Covid-19 Journal #8 – April 3, 2020

A military transport comes by my house

The number of cases jumped to 221 with I believe 3 deaths. The city remains on quarantine with stay-at-home orders. Military trucks were going through the city block-by-block encouraging people to stay in their homes. The chief state sanitary inspector Nurmat Atabekov, the Dr. Joe Fauci of Uzbekistan, was complaining that people are still violating the quarantine rules and not taking this seriously enough. I see much less people out and about in my neighborhood, but there are always a some people walking here and there.

Covid-19 Journal #7 (April 1, 2020)

One of the frustrating characteristics of this crisis is the uncertainty. I read of death rates ranging from 9.9% (Italy) to 0.5% (Germany). From the information I am gathering, I still believe the highest risks are for elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, but then you read of younger people being admitted to hospitals. Some experts are saying it is similar to influenza and that the overall number of deaths world-wide has not increased because of Covid-19 and it is similar to a regular influenza season. But then why are hospitals in some areas being overrun with cases? This article “How deadly is the coronavirus? It’s still far from clear. by retired UK pathologist Dr. John Lee in The Spectator captures my doubts about what we are experiencing.

As you can see from the video above, Uzbekistan is putting a lot of resources into combating the spread of the virus. They also are building quarantine shelters and makeshift hospitals. We are sheltering-in-place and not allowed to drive cars and only leave the house with a mask if obtaining food or medicine/medical care. This morning I looked out my block and saw a city bus come by and pick up a woman and she went in to the crowded bus. I still hear cars but much less traffic than normal. We sent everyone home from the school and only have a skeletal crew watching the campus.

There are 158 confirmed cases in Uzbekistan with I believe 2 deaths. I do not know the number of testing kits here. I imagine the only people getting tested are those with symptoms and/or with known direct contact with people with the disease.

This sitting around the house is getting old. I am yearning for a long bicycle ride!

Covid-19 Journal #6 (March 30, 2020)

Everyday the government is taking stronger measures to combat the spread of this new coronavirus. Yesterday they announced that as of this morning, private transportation is prohibited until April 20. That means no one can drive except for those with permits, which would entities like fire trucks, hospitals, food delivery trucks, etc. Thankfully the city is not like an American city and people live within walking distance to grocery stores and markets.

Police Car Warning My Neighborhood to Social Distance

I was watching CNN and New York state governor Andrew Cuomo was talking about how President Trump’s idea of putting a quarantine on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut was illegal. Not here, where the president has stopped all incoming and outgoing flights, blocked travel between regions and now is stopping vehicle traffic in the city. It is against the law to go out without a mask and to gather in groups of more than 3 people.

I am in favor of these drastic measures because the sooner we can stop the spread of the virus, the sooner we can get back to normalcy. Being in a foreign country when these things are taking place does bring a bit more unease to expatriates, but after over 25 years living abroad, I am taking these actions in stride. I am concerned about getting to school although I live a short distance from the campus. However, the law is clear that people are only to leave their home for food or medicine/medical care.

We will see if these measures stop the number of cases and limit deaths. The Ministry of Health announced 29 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the single biggest daily increase since the first case was detected on March 15. I think in part because of increased number of testing kits in the country.

Covid-19 Journal #4 (March 27, 2020)

I am keeping track of the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Uzbekistan. As of yesterday, there are 65 cases, 60 of them here in the capital city of Tashkent. They confirm on average 6 new cases per day. I think this may be a measure of the number of test kits and not the number of actual cases. The government is working hard to develop more kits.

The government has been doing a good job in trying to “lower the curve” and stop the spread of the coronavirus. They have taken strong measures such as closing schools, public transport, any stores that sell non-essential items, parks, etc. They have closed the borders to international arrivals and also restricted access to cities and regions within Uzbekistan. 20,000 people are in strict quarantine, with soldiers and police out on the streets for enforcement. Two clinics were put in quarantine after a patient tested positive, doctors, visitors, etc. were all locked in for 14 days and surrounded by military personnel. There is a lot of information going to the public to raise awareness including a dedicated Telegram channel. The Ministry of Health is working closely with the World Health Organization.

My family has been trying to social distance as much as possible. The tragic consequences of this pandemic in Italy, Spain and now in the United States are frightening. I hope authorities have done enough here to avoid the worst of it.

Near my house, a government agency is disinfecting taxis and other vehicles. On a bright note, the tulips in my garden are blooming!

Covid-19 Journal #3 (March 22, 2020)

We had another day of shelter-in-place and we limited our movements. Nadia and the kids did not leave the home and our teenagers, would be perfectly happy in their rooms for most of the day. I think they will grow tired of the isolation, but we’ll see.

I did go to school to run around the campus. I rode my bicycle to school and got a flat tire on the way. I ended up running until my knees started feeling creaky (8 kilometers). I am trying to get more exercise during this quarantine. It is a good stress reliever and builds my immune system.

“Don’t be a pig; don’t throw trash” A sign in my mahalla

Things around the city are slowing down as the government is adding restrictions. As of today, public transportation is stopped. Two days ago the government closed the borders to flights, trains and buses, although, as I write this morning, I did hear a plane land or take off. Many of the embassies and international businesses are arranging repatriation of expats this week.

A portable bread oven in my neighborhood

Slowing down has made me appreciate the little things more. While walking my bike back home, I noticed this portable bread oven (above). Bread is hugely important to Uzbeks and a baker is an honored profession here. Many homes have ovens and you see them selling non, a round, flat bread. Even the supermarkets have bread ovens as you can see in the video below. Wheat is originally from south eastern Turkey and the Uzbeks being a Turkic peoples, probably have been baking bread on the grasslands and deserts of Central Asia for a long time.

Yesterday it was the vernal equinox (March 21) and it is the biggest holiday celebration for the Uzbeks. They have celebrated Navruz for over 2,000 years and have large celebrations, concerts, etc. around the city. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, these were cancelled by the government. In keeping with the official beginning of spring, I photographed a blossom on a tree at our school.

Happy Navruz!

Covid-19 Journal (#2 – March 21)

The staples aisle (rice, flour) was a bit bawre in our local supermarket on March 19.

It was a hectic morning assisting some of our staff members and their parents purchasing tickets on the last flight, for awhile, out of Uzbekistan. They were relieved they could go to the USA and I was glad to help. The departure of American embassy personnel and their families caused a bit of anxiety in those that remained, including my family as they lost friends.

I spent the rest of the day sheltering-in-place at home and preparing for the possibly long time we will be stuck at home. I organized our basement storeroom, cooked with Nadia, who is spending a lot of time with new recipes, inspired by Barefoot Contessa, setting up a treadmill we recently purchased, etc. Our pool cleaner came over and vacuumed the sand from the bottom that was in system when we opened the pump. We still have to wait a few more days because of the high chlorine content. It is raining and in the mid-50s F this morning as I write this so it is easy to wait.

I started the University of Cornell’s online Bird Ornithology Course. I love birds and being outdoors and as a former biology teacher, I want to bring more conservation and outdoor education to the school. My other project is to improve my investing knowledge and diversify my family financial portfolio. With university looming for our three children, I also want to be able to retire someday, so this will help.

Things are pretty much normal in Tashkent. The government has taken steps like closing schools, cancelling major events (Tashkent Marathon, Navruz Celebrations) and closing the border for the next 40 days. However, people are not really social distancing although I am seeing people wearing more masks. I expect stronger measures will be coming soon.

We saw this truck parked outside of friend’s home

Covid-19 Journal

Palace of International Forums at Sunset

It has been an unusual Spring Break for me and my family. We finished school on Friday with a faculty meeting to update everyone in case Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Tashkent. On Sunday, March 15 the first case was confirmed, a woman arriving from Paris. Since then, it has been many crisis management team meetings and communication. Expatriates have to make the difficult decision to stay or leave. There is so much uncertainty to what is the best course of action and it has been stressful for everyone. I am trying my best as the director of the school to help all employees, students and parents. Time has slowed way down, and that Sunday feels like a month ago.

Part of the uneasiness is the fast nature of the pandemic. When we were making travel plans during the winter to visit Japan, we never thought that spring break would be filled with contingency plans and preparing for an extended social distancing anti-viral campaign. Everyone has been sorting through different emotions and with the huge amount of information we now receive via the internet, it is overwhelming. The Uzbek government, like many around the world has stopped outgoing and incoming flights.

Apricot Tree in flower on my street

Another source of uneasiness is how long this pandemic will last. In looking at the early hot spots of China, South Korea, Italy and Japan, it could take a while, even until this summer. I also do not know how the virus will spread here in Uzbekistan. There are limited testing kits and medical facilities will not be able to handle a large number of patients. It is a young population here, but there is also a lot of poverty and I worry about the disadvantaged population here, the poor and elderly. I hope our school and my family can help.

Owen making breakfast in the kitchen

I now want to prepare for the worst and make sure that our family is ready to the challenge ahead. We will stock our pantry with non-perishable food to carry us over in case we are homebound.

One thing I am doing to relax is to cycle and on my rides I take some pictures of Tashkent.