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  • Ray Monde

Trapped in Vancouver, thinking about the coronavirus COVID19

There’s people quarantined in their homes, on cruise ships and in hospitals. International flights are cancelled, schools are shut and people are in limbo. People who look Asian are being watched more closely, people are moving away from them on buses.

While cases of the newly named COVID-19 are about to hit 50,000; I am also living in isolation, trapped in Vancouver for very different reasons. But it has me thinking a lot about the virus.

Waiting for my passport to come back

I had my interview for my non-immigrant E3 spouse visa for the United States last Friday. While my application is being processed, I have no passport, so I must wait here for it to be delivered.

There’s no indication of how long it will take, the website says it can take up to 60 days. Though my husband’s visa only took about 3-4 days. Banking on this, I booked myself into The Burrard, a renovated retro 1960s style hotel with huge picture windows overlooking a Starbucks. I checked in and waited.

Beautiful building in Vancouver with domed red roof

Days passed. I wandered the streets. I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery, saw Cindy Sherman.  I stumbled across an amazing second-hand bookstore called The Paper Hound. It’s not just a second hand book store with everything crammed in – it’s wonderfully curated and really cleverly put together. Hours drifted.

Drawing COVID19 contagion maps

As I walked, the coronavirus was on my mind. What it would be like to be isolated with very limited resources? Not being able to talk to people. To touch people. Wary of exchanging coins. Touching handles. Obsessively washing hands.

Pencil sketch by Ray Monde with Li Wenliang as central figure

I find contagion maps compelling. The  R0 (R naught) shows how contagious an infectious disease is. The flu has an R0 of 1, meaning every person with influenza will probably infect one other person. COVID19 has an R0 of 2-3. This dramatically compounds the infection rate. You start with one person sick, that person infects three others, those three infect nine more. It escalates very quickly.

Watercolor by Ray Monde of COVID19 contagion map R0=3

The pattern of infection is organic and ever branching. It’s compelling to paint and experiment with. That’s what I’ve been doing while I’m been waiting. Painting the corona virus.

Finally I got a tracking number for my passport deliver. Hitting refresh on the browser every 20 minutes. Shipping Label Created. Picked Up. In Transit.

Waiting, I extended my stay by one night. Hit refresh.

My passport will be here soon and I will be heading back to Seattle. I just wonder how soon before the virus follows me, too.

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