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June 5, 2020

4/1/2020 2:08:00 PM
I'd rather be writing about birds
Outdoor Notes
Neil Case

The schools in Indiana where I live are closed, for a month at least, quite likely for the rest of the school year. Schools are closed in many counties in Indiana and in other states of the United States. With the schools closed both high school and college basketball seasons are over. Professional basketball seasons are also over. Games that have not been played have been cancelled in Indiana and many other states.

Meetings have been postponed or canceled. Programs, too, have been postponed or canceled. People are being admonished to stay at home, to avoid contact with people other than their immediate families. And it's all because of a disease, the coronavirus.

The coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, a remote area of China. It spread rapidly in Wuhan, then across China, then to cruise ships, to Japan, the U.S. and to other countries. It has become a worldwide epidemic, a pandemic.

Coronavirus, as the name indicates, is a viral disease. A virus is a single cell living organism. It's tiny, so small it can only be seen with an electron microscope. The disease, of the same name as the virus, is highly infectious. It has infected hundreds of thousands of people. Thousands of people infected have died.

Until the coronavirus is serious, however it is often undetected. At most a person with coronavirus may think they have a mild cold. They are carriers, however, and infect other people without even knowing they have the virus.

When I sat down at my desk and started my computer this morning I intended to write about a bird or about a group of birds. I thought of the birds I'd watched while I ate breakfast every morning, cardinals and black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds, dark-eyed juncos and tree sparrows. When I'd been outside with the dogs out before sitting down to breakfast, I'd heard two robins singing, mourning doves cooking, redwings calling. I could write about any one of these.

But when I sat at my computer, on the desk beside the computer was a news magazine and on the cover was "How bad will the coronavirus be?" Below that was a list of articles, many of them about the coronavirus.

I read every article and was surprised, dumbfounded, to learn what has been done in places where there is a high incidence of the disease. In Italy, for example, and in parts of France and in other nations, school closings and basketball game cancellations are nothing. Eleven northern Italian towns are quarantined.

Public offices are closed. Restaurants and bars and most stores, including grocery stores, are closed. Those grocery stores that are open have many empty shelves because people have been stocking up, hoarding. Tourist attractions, those that remain open, which includes the Colosseum, are described as nearly empty, deserted. In France any large outdoor gathering is presently prohibited.

After reading all the articles about the coronavirus in the news magazine I realized there are many changes around me that are due to the disease. It isn't just schools that are closed. Public offices are closed. Meetings have been postponed or cancelled, including one I was going to attend a few days from now.I thought of something else also. A virus is a living animal, according to the definition in my dictionary, and living animals and plants are what I write about.

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