just as i predicted yesterday, cambridge followed somerville in making masks mandatory starting wednesday, with a possible fine of $300 for those who don't follow the order. i decided to try riding long distance while wearing a mask, soon to be the new normal. it was not a good experience. for one thing, my glasses fogged up, and i kept adjusting mask and glasses to hopefully get that non-fogging sweet spot which was essentially futile. my heaving breathing moistened the mask so it clung close to my face, like i was being waterboarded, making it hard to breathe. there were moments where i thought i might pass out on the side of the road, choked unconscious from a face mask.
when i finally arrived at my parents' place by 11am, i couldn't wait to take off the mask. my father had decided to come with me, so he could get some supplies from the waltham costco across the street while i went to get my blood taken. even though i've been to are dozens of times, my father always drove, so i was glad i didn't have to drive this time as well.
my father thought there might be a line - there was one the last time my parents visited a costco - and even though there were a lot of cars in the parking lot, there actually weren't that many people, and no line at all. i decided to go to costco first with my father before he came with me to MGH waltham. i haven't been to a costco since the end of january, back when the world as we knew it was still normal. besides only allowing two people per membership to come into the store, there was also a sign outside listing all the things out of stock and those in limited supplies. even the greeter by the door who normally checks for id was sitting inside a plexiglass booth, and employees disinfected the handlebar of the cart the moment you came in (though my father already sprayed my sister's DIY disinfectant on the cart when we grabbed it from outside).
they still mostly carried everything, though the most crowded area was the fresh food aisles, including the produce and meats. vegetables and fruits they seemed to be well stocked, even had watermelons ($5.99). meats for whatever reason all the chicken were gone. why would people be hoarding chicken? as for beef and pork there were plenty, though my father didn't find the cut he was looking for, and i didn't see any spiced ribs. one chicken they did still have were the rotisserie chickens, though they seemed to be popular items and i saw a bunch of people buying them.
while buying a spool of garden hose and loading it into our cart, i dropped it wrong and the cardboard insert cleaved the tip of my right ring finger in half. surprisingly, it didn't bleed - just a thin bloody line from the gash - and didn't hurt all that much, but the thought if it probably more painful than the actual cut.
there was almost no line at the checkout area, with registers spaced far apart, and the cashiers surrounded by plexiglass, the most i've of all the supermarkets i've visited. the in-store food shop was still open, but there was a sign saying they were limiting what they were selling, and orders only, while i didn't see any workers behind the counter.
we finished with costco by 12:30pm. after loading up our things in the car, my father and i started walking towards MGH waltham. that's when i told my father he should wait in the car instead, no point in having him go to the hospital with me, especially if there are potential coronavirus patients there. he said he'd move the car so i could just hop in once i got out.
security was tight at MGH waltham. you couldn't just simply walk in. a security guard opened the door for me and i was greeted by two women in mask standing behind a bank of folding tables. one of them asked me a bunch of medical questions: do i have any coronavirus symptoms? have i been in contact with anyone with coronavirus? have i done any traveling recently? afterwards, she asked me to disinfect my hands. she asked if i was wearing a cloth mask, i said yes, she said she'd give me a surgical mask because it had better protection. i was just excited to be getting a free mask! she them told me to go to the first floor for blood works. but wasn't i already on the first floor? she said no, i had to go upstairs. another security guard pressed the button for me in the elevator as i went up one floor.
MGH waltham is built on a hill, so the architecture is chongqing-style, in that depending on how you enter, there can be multiple first floors. it looked very posh on the inside, and also very empty. in an upstairs conference room with glass walls i could see a bunch of doctors in masks having a meeting. by the other entrance a woman sat behind a desk with hand sanitizers and face masks to screen any walk-in visitors. i immediately saw the lab works area, there were 2 people ahead of me in line, the ground marked as to where and how far to stand apart. it look them a long time to process me, maybe it was lunch time and they were temporarily understaffed. i sat in a chair, but once i vacated, the receptionist came out to wipe down the chair for the next patient. the mask they gave me was actually pretty good, better than the cloth mask in that there's a pocket of air, so the mask isn't pressing up against my face. my glasses also didn't fog up, but that may be because i was indoors and not outside breathing heavily.
once inside the lab, i saw there were a lot of rooms but mostly empty. the nurse taking my blood said i had nice veins, which nobody's ever said that to me before. she took 2 small vials. i also asked her if they had any bandaid for the cut on my finger. she gave me a glitter bandaid.
i finally left MGH waltham after 30 minutes, it was already 1pm by then. i crossed the street to costco and saw my father waiting in the car already. instead of going home, we made a detour to the waltham ocean state job lot.
there was no line outside the OSJL. it was still business as usual, except everyone now queued up in a single line that snaked all the way into the jarred food aisle. a employee directed people from the main line once a cashier was open. the cashier was protected by a shield of plexiglass. we got some grass seeds, some fertilizer, and some garden hose fittings. these fittings looked better online; seen in real-life, they looked cheap (plastic) and for some reason over-sized. we got them anyway, even if they need to be replaced in a few years (metal hose attachments are better in that they're more durable than plastic). the cashier accidentally double charged us for the bag of ospoma fertilizer, i had to go back inside to get him to fix it.
we didn't get back to belmont until 2pm. my mother was already calling us on the phone when we were a minute away from the house, curious why we were gone so long. i removed the bandaid after washing my hands, and applied some painful liquid bandaid on my finger which sealed up the cut. my mother cooked up some korean wontons for lunch (i hadn't eaten anything all day). my sister stopped by to pick up some clear boxes we got her from costco, i returned to cambridge a bit after 3pm.
we finally did: the US has reached the million cases milestone. this was something kevin the astrophysicist predicted when the coronavirus was but a glimmer in the eyes of most americans. it wasn't that i didn't believe it would happen, but just the casual way he said it at the time, and i figured we'd hit those numbers only later in the year, not in just under 2 months. i was also sure that china's cases would be far greater than the US; the fact that their numbers have remained so low - 89,000 in a country of 1.3 bilion, compared to 58,000 in massachusetts alone - makes me think either they were geniuses in clamping down and force quarantining everyone in the country, or (more likely) that their numbers are actually underreported (for instance, they don't count asymptomatic carrier of the virus, even though that's the main way it spreads through the population). but it's hard to really get a sense of the totals, unless you're working the pandemic front line in a hospital, or you lose someone close to the coronavirus. how do you manage an invisible threat that scientists still don't have a clear understanding other than educated guesses?
i noticed the mail had arrived when i got back home, so i asked kevin if he was able to intercept the mailman and sign for yet another package from his parents, he said yes. not sure how the US surge is being reported in china, but his parents must be worried sick, having sent 3 care packages so far, all different sorts of traditional chinese medicine.
i checked my e-mail and noticed i already got a message from the patient's gateway letting me know they already had my test results. that was fast, i left MGH waltham at 1pm, they had my blood analyzed with numbers by 2pm. all my numbers were within the normal range for the most part. my cholesterol level is 222 mg/dL. my LDL ("lethal") level is 149, which is a little high (normal range is 50-129), but it's the lowest it's ever been since 2013. likewise, my HDL ("healthy") is 47, the highest it's ever been since 2013 (but not really saying much since the range is 35-100). it's also the first time since 2013 that my cholesterol/HDL ratio - 4.7 - has been below 5, which is the upper limit of the normal range. not sure what i've been doing this past year, not much different compared to years past. maybe i'm a bit more conscious about what i eat and try to go healthy if i can, but only by a tiny amount, i still basically eat whatever i want. i think these cholesterol numbers are okay, but if i were to lose 10 lbs. during the summer months, they'd be even better.
since it was a nice day (temperature mid-50's), i decided to go visit my community garden plot. last time i visited was more than a month ago, on one of those long walks to get out of the house. since that time, a lot of gardeners have already started work on their plot for the season. my plot by comparison looked like an abandoned garbage garden, primarily because i didn't do much cleaning in the fall. i took a few photos then left, i'll come back another day to till the soil. i noticed my gardening neighbor david hasn't touched his plot either.
kevin came out of his bedroom into the living room in the early evening. he wanted to ask me how long he can stay at my place, and if there was a chance he could stay until the coronavirus pandemic was over (whenever that is). i told him no, that chances are we'd still be in some sort of semi-quarantine situation all the way into the fall at least, and he couldn't stay here for that long. i told him we were essentially waiting for the two undergrads living at the upstairs apartment to vacate. initially they were scheduled to leave in april, but their flights kept getting cancelled, and their tickets were pushed back from may into june. most likely they'd be gone by june, in which time kevin would move in. i told him i'd borrow a car and help him move, and also take him on a food supply run so he could stock up. with my sister's godmother away in taiwan (not sure when she'll be back) and the grad student in the middle room due to leave in july, i told kevin there was a good chance he'd have the whole place to himself, which lit up his eyes. afterwards he gifted me a packet of face masks, said they were the good kind (surgical, waterproof outside).
i'm happy to report that the solar panels' automatic energy reporting is working again, after it failed to report back in march. beginning april 21st the report status changed to "no communication". that's usually the case right before an energy report is made, but on the 23rd the report status changed to "pending" with a vague error code of GENERAL_PROBLEM. it stayed like that for a few days and i figured it wasn't going to report this month, and i'd have to wait until next month or contact solaredge directly to have them submit the production numbers manually. on the 26th the report status went back to "no communication" and i thought that'd be the end of it, but to my surprise, today's status said "success" and it actually made the automatic energy report yesterday (27th). with united solar out of the solar business, i'm really afraid of anything going wrong with the panels, and trying to find someone to fix it.
i had another serving of sausage carbonara for dinner. i did water down the sauce this time with some pasta water, and flash cooked some raw spinach with the bowtie noodles for some additional nutrients.
while preparing for bed, i noticed something new on the bathroom counter, a plastic bottle with a bent nozzle. what was that? could it be an enema bottle? i kept think it was butt stuff related. only later did i finally guess what it was: a nasal irrigator, a chinese version of the neti pot. i even found a similar looking product online after a few seconds of searching.