We’ve had a lovely week on Seneca Lake, re-setting our physical, mental, and emotional clocks in the #KahnCave. It’s been blissful.

I’ve enjoyed receiving feedback on the past four days of ABCovid-19 journal shares on my LinkedIn page and Twitter feed @HealthyThinker. My #arttherapy is yours for the sharing and taking. We are all, truly, on this pandemic journey together. That’s public health, for you.

Today, I bring you the fifth and last day of sharing my COVID-19 alphabet with you: the letters “U” through “Z.” Read on, and please let me know after seeing all 26 alpha’s which page(s) you liked best. I’ve already started version 2 of this, to share new learnings and feelings I have as the U.S. didn’t really crush the curve we so hoped would happen back in April when I completed the pages you’ve seen.

Onward, health citizens.

U is for unemployment

The Great Lockdown of our lives via quarantining and sheltering-in-place also led to a lockdown of livelihoods for many people. I devoted the “U” page to unemployment. While there were other u-words I could have chosen, I wear the professional lens of an economist so this “U” was part of the early forecasting I was doing as COVID-19 took hold of our lives and our jobs.

I found an old scrapbook paper page featuring classified ads (remember those? Those of you who think Craig’s List is Old School won’t, so here’s a useful description of “the classifieds” from Advertising Age).

The photo at the upper left illustrates the dramatic growth up and up of job losses in the U.S. The nation went from 4.4% unemployment in February 2020 to 14.7% in March. As I write this post today, 13th August, nearly 1 mm more people signed up for unemployment benefits; the country recorded an UE rate of 10.2% in July 2020 as some people have returned to their workplaces since layoffs and furloughs began in February and sustained through March and April.

This page reminds the reader that a pandemic impacts not only physical health, but a nation’s people’s economic health and financial wellness. Health is, indeed, wealth.

V is for virus

“V” could have been for vaccine, too, which it will be in my Phase 2 version of the ABCovid-19 Journal v2.

On the “V” page, I lined the base with handmade paper from Florence, Italy, that has organic “bleeding” vertical lines that looked great with the flowing “V” card I found in a deck of alphabet cards.

I cut the chest x-ray image out of an old medical journal I had in my paper stash: we knew early on the respiratory disease aspects of the coronavirus, so this x-ray seemed well-placed here on the virus page.

On the left side, I used a photo from many that have been curated from microscopic images of the virus; this one, in colors that matched the Florentine paper.

I spelled out “virus” using letters from a three-dimensional foam alphabet set called “Thickers” to achieve a lumpy texture on the page.

W is for Wuhan

My last plane trip on business in 2020 was on February 27, when I was engaged to speak with the medical leaders of Sharp Healthcare System in San Diego, California. I always welcome the opportunity to head to San Diego because when it works out, I love to visit with the Scripps Research’s Dr. Eric Topol for a few minutes to brainstorm health, life, liberty, and our pursuits of happiness. I did so on the 27th after landing at SAN Airport, then drove on to the San Diego Marriott, the site of my meeting with the Sharp team.

We convened on Friday morning, the 28th, in a large ballroom — several hundred clinicians, managers, and me. Before I kicked off my early am keynote talk, a senior leader of the organization introduced the meeting with an update for the team on the status of personal protective equipment for the enterprise.

The short story was that, like the bulk of hospitals in the U.S., the source of #PPE (masks, gloves, and other disposable goods used every day by every clinician) was China — and specifically, factories located in Wuhan.

Wuhan was a hotspot for the coronavirus in China. The lockdown of the area led to a huge shock to the PPE supply chain. This article from 4th February WIRED spoke to the impending mask shortage due to the coronavirus in China.

That scenario was my up-close-and-personal intro to COVID-19 through the eyes of a client — a major health provider. I took extra time to consider and curate this “W” page, using Wuhan as the theme. I had this incredibly intricate scrapbook paper of a region of China, with snaking graphics and towns, some circled in red. The undulating design is organic and consistent with the viral context. I found a few travel stickers which were faux passport stamps from Chinese cities, and a red “traveller’s star” piece of ephemera at the bottom left.

I finished the page with a printed photo of a miniature map showing the location of Wuhan in its region.

X is for Disease “X”

In their research into pandemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a list of the worst of them; these include

  • COVID-19
  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
  • Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease
  • Lassa fever
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Nipah and henipaviral diseases
  • Rift Valley fever
  • Zika, and…
  • “Disease X.”

This ABCovid-19 journal page calls out Disease X as a warning: there will be yet another pandemic, as yet to be named.

But she’s out there. Be aware. Be prepared.

The base of this page is a map of The World because we are all in the pandemic world together…from Wuhan to Milan to Manhattan to Kirkland, Washington, and on to Austin and Boston and Atlanta and Houston and St. Louis, MO. In the U.S., the spread of COVID-19 would not be limited to the west and east coasts.

I found that surreal graphic at the right in a magazine article talking about Disease X which felt picture-perfect, albeit mega-disturbing… as appropriate.

Y is for yeast

One of the new life-flows awakened in consumers in the pandemic was home-cooking and, in particular, bread-making.

And specifically, sourdough became a normal, reassuring home-making activity. Posting homemade breads on Instagram became a thing for millions of people around the world.

But bread-making requires a basic ingredient called yeast, and in the Age of Corona, yeast was hard to find. USA Today wrote about the shortage, as did People magazine; this was a mainstream challenge which became symbolic as a DIY life-flow signaling control over “something.”

This ABC page is dedicated to that scarce commodity for our pandemic pantries. I lined the page with wonderful vintage kitchen/cooking scrapbook paper, on top layered with images of women cooking and serving with pride.

I love the old toaster on the left labeled “Bon Appetit.”

I took a picture of a plastic bag of flour I bought at Whole Foods which, in the early pandemic, had a shortage of baking supplies. The store had large industrial-sized sacks of flour in their storage area and the staff began to create 5 pound bags of it to satisfy shoppers’ growing baking jones.


Z is for Zoom.

Of course, “Z” is for Zoom.

Zoom brought families together during the Judeo-Christian Holy Week in March 2020, for virtual Passover Seders among Jews sharing the annual ritual and Christians on Easter weekend communing in faith and Sunday meals on laptop monitors. Mashable wrote up a primer for how Jews could host a Passover Seder over Zoom. NBC did a “THINK” piece on how G-d could show up digitally in the pandemic, even via Zoom.

For this page, I started with one of my favorite paper lines I’ve hoarded over the years — it’s called “9 to 5” from October Afternoon, and feels a bit like “Mad Men” meets Michael’s or Joann Crafts. I used this paper series for a mini-book I made about my mom’s career, so I really do love the series.

I added in a vintage look journaling card, reminiscent of “Dick and Jane” book art, that reads, “Work at Home,” illustrating a “housewife” doing chores around the home…ironic twist to a page dedicated to a word for a platform that has enabled millions of workers the world over to collaborate online and tele-work from home in the lockdown era.

With Zoom, we complete all 26 letters of the ABCovid-19 alphabet.

It’s been my pleasure to open my #arttherapy kimono to share these pages with you. Each of us needs to hack our way through the mental and emotional side effects of the pandemic. For me, my creative outlets always give me a way to channel frustration, loneliness, and other negative feelings that detract from my resilience and positive energy. The feelings are really and must be acknowledged, but I try to constructively engage with them and arm-wrestle through creativity, processing them but killing them with creative kindness.

That’s more personal content than I usually share on Health Populi, but we live in very challenging times in the Age of Corona. Thank you for traveling this journey with me. We will persist, will will survive and thrive beyond the lockdowns. We’ll wear fashionable masks, find joy in small things, and get to hug each other at some point. Until those in-person hugs come, I wish you well, love, health, and your own constructive creative outlets.