On Mountains, Mountain Climbing, and COVID-19

Memorial to climbers who have died on Mount Everest at the Pheriche Aid Post (h/t akunamatata via flikr; CC BY-ND 2.0)

The language of mountains and mountain climbing is all over the COVID-19 coverage, from the talk of “reaching the peak” of infections to the euphoria of those who proclaim that in various areas, we are “hitting the plateau.” But as a mountain-climbing friend once told me “Climbing the mountain is the easy part — it’s the descent that’ll kill you.”

This is not just a cliche, or a (non-)urban legend, but backed up by the experience of those who know the mountains best:

Kami Rita Sherpa knows Mount Everest better than anyone else: He’s summited the world’s tallest peak 24 times, more than any person in history. . . .

Sherpa said problems arise not from those lines [of climbers waiting at altitude to pass along single-file sections of the climb], but when people accidentally push past what their body can support. Some research suggests that Everest climbers can develop a kind of “summit fever,” racing to the top to prove they can, even when their bodies are showing signs of giving out.

“At that altitude, it takes everything to put one foot in front of the other,” Everest climber and exercise psychologist Shaunna Burke recently told Business Insider. “If you haven’t judged how much gas you have left in the tank, then you can’t make it down. That’s why some climbers sit down and don’t get back up.”

Sherpa echoed this.

“When returning, their body is out of energy, and many people die due to this cause,” he said.

It’s not just one or two climbers’ opinion, either. In 2006, Paul Firth and his colleagues published “Mortality on Mount Everest, 1921-2006: descriptive study” in the British Medical Journal, which looked at every documented death on Mount Everest and sought to understand what commonalities might be found among the fatalities. They first distinguished between deaths below 8000 meters as climbers and their guides traversed areas prone to avalanches, crevasses, and other features of the mountain, and the deaths that took place above 8000 meters, where the mountain is generally more stable but fatigue and altitude sickness are the greatest dangers. On the lower part of the mountain, guides were more likely to be the ones who died, which the authors surmise is because the guides make multiple trips up and down the climbing route, setting ropes and bringing supplies up to the higher camp, before they guide the climbers along the route they found and made more safe. When it came to the deaths above 8000 meters, however, things reversed, and they noticed some shocking numbers:

Table 3 presents data on the mountaineers who died after reaching 8000 m. Fifty three (56%) died during the descent, 16 (17%) after turning back below the summit, and nine (10%) during the ascent. The stage of the summit bid was unknown for 12 mountaineers (13%), and four (5%) died before leaving the final camp.

Look at those top three figures again: 10% died while making the push for the summit, and 73% died while descending. For every death going up, there were 7 going down.

Maybe these climbers who died on the way back down pushed too hard going up, and had nothing left for the descent. Maybe they became disoriented because of lack of oxygen and quit thinking clearly. Maybe they were so excited at having made it to the top that they got sloppy as they turned around and headed down the mountain.

Whatever the cause, the study was clear: descending from the peak is more deadly that making the climb up. As our veteran climber cited above put it:

Burke said that although all climbers want to reach the summit, that objective alone can be a problematic.

“The summit is only halfway,” she said. “Your ultimate goal should be to make it back to camp alive.”

I look at the images of the folks protesting the “stay-at-home” orders issued to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, and their cheers of things like “We made it! We stopped the disease! Now let’s open things up again and get back to work!” I read the tweets to “liberate” this or that state, cheering on those who think the task is done. Then I think of the mountain climbers cheering at having reached the top of the mountain, who don’t realize how dangerous things can be on the way back down. That’s what worries me about all the talk of opening back up right now.

Yes, some places may have reached the peak of new infections, the peak of ICU bed usage, and the peak number of intubated patients. But here’s the thing: we are still on the mountain. Getting to the top is great, but the goal is to make it back to camp alive.

I don’t want to minimize the accomplishment of the climb, whether speaking of those who scale mountains or those who have been struggling to keep ahead of the increasing numbers of those hit by COVID-19. But relatively speaking, climbing the mountain is the easy part. It’s the descent that’s much more likely to kill. Face it, people: This journey has a long way to go, with plenty of opportunities for negligence and for misplaced cheering which will give life to a virus that deals out death.

This is no time for getting complacent or sloppy. Stay home, stay safe, save lives.

90 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    It’s more like the first Westerners reaching the Front Range of the Rockies, who had no idea how many ranges lay ahead after they got down from the first one.

    • P J Evans says:

      They talked about “seeing the Elephant” – but the real elephant was near the end of the trip.

      • BobCon says:

        I hadn’t known that phrase. It has an interesting history.


        Another interesting lesson from history would be Chilkoot Pass. The Canadians wisely didn’t let American prospectors through unless they had prepared themselves with everything they needed for the long trek ahead.

        We have a party in power who wants a lot of people to rush up to the top of the pass and back down again in the middle of a Klondike winter without being anything close to ready.

  2. dakine01 says:

    I’m currently furloughed from a parttime retail. I was speaking with the store manager yesterday & we both see at least 6 moreweeks. That’s if the stupid can be forestalled.

    I’d be willing for all the idiots to infect each other if it weren’t for the hurt to innocents

    • Mary M McCurnin says:

      I have read, over the course of this adventure, that we could be in lock down for a year.

      • Rayne says:

        It will be at least a year, going into and out of different levels of quarantine in response to waves of outbreaks.

        Or I should say if we have rational leadership at state and federal level, we should be in varying levels of quarantine until a broad testing program has been implemented and/or a safe, effective vaccine has been developed and ready for rollout.

        Anybody thinking we will have a safe, effective vaccine through multiple clinical trials before April 2021 isn’t looking at historical timelines to vaccine development for novel viruses. We may have more technology to speed things along but we have two major problems which pose barriers to delivery: we didn’t not have enough time to learn more about the virus before beginning vaccine development, and the Trump administration is too fucked up to reliably stay out of the way.

        • bmaz says:

          Been a bit busy today for the most part, but there was a huge article last night in the NYT. If you are to believe the experts in it, April 2021 is extremely optimistic too. They talk 2-4 years.

          • Rayne says:

            We’re at a point where I don’t know if the experts are managing expectations by citing pessimistically longer numbers. What gives me pause is the virus’s attack on immune systems which wasn’t noted in the WHO-China mission report. I think it attacked and spread faster than medical professionals’ ability to understand what they’re looking at. Just look at viget’s comments regarding dysregulated coagulation — the medical community still doesn’t have a handle on how this virus works let alone whether it lingers in the body for more than five weeks and if it can reactivate or reinfect persons believed to have been recovered. Researchers are shooting at a target moving faster than they are.

            • bmaz says:

              Yeah. And I cited that article because it seemed awfully sober compared to so much that is out there. Viget has been fantastic. But I tend to agree with your comment here…I am not sure even the professionals quite have a bead on it all yet, let alone the “lingering/reinfection” dynamics. This has all happened so fast.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’ve read that some are thinking three or four weeks locked down, one week loosened a bit, then back to being locked down. I have no idea how that would even *work*.

      • orionATL says:

        from the guardian.

        WHO virus expert, maria van kerkhove, says few who get covid-19 seem to develop antibodies (~3%).

        “… Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an American infectious diseases expert who is the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said they had thought the number of people infected would be higher, but she stressed it was still too early to be sure. “Initially, we see a lower proportion of people with antibodies than we were expecting,” she said. “A lower number of people are infected.”

        On Friday, a study carried out in Santa Clara, California by Stanford University and released as a “pre-print” without peer review, found that 50 to 85 times more people had been infected with the virus than official figures showed.

        Santa Clara county had 1,094 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the time the study was carried out, but antibody tests suggest that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected by early April, most of whom did not develop symptoms.

        But even those high figures mean that within the whole population of the county, only 3% have been infected and have antibodies to the virus. A study in the Netherlands of 7,000 blood donors also found that just 3% had antibodies…”


  3. Yogarhythms says:

    Great post. I’m an ultra distance hiker and love making every hike a negative split on second half.
    I’m an RN in AZ and work for very large hospital chain. We are out of PPE. SARS-CoV-2 may slow and it’s numbers will fall. The risk to healthcare workers and families and communities is stuck in line waiting to summit. The risk of working without adequate PPE for healthcare workers is like waiting in line on the ascent even though inpatient numbers are falling thereby descending the mountain. [fixed per your comment below]
    China’s N95 respirator mask manufacturing behemoth supplies over 70% world’s PPE. China PPE manufacturing is potentially months away from today if second wave or other calamity doesn’t intervene.
    Hope to see you at the bottom of this mountain.

    • Peterr says:

      Glad you liked it. To make negative splits like that, you have to really watch yourself on the front half.

      And yes, I’m looking forward to the bottom of the mountain too.

      • posaune says:

        My friend in NYC (ER triage RN at NYP) told me yesterday that in one 12-hr shift this week, there were 14 intubations.
        Waiting in line for the ascent for medical staff: absolutely.

          • orionATL says:

            good read. things like this make me mad and ready for war. the two nurses were right to fight back against a management that was almost certainly exploiting what it anticipated would be each nurse’s professional commitment to patients – and getting away with doing so.

            there was no time (or power) at the moment for those two nurses, but the budget needed to be looked over carefully for where money was put that was not essential, as it is patient care.

  4. Mark Smeraldi says:

    I heard an epidemiologist make exactly this point on NPR today. Essentially, he said that we still have half of all infections yet to happen at the peak.

    • orionATL says:

      i was thinking exactly that sardonic thought, with perhaps this small addition:

      “work sets you free and gets me re-elected.”

  5. chum'sfriend says:

    Asymptomatic infection and exponential growth, make a deadly combination. Cut the patches of mold off to salvage a block of cheese, and place it back in the plastic bag. When you look at it the next day, it just goes into the trash. Florida is going to simply explode with this plague.

    • TimH says:

      You have to cut the mould off before using the cheese, and even then use it for a cheese sauce. Not sure how that helps your analogy tho :)

    • FL Resistor says:

      Over the past two or three days, Florida has started adding over 1,000 new cases each day. Yet DeSantis and Trump work in concert to get people out circulating. This should be a crime. We are concerned about people coming to our beach town and infecting our grocery workers with Covid.
      Some of the people I play golf with are still playing 2-3 times a week, believing they are safe.

      • e.a.f. says:

        as they used to say you can not save those who will not be saved or you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. about all these wanna return to workers want is to drink the cool aid. You can’t cure stupid. Now it may be some want to return to work because they want the money, but as some learnt during WW II, some times not all the money in the world will save you, only getting the hell out of town does that. People put great store by their possessions. they don’t seem to understand, you can always buy them again, but once you’re dead, you’re dead and you’d be doing nothing. the worst part is many of these people will infect their children and other family members. When I see them on t.v. they look more like a bunch of drunks than anything else, looking to party

        What people might want to have a good look at is what are those politicians and business people doing themselves when they call for others to return to work and open the economy? They’re all sitting in their nice safe offices. That Gov. of South Dakota, where the hell is she? out walking with people through their work places, down in soup kitchens helping. No she is in her ivory tower. We have meat plants open in North America but where are the executives? In their nice clean spacious offices. they aren’t on the kill line they aren’t out on loading docks, they’re in isolation. Once they start walking amongst the general population, then we can talk about opening the economy. let the politicians and ceo’s have the first glass of the cool aid.

        • P J Evans says:

          I saw a photo of AOC and a couple of other people, delivering food to people. If she’s out doing that (masked, yes), then the ones whining about having to open the country up can get out and help people.

        • Rayne says:

          Link worked fine, good job. I also needed that link to send to a friend who says she can’t get her 73-year-old dad to give up his Sunday brunches. Thanks!

  6. Yogarhythms says:

    The risk of working without adequate PPE for healthcare workers is like waiting in line on the ascent even though inpatient numbers are falling thereby descending the mountain.

  7. bloopie2 says:

    The term “peak” is being used by many out there in a misleading manner (and is being vastly misunderstood). We are not at the peak of infections. We are only at the peak of hospital crowding. That’s the whole point of “flatten the curve” — to enable the hospitals to deal with the patients.
    Start from the fact that only a relatively small percentage of the population (be it 1% or 10%) has been infected to date; the remainder are subject to becoming infected after today. Estimates are that 40% to 60% of us will become infected at some point. And there is no prevention other than social distancing.
    Therefore, when we are successful in flattening the curve, what’s happening is that we are squishing it down at the high point; but everything underneath the curve doesn’t go away—rather, it gets shoved out into the future. We are successfully shoving all those other infections out into the future, not preventing them. By virtue of the lockdowns and the social distancing.
    With that being the case, how can I (uninfected as yet) feel safe getting on a crowded train and going into a crowded city to work in a crowded office?

  8. Stephen Calhoun says:

    Thanks for the metaphor/analogy.

    The peak concept is not getting a righteous treatment in the media for the most part. It is very bad when mere battles get turned into wars.

    Could someone comment on how flattening the curve buys time for other beneficial purposes? My understanding is that we really want to flatten the curve and squish the tail down for as long as possible.

    • bloopie2 says:

      Last thoughts.

      We need to develop widespread testing for infection. This is the “testing” that Trump keeps promising, but that is still in short supply. With this available, we can tell who is and is not infected.

      We also need to develop testing for immunity. This is the “antibody” testing that is today’s hot topic. With this available, we could tell who will likely not get the disease even if exposed.

      Once we have those two things available, we can tell any individual whether they can go out. If infected, obviously stay home; if immune, okay to leave the building.

      And finally we need aggressive contact tracing. This is what tells us who came into contact with a sick person and might therefore be infected, and we can try to help them as early as possible.

      With all this information in hand, we would be able to isolate only the sick people and those who were recently exposed to them, instead of isolating everyone. Otherwise, cases will increase whenever restrictions are pared back (opening up).

      • Peterr says:

        The thing about immunity testing is that it’s not as simple as “you’re immune — you’re not”. We have no clue about how long immunity might last, and there are reports of people becoming ill a second time after having “beaten” the virus the first time.

        For example, the two-dose vaccine to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella is a one-time deal – get the shots young, and you’re good for life. On the other hand, the tetanus vaccine is good for ten years, and after that its effects diminish and you become susceptible to the disease once more.

        There’s a lot yet to learn about this virus.

        • BobCon says:

          A significant number of people who catch chickenpox end up seeing it come back with a vengeance as shingles after a dormancy period.

          We obviously have no way to know what happens with coronavirus with the earliest infections happening less than a year ago.

          • P J Evans says:

            And shingles is *definitely* something you can get more than once, though antivirals help when you do get it. (The virus gets into your nerves and lies dormant until something wakes it up. Stress is one potential cause.)

            • Peterr says:

              Fortunately, there’s no “am I going to get COVID-19?” stress going around.


              Good news: before you get shingles (shudder shudder), there’s a new vaccine for older folks to keep that from happening.

              Yes, I got mine.

              • P J Evans says:

                I got the older version – on ACA. Medicare doesn’t seem to cover those – something they need to fix.

  9. bloopie2 says:

    One benefit would be to buy time to develop drug treatments. If I get infected a year from now as opposed to a month from now, there may be treatments available for some or all of my symptoms — respiratory distress, etc.– treatments that are unique to COVID-19. So even if I get infected and sick, the docs might be able to treat me, just like they can treat all kind of other ailments and diseases.

    A second benefit would be to buy time to develop a vaccine. A vaccine by definition is what helps people avoid getting sick even if they are exposed. We have vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, rubella, etc. So even though there might still be a lot of infected people around me, and lots of those little buggies floating around, I might not get sick — if I had had the shot.

    I think those really are the two other main benefits of flattening the curve — dragging the whole thing out until science and medicine can catch up with the darn thing. The problem is that this bug can infect you without you showing any symptoms; and you can then infect other people without anyone knowing until they get sick; and the sickness is often unusually devastating or fatal; and there’s no “cure” yet when you do get sick; and there’s no vaccine to prevent you from getting sick in the first place. All these holes in the Swiss Cheese are lining up, as one expression goes; a “perfect storm”.

    • Peterr says:

      The other benefit to flattening the curve is to allow the “just in time” supply chains for PPE, research supplies (reagents, test kits, swabs, cultured samples, etc.), and other scarce items to keep pace with the exponentially expanded need.

      • CCM says:

        Think of a hospital like an assembly line. It can go slow to fast but when it hits a certain speed all hell breaks loose. Like I Love Lucy in that candy line scene. Flattening the curve allows hospitals to operate at speeds compatible with good care.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Not to be a Debbie Downer, but there has NEVER been a vaccination for a corona virus. Ever.

      I think the prospect of a vaccination for this one is highly unlikely. I pray that I am wrong.

    • orionATL says:

      flattening the curve, i. e., avoiding a situation where a large number of people need treatment in a short time period, has several benefits, but one of the most critical is to avoid overwhelming the medical system, including allowing it not only to obtain supplies but also to heal itself when caregivers inevitably get sick or die from the illness.

      • orionATL says:

        i think it is pretty well understood by now but for good measure, “flattening the curve” is also a way of describing what happens with an infectious disease when people are kept from spreading the disease to each other. this could occur thru vaccination. in the case of covid-19 there is no vacine so it is necessary to use what are called non-pharmaceutical interventions. chief among these today is “social distancing” which can include measures as restrictive as quarantines and stay-at-home orders or less stringent measures like a 9-5 curfew or travel limitations. these are intended to limit the number of people who can get infected at any point in time compared to the greater number who might get infected without those restrictions.

  10. Raven Eye says:

    One problem with doing things to flatten the curve is figuring out where it is being flattened to.

    There has been a lot of discussion about the lack of testing and the Administration sitting on their thumbs for two months, barely getting some headway – but only recently, and continuing to flat out lie to the American people about the situation. There is no doubt that we DO need adequate testing in the worst way.

    But heading into the future, we need two other things: (1) Widely available, relatively inexpensive, and very effective treatment, and (2) a vaccine. Creating the herd immunity the hard way from a flattened curve just means that the cliff we are going over is not as high. Social distancing and other measures will need to continue in some form until we achieve both of those “other things”.

    • e.a.f. says:

      I do not see the American government providing the general public with wide testing for its population. the dying for them is fine. African Americans have much higher death rate than other groups. so why does anyone think trump and steve miller want to change that. my take on it is, they see those who are dying as simply things which can easily be replaced to continue their manufacturing. The U.S.A. is a country which has sent a man to the moon, invented all sorts of incredible things, but can’t even produce enough testing kids made for the general public. most likely because trump and his are still trying to figure out how they can still profit. I se no improvements in the U.S.A. unless it comes from the western or north eastern state cooperatives.

      I’ve watched some of these Governors work so hard they look like they’ve aged k10 yrs then we have some who treat this like its not happening tot he citizens of their country. and perhaps that is the problem, they don’t see the dying as part of their country. /the financial elite haven’t started dying hand over fist. once that does start happening perhaps we will see changes. this is so much like the AIDS epidemic when it started its enough to make you cry. Never thought I’d see this twice in my life time.

  11. Ed Walker says:

    Everything is more complicated than we get from the media. The epidemiologists say we aren’t collecting the data we need. The tests don’t tell us who has the disease, and don’t tell us if we’ve had the disease. They may be picking up antibodies to some other coronavirus, for example one from a bad cold, or they may be false positives or negatives, about 80% are. The data is not collected on asymptotic people, who aren’t tested but may spread the disease. This is a special problems for kids. The data is not reported on standard forms, or even collected in any standard way. This last, of course, is a problem we assign to the Federal government which simply didn’t do it.

    People talk loosely about vaccines, but that’s another big problem. Can we create on? We don’t have one for the main coronaviruses, those that cause colds. How many people would we have to vaccinate? How many would get sick or die from the vaccine? Where exactly are the factories to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses for the US and billions for the whole world? That’s another job for the public sector because the private sector won’t do it. How do we distribute the vaccines, and how do we get people vaccinated?

    Treatment is another problem area. Are there effective treatments? This s a critical problem for government, because the demand is great, sick people are desperate, and there is pressure on politicians to lift the lockdowns. If we put something out there that turns out to be like Thalidomide, what then?

    This is a serious crisis that requires centralized control and coordination. We don’t have that, and as long as President Bubblebrain is around, we won’t. China, on the other hand does.

      • orionATL says:

        “…  The Food and Drug Administration has allowed about 90 companies, many based in China, to sell tests that have not gotten government vetting, saying the pandemic warrants an urgent response. But the agency has since warned that some of those businesses are making false claims about their products; health officials, like their counterparts overseas, have found others deeply flawed…

        More than 90 companies have jumped into the market since the F.D.A. eased its rules and allowed antibody tests to be sold without formal federal review or approval.

        Some of those companies are start-ups; others have established records. In a federal guidance document on March 16, the F.D.A. required them to validate their results on their own and notify the agency that they had done so…”

        —- there are labs with a good record here and overseas. fda did not have to panic and open the floodgates.

        “… People don’t understand how dangerous this test is,” said Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota. “We sacrificed quality for speed, and in the end, when it’s people’s lives that are hanging in the balance, safety has to take precedence over speed.”

        — i don’t think that’s right. at this moment in the crisis we have to go for both quality and speed as best we can. people will die from not testing as well as bad tests. it should be possible for experienced scientists to screen and make a best guess.


        (same article as sfgate)

    • e.a.f. says:

      its all possible, but right now there isn’t much will. we have gotten through measles,mumps, polio, T.B., AIDs, but that took a long time. it can be done, but there isn’t much will because there isn’t enough money in it

      They’ll probably find a cure for Ebola before the do for this virus.

  12. orionATL says:

    1. i read that the boris johnson government in britain had set a target of 25,000 covid-19 tests a day.

    so i asked myself, does the trump government has a target set for numbers of tests done/day?

    or does our government not do targets as part of managing a crisis like this?

    2. i have read the xi jinping, president of the people’s republic of china, came under substantial pressure from chinese businesses for his handling of the covid crisis and particularly for his shutdown of public movement in parts of china. that seems like an unsurprising response from businessman anywhere in the world. competent political leaders anticipate and manage that natural respone from a sector of their population.

  13. Badger Robert says:

    The mountain climbing metaphor is particularly apt for a disease that can attack the alveoli and send the lungs into shock.
    As Peterr writes, being above 8,000M is an experience in oxygen deprivation, even when oxygen assistance is present.
    That is what a Covid/19 patient is going to experience. And that is what’s going to happen to an unknown % of the unfortunates who get the disease on the way down the peak.
    Doctors have tried to describe the rapid decline of Covid/19 patients. But its too far from normal experience for most of these people to comprehend. They have to fulfill Will Rogers’ description of the ignorant, sadly.
    Unless you have been on a respirator, recovered, and had to relearn basic tasks, you have no idea. It isn’t hell, but you won’t be able to tell the difference. Its not a death you would wish on anyone.

    • P J Evans says:

      I knew people who had altitude sickness, which I understand is similar, but I haven’t been at high altitude – over 2500m – since I was a child, and it didn’t seem to affect children as much as adults – another similarity?
      (We were camping in the back country of Yosemite, several miles south of Tuolumne Meadows, itself almost 3000m. To get to our campsite, we had to cross a pass that was about 3100m…and a long climb up from the Meadows side.)

    • CCM says:

      Have you been on a ventilator? Do you have memories? We used to use much more sedation on a vented patient but recent studies have suggested this to be counterproductive. Would you have wanted more sedation? I am very curious as to your thoughts.

      • Badger Robert says:

        Yes, I was on a ventilator. Not for Covid/19, but for severe rib and lung injuries. It was a horrific experience, but they kept me alive, with superb care.

  14. orionATL says:

    VOX discusses motives: pure patriots’ love of freedom vs political manipulation of voters. no “on the one hand, on the other hand” reporting here:


    trump’s strategy is to blame the governors re covid-19, particularly democratic ones in states he needs to win, writes analyst jane couston. this just happens to be a very old chinese political tactic (lay blame on local officials) used by rulers there for centuries. maybe our prez has learned something about political stategy from his interactions with xi jinping.

      • orionATL says:

        indeed. the dr. is very much a hero and his suppression a source of anger. old tried-and-true tactics or no, there are rumblings that its time for xi to go.

        maybe voters will see thru trump in november – that any and all of trump’s covid “policies” are solely about getting himself re-elected thru blame avoidance, the nation’s needs be damned.

    • Vicks says:

      In my state these protesters come off as pissed off toddlers that have yet to learn self control so they are acting out.
      Yesterday the Air Force Thunderbirds did a statewide flyover to honor medical personnel and first responders. There was great video of nurses and doctors standing on the rooftops of hospitals in awe of the jets flying overhead in formation in their honor.
      Today these “give me liberty or give me covid” jackasses held a protest rally. It was supposed to create chaos and gridlock around the Capitol building downtown.
      Two hundred idiots and some cars showed up.
      I know no one would ever confuse them with deep thinkers but It’s Sunday for Pete’s sake
      Everything is shut down. There was no one around to hear their hooting and hollering but thanks to our dedicated healthcare professionals they WERE treated to some gridlock, as nurses and other hospital staff decided to use their breaks and do little counter-protesting of their own by calmly standing in front of these cars and blocking their way.
      One pic says it all

  15. Rugger9 says:

    Sir Edmund Hillary made a point about the potential of George Mallory (and Andrew Irvine) being first to climb Everest in 1924, noting as it was in the post that “the getting down was pretty important” as well. Mallory’s team took up a camera with them, climbing from Tibet. Mallory was found in 1999 but no indication of what (if any) pictures were retrieved.

    • Tom says:

      As I recall from reports at the time, the camera was not found on Mallory’s body so the question of whether there might be photographic evidence that Mallory and Irvine reached the peak of Everest is still unknown. If Irvine’s body is ever found, there is a very slim chance we may find out.

  16. orionATL says:

    accordingn to a guardian article, our nation now has recorded 40,000 deaths from the covid-19 epidemic, that is in the 3 months since the first reported case in mid-january.

    yearly we record roughly the same number of deaths from auto accidents, and, separately and slightly less, from guns.

    big time killer. in another month or two we may surpass the combined total of these two scourges with 6-7 months to go in the year.

  17. Doug Fir says:

    Remembering a few simple truths about this corona virus helps me keep Trump Derangement Syndrome at bay. I’m sure most readers know these points:

    SARS-CoV-2, like it’s cousins the “common cold”, will not be erradicated, it will become endemic. Therefore, we will all most likely get either the virus or a vaccine, should one become available. In the meantime we will have to live with flattening the curve.

    There are old climbers and bold climbers, but very few old, bold climbers.

    As our provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry likes to say at the end of her corona virus briefings: “Be kind, be calm, be safe”.

    (The Vancouver-based shoe designer John Fluevog designed and named a shoe in honour (Cdn) of Dr Henry. It’s a beautiful shoe!


    • orionATL says:

      a doctor and a leader not afraid of style. i love that.

      and good advice all the way ’round.


    • Ken Muldrew says:

      Doug Fir wrote, “There are old climbers and bold climbers, but very few old, bold climbers.”

      For those looking for some escape from covid-centric media, there is a wonderful film about an “old, bold climber”. Fred Beckey was, by almost any measure, the greatest American climber who has ever lived, but he gave not a fig for self-promotion and so few non-climbers have ever heard of him. Climbers, however, see his name in every guidebook they peruse and know of him by reputation before ever hearing the many stories of his exploits.

      Many young climbers have no notion that their zeal for climbing will ever wane as they get older. They especially fail to see what effect the deaths of their friends will have on their willingness to take on risk, more so if they become parents. It’s mainly subliminal, but one finds themselves going out less often as other things inevitably come up. Almost nobody ever stops climbing deliberately, yet there comes a time when, looking back, it seems that one has stopped. The other way that one fails to become an old, bold climber is rather sudden, and very much less deliberate.

      The movie can be found on various streaming services: http://dirtbagmovie.com/

      • vvv says:

        As a guy with acrophobia it will never be me (altho’ choppers and small planes don’t bother me and I did walk steel a few times a couple of floors up) but I find the thought of the sport-risk psychologically interesting. Anywhat, I thought to mention in the kinda silly but entertaining TV show *Evil*, the protagonist is a semi-famous mountaineer, and it’s a useful character quirk.

  18. e.a.f. says:

    how very true, not many bold old climbers. going down hill is always more dangerous than climbing up. just stand and watch vehicles go up a snow and ice covered road. One they have traction they can make it; those coming down are always all over the place and then eventually in the ditch. Even walking up hill on a snowy side walk is always easier than coming down. coming down you usually fall on your butt.

    those shoes created in Honour of Dr Henry are gorgeous and stylish and meant to raise funds to help things along. In B.C; the politicians understand its Dr; Bonnie Henry who knows how to run the show not them and they let her. You rarely see the Premier. Every day we see the minister of Health Dix and Dr Henry. Its a health issue not a political show.

  19. Eureka says:

    Too many elected or running under the GOP ticket have lost their way, having gladly given themselves over to extra roles in these bizarre multi-modal morality plays, staged variously on Fox, FB; in the legislatures, &c. They are mimeographs, and it’s like they just want to perform.

    As I’d noted on Rayne’s post, the PA version of the neo-tea-maga rallies will take place today, the 20th; the PA house and senate GOPers set the stage when they — minus a couple of sensibles from hard-hit areas — voted last week to mess with the governor’s nonessential business shutdown. Thanks to our gains in 2018, they lack a veto-proof majority. It turns out — shocker — that some of those state senators will be featured speakers at today’s rally.

    But get a load of this, from one of the two quoted women running for office who is an ER nurse— from the FB-facing side of the operation (brace for whiplash from the nonsensical contradictions and concern trolling):

    Annamarie Scannapieco … helped plan a “back-to-work” rally in Harrisburg that’s been rescheduled for Monday [note: article states the groups did this to “combine forces”]. She’s running for a state representative seat in the 147th District [note: was running for County Coroner just last year]. She’s also an ER nurse and is hoping people stay in their cars and wear masks.

    “Our goal is for a peaceful, responsible, safe rally. Our thought is that people will stay in their cars and practice social distancing,” Scannapieco said. “We’re rallying behind the people who are suffering, who are scared or terrified and don’t want to lose their homes. We’re all in this together.”

    The goal, she said, is to get elected officials talking about lifting restrictions in a safe way.

    “Nobody is talking about a plan to reopen,” she said.

    Oh, OK. [Need I mention that her stated goal is … already met by more competent voices?]

    Hang on, here come all the tropes (FAKE NEWS!):

    Scannapieco … said she contracted the swine flu in 2009 and “we did not shut down the country or the economy.”

    “We get a yearly flu that kills thousands and thousands of people,” she said. “I’m not really so sure what the difference is with this virus.”

    Scannapieco said the number of COVID-19 patients at her hospital is down by as much as 50%.

    “We do have coronavirus patients, but not to the levels that are being reported in the media,” she said.

    Well that settles it. I am sure that her coworkers, employer — and future patients who read this, and then her name badge — will be just thrilled. Healthcare workers can’t publicly discuss their complaints about PPE, but this gal can have at it with this carefully worded nonsense?

    Her quoted co-organizer — who is running in the 9th district, and has some equally ridiculous things to say, if weighted less compared to Scannapieco’s occupation — also holds “gatherings” on an overpass:

    “to pray over for our country and our president” and also thank truck drivers and public health workers

    Do see the nutter photo at page bottom of article:

    The backlash against the quarantine has begun in Pennsylvania, with anti-shutdown rally Monday in Harrisburg

    • Eureka says:

      oopsie doodle- the italics should be closed after the word “met” (emphasis intended there only for phrase “already met”; forgot the “em” in my close tag there). Can you fix it for me please?

    • orionATL says:

      “… (brace for whiplash from the nonsensical contradictions and concern trolling):… ”


      this type of verbal nonsense combining completely incompatible or even contradictory communications is the modern model for propaganda. it can act as a screen hiding what the speaker is really up to and as a puzzling distraction for a the listener. not that our nurse would articulate this. the desired effect is to leave the listener baffled and mentally disarmed. sometimes it even works. 🧐

      • orionATL says:

        on the other hand,

        “… She’s also an ER nurse and is hoping people stay in their cars and wear masks.

        “Our goal is for a peaceful, responsible, safe rally. Our thought is that people will stay in their cars and practice social distancing,” Scannapieco said. “We’re rallying behind the people who are suffering, who are scared or terrified and don’t want to lose their homes. We’re all in this together.”

        The goal, she said, is to get elected officials talking about lifting restrictions in a safe way…”

        well, from this nurse’s perspective, some persons losing their home (presumably by not having paid sufficient rent or mortgage) is equivalent to some persons getting a serious covid infection and being very ill for weeks or dying. that’s not an unreasonable concern if the two events are equally likely in the time period of stay-at-home orders.

        but this calculation does not consider other relevant matters such as the consequences to a state of the loss of large numbers of health care workers to covid infections and the collapse of the health care system, or the slow destruction of the core of other essential workers such as transportation, grocery store, and emergency workers who are repeatedly exposed to infected persons.

        but then there is the fact that this er nurse is running for office, which raises questions about the motive for her sensitivity. at that point the issue seems more clearly an internal war between her professional training and her personal goals. her objections to government restrictions on personal movement seem more like an obvious cover.

        • CCM says:

          I live in a fairly red area and a good proportion of our ICU nurses are Fox news viewers and could be described as Evangelical. This has profound effects on their world view. One asked me what I thought of Fauci in a skeptic tone.

    • vvv says:

      “Too many elected or running under the GOP ticket have lost their way, having gladly given themselves over to extra roles in these bizarre multi-modal morality plays, staged variously on Fox, FB; in the legislatures, &c. They are mimeographs, and it’s like they just want to perform.”

      I found a sort of epiphany in this; it would seem the reality-TV “star”* part of it is contagious.

      *Not once did I ever watch trump’s network TV show, nor will I.

  20. Tom says:

    Donald Trump has described himself as a wartime President and has repeatedly used military terminology when referring to efforts to suppress the COVID-19 virus, frequently calling it a battle against an invisible enemy. Yet as with a military campaign, the public health campaign to defeat the U.S. pandemic requires a commanding general, and in this role the President has been largely MIA. At his press conference yesterday, for example, he again rejected the state governors’ requests to begin a national testing program and insisted that testing is “a local thing”. Which is a little like a general telling his subordinate commanders as they head into battle that it is up to them to look after their own logistical needs for food, ammunition, and other supplies. Clearly, Trump wants to reap the laurels for any successes over the virus and shirk his responsibility for any increasing death toll.

  21. bmaz says:

    “But as a mountain-climbing friend once told me “Climbing the mountain is the easy part — it’s the descent that’ll kill you.””

    This is true. Now I have never done Everest, or anything close to it, my highest peaks were “only” 14,000 or so in Colorado. I say “only” because they were a big enough problem without taking on real rocks like Everest, I cannot even fathom that, although have a couple of friends who have done it.

    But coming down a steep grade is not worse than ascending it on mountains because of fatigue and danger, it is the grade itself that can hurt you. This I know even from relatively safe, even if steep, treks into the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Canyon. Going down in absolutely kills your knees. Going back up after your stay only hurts because your knees still ache mightily from the descent. Going up would be fine, if naturally a bit slower, without that factor. So, there are multiple bases for saying the descent is more problematic than the ascent.

  22. harpie says:

    I’m not sure which post to comment on, but thought people might be interested in this:

    A watchdog out of Trump’s grasp unleashes wave of coronavirus audits
    The Government Accountability Office is moving quickly to conduct oversight — and it’s got more protection than other Trump targets.
    KYLE CHENEY 04/20/2020 04:30 AM

    […] And even as Trump has gone to war against internal watchdogs in his administration, the Government Accountability Office remains largely out of the president’s grasp because of its home in the legislative branch.

    The GAO has quickly taken advantage of its perch, exploring the early missteps inherent in launching a multitrillion-dollar law that touches every facet of American life. By the end of April, at least 30 CARES Act reviews and audits — “engagements,” per GAO lingo — are expected to be underway, according to interviews with senior investigators. […]

  23. Bobster33 says:

    Since we are talking about restarting the economy, what are people going to do when a stranger next to you starts coughing? Are they coughing because they are a smoke, have another disease, allergies, etc.

    What about the guy preparing your food? Check out clerk, coworker at company luncheon, etc. What are you going to do if they start coughing? What if they are a Trump supporter wearing a MAGA hat?

    It’s going to be tough to reopen the economy when we have no/little trust in the people handling the crisis.

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