John Prine

Our one and only president has accused healthcare workers of stealing PPE (personal protective equipment), such as masks.

I confess, Mr President. Current precautions (subject to change) at my place of work require me to wear a mask (plain surgical mask, not N95) with all patients, and a face shield over that to protect it so I can use the mask indefinitely unless I see a patient actually in isolation, in which case I am to discard the mask but clean the face shield. For known COVID-19 patients we use a fit-tested N-95 mask or a PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator).

As a result, I used one mask last week, as well as one face shield. I have cleaned the face shield more times than I can count, so I’ll confess I’ve also used some Cavi-Wipes, alcohol wipes, and Purell. Oh, I stored the mask and shield over the weekend and will use them again this week. There are several thousand other employees in the same hospital who are equally guilty. In fact, one of my co-workers replaced the elastic band on his face shield because it wore out, so he will confess to using a foot of Coban.

(Image from 3M)

So in one little ol’ midwestern hospital we used maybe 10,000 pieces of PPE more than in a normal week. Gee, Mr President, do ya think it’s possible that there is a legitimate reason hospitals are using 10 times more PPE than usual? If we used to use it for, say one in 50 patients, and now we use it for every patient, maybe a ten-fold increase means we are actually conserving equipment. [ed. note: these numbers are seat-of-the-pants estimates.]

John Prine has been intubated and ventilated for COVID-19. Having survived two cancers (including a lung), he may be too tough for this virus. Prine demonstrated more genius in his first album than most of us do in a lifetime. I still remember the first time I heard that record, at the apartment of a co-worker after a meeting in 1971. I thought I had a crush on her at the time, but it might have been John Prine instead.

The album opens with “Illegal Smile” – “it seemed like total silence was the only friend I had.”

If that wasn’t good enough, he followed with “Spanish Pipedream”, in whch he told us to “blow up the TV…”

He showed more insight into our neglect of the elderly than a man of 25 had any right to in “Hello in There” – “You know that old trees just go stronger and old rivers grow wilder every day. But old people just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say ‘Hello in there, hello.'”

“Sam Stone” told the story of a man returning from Viet Nam with PTSD and a monkey on his back: “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes…”

“Paradise” told the story of Prine’s parents’ childhood home, now an open mine – “‘And Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River, where paradise lay.’ ‘Well I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking – Mr Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.'”

I could go through the whole album this way – every one a gem, including “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore”. Instead, I’ll leave you with “Angel from Montgomery”, also recorded by Bonnie Raitt (speaking of crushes), and here as a duet.

As of this writing, Prine’s family says his condition is stable.

A bike club I ride with just deleted a few weeks’ worth of rides from their website. Another club posted their rides but urged people to start at different times and ride in different directions. Our “safer-at-home” order allows outdoor exercise, though not in groups.

It was one of those days. No matter which way I turned, and I rode in a loop, I never seemed to have a tailwind. It was a headwind or headwindier. The spring peepers were not practicing Social Distancing. They seem to get loud right around maple surgaring weather.

There also seemed to be a lot more cars out than I’ve seen in a while. The number of new cases of COVID-19 has leveled off in the past few days around here. That is not say we’ve turned the corner. The number of total cases is not decreasing or even leveling off. The number of new cases added each day has, at least for the past few days, leveled off. That appears to say that staying home is working. Keep it up. Go listen to the rest of the John Prine album.

Oh yeah – I sent in my absentee ballot today. Remember to vote.