything will be okay. If it isn’t okay, then it isn’t the end.”Unknown

The Bf bought me a beautiful necklace for Christmas. It’s not the kind of thing you can throw on in this pandemic casual world. I looked at it and wondered when I would get to wear it. For a moment I thought of how much protective gear I could get if I returned it. My presents to him were much more practical things that he could use now. 

This made me think how much the pandemic has already shaped my life and how it will continue to shape it.  Luckily, human beings have the ability to bounce back. Covid 19 highlighted the mess that the US is in. If we had been better about standing together and helping each other, we would be in a much different place now – mentally, physically, and economically. 

I have lived in LA for many years and the landscape has changed greatly.  It has become more gentrified, crowded, and expensive.  Many of my favorite stores, restaurants and bars have closed. 

But what if the change happens all at once? 2020 has been unprecedented.  At the moment restaurants, gyms, bars, hair and nail salons, theaters, and dance clubs are all closed. Small businesses are open but people are not supposed to go to them. 

There are many places in LA that have closed during the pandemic and many more will continue to close. I have tried to do takeout a couple of times a week throughout the pandemic to support local restaurants – even though in the beginning it was scary.  There has been no reason to buy clothes or accessories. I do my own nails and have wash and wear hair. I don’t have much need for dry-cleaning. I exercise on Zoom.  I order everything on Amazon. When I do go out, I drive by more and more for lease signs on small businesses and stores. I see more homeless camps on streets that did not have them before. 

We need to make more of an effort to support our local businesses or they won’t be here when we come out of this.  Here are some things we can do.

 Delivery apps like Grubhub and Uber charge large fees to restaurants that are already losing money. Curbside pickup is usually available and safe. Try to pick up your own food directly from the restaurants. Don’t forget to tip. It’s not just restaurants – local farms are struggling as well. Sign up for a local farm box. It will mean less trips to the store, less  people handling your food and fresh healthy produce to help your immune system. Order from Gold Belly. Many closed restaurants are shipping all kinds of food products throughout the country. 

 Shop local.  Depending on your risk factor, put on a mask and go into a store that follows safety rules, or call and do a curbside pickup. Buy gift cards to use later. Many small businesses have put their stuff online and you can do that as well. Give businesses a shout out on social media. It’s free and helpful. 

Donate to a cause or help prepare food for those laid-off workers and their families during this time.

Above all stay home when you can. You will be protecting yourself and others. The pandemic won’t end when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve but help is on the way -Hang in there and Happy New Year.

Stay safe,

JAZ

 Ten Countries With The Best Response To Covid 19

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   Ten Countries With The Best Response To Covid 19

“The virus is cleverer than us, the virus is running faster than us.”  Dr. Li Ailan 

The one thing that the countries that seem to be doing better at controlling the virus have in common is that their governments, healthcare, and science are working together. Early action, testing, and contact tracing were key steps in controlling the virus. It is a very different approach than the countries with leaders who are using the crisis to accelerate their authoritarianism by blaming the “others”, demonizing journalists, and blanketing their countries in “I will never leave” darkness. Here are some countries in order from most to least cases with success stories. The numbers are from December 26.

Denmark 151,167 cases 1,153 deaths

Denmark’s response to the pandemic was “act fast and act with force.” Denmark is a peninsula and only shares one border with Germany. It was still one of the first country’s to close its border and have a national lockdown. Denmark immediately banned large public gatherings, closed down all unnecessary venues across its cities, heavily discouraged the use of public transportation and all manner of travel unless absolutely essential. Daycares, schools, and universities were very quickly shut down and air travel was severely restricted. Their entire free health care system was able to prioritize and reorganize medical departments, isolation wards, and hospital beds, as well as doctors and nurses, to be optimally prepared to isolate and treat admitted patients. The Danish people have complete trust in their government and politicians. There were no conspiracy theories or widespread panic surrounding the virus. They acted responsibly and followed the rules.

Singapore 58,519 cases 29 deaths

Timely preparation, aggressive testing, tracing of carriers helped limit the impact of Covid-19 in Singapore. The city-state’s comparatively small population of 5.7 million people and experience of SARS in 2003 gave it the upper hand against the encroaching virus. The government tightened border controls almost immediately after the disease first erupted in China – while also providing a clear public communication strategy. 

South Korea 56,872 cases 808 deaths

The government of South Korea has been able to keep the disease under control without paralyzing the national health and economic systems. The critical factors in South Korea’s public health administration and management that led to success include national infectious disease plans, collaboration with the private sector, stringent contact tracing, an adaptive health care system, and government-driven communication.

Australia  28,308 cases 908 deaths

 Australia put their faith in science to get the pandemic under control. They formed a National Cabinet comprised of the leaders of each state and territory and the Prime Minister to resolve differences and put the necessary restrictions in place. National cooperation was further enhanced by working with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. In March they closed their borders and issued a two-week quarantine. Australians were quick to comply. 

Uruguay 16,218 cases 147 deaths

Less than two weeks into his new job as Uruguay’s president, Luis Lacalle Pou acted promptly when Uruguay’s first case of covid-19 was confirmed in the capital of Montevideo on March thirteenth. Unlike most Latin American presidents, Lacalle Pou shut down schools and businesses but asked rather than ordered people to stay at home to protect the population, the oldest in Latin America. Subsidies for small businesses were financed in part by a reduction of politician and executive-level public servants’ salaries, as well as by contributions made by business and social organizations. The swift action of the government slowed the spread of the virus and bought the country vital time to prepare its hospitals and testing system, says the team of scientists advising it. It also meant they could stop the virus’s spread before it became exponential as it did in the hardest-hit nations. The alignment of decision-makers, scientists, and national health authorities was perfect and clearly with great timing,” says Gonzalo Moratorio, a virologist directing Uruguay’s covid-19 testing unit. Early testing and contact tracing were key. The strategy of appealing to citizens’ sense of responsibility with measured restrictions has proven successful. 

  Iceland 5,683 cases 28 deaths

Although it is a small country with a population of 360,000 people, Iceland emerged as one of the leaders in controlling the virus. They immediately had a regiment of testing. contact-tracing and isolation, as well as genetic sequencing of the virus. On a per-capita basis, no country has done more testing They started screening in January a month before the first case arrived for high-risk people and anyone else who wanted to test. They took samples of the virus from every person infected to check for mutations.  The widespread screening helped them pick out asymptomatic people who might have been spreading the virus.

New Zealand 2,144 cases  25 deaths

New Zealand started in February 2020  to identify cases and chains of transmission of the virus before it infected vulnerable populations. They did widespread testing, contact tracing, isolating infected cases, and quarantined their contacts. New Zealand has strict border control policies for produce and plants and immediately implemented them for people as well. They had a very stringent five-week lockdown in March. Rapid, science-based risk assessment linked to early, decisive government action was the difference between New Zealand and the countries where the virus spreads out of control.

 Viet Nam 1,440 cases 35 deaths

Viet Nam shares a border with China and moved quickly. With the help of the World Health Organization, Viet Nam already had an emergency health plan in place. They had 16 cases in February and imposed a three-week quarantine in those places. There were no more cases. In March a case came in from the UK. They closed the borders. Both the military and local governments were mobilized to provide testing, meals, and amenity services to all and quarantine facilities which remained free during this period. There was never a nationwide lockdown, people were advised to stay home and some restrictive physical distancing measures were implemented throughout the country. Masks were mandatory.  The Vietnamese public had been exceptionally compliant with government directives and advice, partly as a result of trust built up thanks to real-time, transparent communication from the Ministry of Health, supported by the WHO and other UN agencies. A COVID-19 song was released, with lyrics raising public awareness of the disease, which later went viral on social media with a dance challenge on Tik Tok initiated by Quang Dang, a local celebrity. (I love this)

Taiwan 783  cases  7 deaths

Taiwan was hit badly with SARS in 2003 and so as soon as a few cases of Covid 19 were identified in January, they were wearing masks. They had a public health response mechanism already in place to respond to the next pandemic.  Taiwan has a world-class health system with universal coverage which moved quickly to respond to the threat. They immediately implemented a travel ban to China. Medical officials held daily public briefings with instructions to prevent the spread of the virus. They were able to stop the spread of Covid 19 without a lockdown because they started in January when the Western World did not.

 Cambodia 363 case 0 deaths 

In the first few months, Cambodia detected and managed 122 cases and avoided widespread community-level transmission. With the support of WHO and partners, Cambodia has made important investments over the last ten years in its health security system that allowed it to successfully respond to the initial outbreak of COVID-19. A whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, along with vigilant surveillance, laboratory, rapid response teams, and good collaboration between the Ministry of Health and technical partners have all contributed to Cambodia’s successful response. They are better prepared for the second wave than they were ten months ago but like everywhere people have pandemic fatigue and need to work.

Today alone Los Angeles recorded 30,000 new cases and 150 new deaths. I am so angry right now. Nations as poor as Cambodia and Viet Nam moved quickly and listened to the science and health care professionals and the greatest country in the world did not. All this death could have been avoided.

Please stay safe,

JAZ

Ten Countries With The Worst Covid Outbreaks

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Ten Countries With The Worst Covid Outbreaks

“Only if we end the pandemic everywhere, can we end the pandemic anywhere.”Unknown

The world has the same goal – to end this pandemic and go back to whatever normal is. Viruses don’t respect borders. These countries share the fact that at the start of the outbreak, they tested little relative to their size. Our healthcare systems are not equipped to handle thousands of people getting sick at the same time, so more people are dying in these countries. The governments in all these countries downplayed the severity of the virus, fumbled lockdowns, and instead of science used magical thinking in the hopes of ending the outbreak.  The numbers change rapidly but at the moment, here are the countries with the worst outbreaks in order. The numbers are from December 21.They will be higher by the time you read this.

10. Iran 1,164,535 cases 53,816 deaths

The difference between Iran and other countries experiencing a surge in the virus is the “maximum pressure” sanctions put on them by Donald Trump.  The Iranian government and doctors insist they don’t have enough medicines to fight the virus. Though the sanctions technically exempt food and medical supplies, human rights reports from Iran have repeatedly emphasized the impact of sectoral sanctions on gaining access to essential medicines and medical equipment, including respirators and protective equipment for health-care workers. Experts say US sanctions on Iran are indeed hurting ”foreign reserves, foreign currency abroad to purchase the necessary medical equipment — masks, anything that it might need to take care of its population,” Sanam Vakil.

9. Mexico 1,320,545 cases 118,202 deaths

One quarter of Mexico’s population has been exposed to Covid 19. The government thinks the real number is even higher than the reported numbers. The blame is on the country’s under funded health care system, lack of adequate testing,  and complicated effort to track the disease and coordinate the response. There was a voluntary lockdown from March to June but because of Mexico’s high poverty level many had to work and so the numbers went up. There has been no mask mandate. Some say it is to downplay the pandemic and some Mexican States have imposed their own mask mandate.

8. Spain 1,817,448 cases 48,926 deaths

Spain has been in a state of emergency since the end of October. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has asked people to drastically curtail their social lives and limit their movements for the common good. Silvia Calzón, Spain’s secretary of state for health, urged people to act wisely and avoid large crowds. Spain is reluctant to blame its citizens for early on having the most cases in Europe, but they feel the increase is do to young people partying and socializing. Spain has a similar problem to the US where the Covid safety regulations have been left to the different regions.

 7. Italy 1,964,054 cases 68,099 deaths

At the moment Italy holds a record that no-one wants – the most corona deaths in Europe. Italy was the first country in Europe to be slammed with Covid and had the benefit of time and experience to be better prepared for the second wave. Italy waited too long to reimpose restrictions  and reinforce its medical community. Nearly 80,000 Italian health care workers have been infected and 255 doctors have died. Instead, on Nov. 3 the government divided the country into three risk zones with varying restrictions. But by then infections had been doubling each week for nearly a month and hospitals were already overwhelmed in Milan and Naples.

6. Turkey 2,043,704 cases 18,351 deaths

As with all the countries where the virus is highest, Turkey waited too long to impose Covid 19 restrictions. Now children under the age of 20 can go outside for three hours a day and have school on Zoom. People over the age of 65 can go out for a different three hours. The elderly and the young are banned from public transportation. There is a curfew. Many are angry about how the government mismanaged the crisis. The government played down the virus and sugar coated the numbers not counting the asymptomatic ones which were high.

5. UK 2,073,511 cases 67,616 deaths

The four countries of the UK are trying to avoid a spike over the Christmas holidays. They want to ease things up between Dec 23-27 with rules like only a single person household can visit another home. People living in the UK will be allowed to form a Christmas bubble of up to three households. Households can only be in one bubble and may not switch. London has moved from High Alert to Very High Alert and bars and restaurants will remain closed. Outdoor groupings must be limited to six people. The virus is accelerating and the hope is not to lose more and more people as the vaccine is being rolled out. 

4. Russia 2,877,727 cases 51,351 deaths

As Russia struggles to get the virus under control, videos released of morgues piled high with bodies and hospitals that look like war zones, suggest the numbers are much higher than released. The way they count the Covid deaths, are different than the World Health organization guidelines which states that all deaths related to Covid-19 should be counted. Though the government portrays a country in full control of the pandemic, the strain on the medical facilities is becoming obvious to the Russian people. 

3. Brazil 7,241,612 cases 186,818 deaths

Fueled by the untimely political disputes, Covid 19 spread like wildfire in Brazil. Amid the controversy, Brazilian research disproved the theory that hydrochloroquine was helpful in treating the virus. Brazil was unprepared for the second wave of the virus and the hospitals are full with queues of patients lined up outside for beds. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the novel coronavirus as a “little flu” and said recently was at the “tail end of the pandemic.” Sound familiar? Brazil has the second largest death toll in the world from Covid 19.

 2. India 10,075,036 cases 146,134 deaths

Tens of millions of migrant workers were stranded without work or food after Prime Minister Narendra Modi  imposed a lockdown in March. By spring and summer, these workers were so desperate that the government provided emergency trains to carry them back to their home villages. They became virus trains and due to lack of testing and social distancing these trains brought the virus all over India to places where it had not appeared before. The government never adequately contemplated how  shutting down the economy and quarantining 1.3 billion people would cause desperation,  panic and  chaos for millions of migrant workers at the heart of Indian industry. Experts agree that the spread in rural areas, home to more than half of the population, is a challenge to both fight and monitor. The health infrastructure in these areas is weaker, making it harder to treat patients and testing isn’t easily available in many small towns and villages. 

1. US 18,312,007 cases 325,187 deaths

We are number one – in both deaths and number of cases. Few countries have been as severely hit as America has. The world watched as the US – once a model for government competence and health care, fumbled the response to the Corona Virus. Despite ample warning, immense resources, medical and scientific expertise, it floundered. The world listened in shock as our President talked about drinking disinfectant. When people in third world countries emerged from lockdown and began partying, they saw that Americans in certain states did the same. Almost everything that went wrong with America’s response was predictable and preventable.

Stay safe,

JAZ