COVID Place making
March 23, 2020

Matisse at Home & Adaptation


This image is being circulated on social media as the artist Henri Matisse in bed with the flu. That may have been a bending of the truth to reflect the current Covid-19 Crisis, as Matisse who lived from 1869 to 1954 had an operation for  stomach cancer later in life that left him confined to bed or a chair. No longer able to stand to paint, he started to draw murals on his walls from his bed, and used that concept to have assistants make cut-outs that had a “distinct and dimensional complexity”.

With the colour, shape and form, those images are instantly recognizable as Matisse’s work today. There’s another message too~in the face of adversity and not being able to do the painting work that had been his passion, Matisse adapted to what he could do and created a new art form.

As Matisse said “There are always flowers for those who want to see them”.


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There are two places where COVID-19 has come and mostly gone, with minimal economic impacts. As reported by Tom Blackwell in Singapore and Taiwan approached COVID-19 in a different way. Singapore’s city state houses six million people, but as of last week had only 435 cases and zero mortalities. Taiwan has over 23 million people but only has 135 cases and 2 deaths. Schools and workplaces remained open during the crisis, meaning the economy did not take the kind of hit that the Canadian economy is experiencing.

How did they do this? Singapore and Taiwan achieved virus control by isolating people who may “have COVID-19, tightly controlling international travel and zealously pursuing those who had contact with the infected.”

Singapore used police officers to find potential COVID-19 contacts, and gave people in quarantine government issued cell phones for monitoring. Quarantined persons were required to send photos of their surroundings so that authorities knew they were staying in place.

Singapore also commenced health status screenings of all passengers arriving from Wuhan on January 3, and extended the screening to all passengers by February They also tested almost 2,200 people a day.

Taiwan allowed doctors and pharmacists access to the population’s recent travel histories as well as digital health files, allowing the tracing of potential carriers.  Anyone in quarantine risked heavy fines if they did not abide by it.

The difference appears to be attitudinal and also structural. Right from the beginning the COVID-19 pandemic was treated very seriously, as both countries were heavily impacted by the 2003 SARS outbreaks. Both countries set up national command centres, stockpiled medical supplies, and could quickly set up screening centres at shopping malls.

Both Singapore and Taiwan have a centralized government that provides universal health care, unlike Canada where there are thirteen different jurisdictions.

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What happens when NIMBY (Not In MY BackYard) behaviour impacts the health of the whole community? In Darien Connecticut   the town  was going to have their first drive-through COVID-19 testing site set up.

The testing was to begin in a parking lot at the Darien Town Hall. But residents complained copiously to town officials, not wanting a testing facility so close to their residences. The town Mayor and Council nixed the facility.

What exactly is Darien? It is a small town of 21,000 people that is one of the wealthiest in the United States, and is ranked in the top ten of Bloomberg’s current list of “America’s Richest Places. The average household income is over $350,000.

Most of the residents here commute to Manhattan for work.  Here are the amenities in Darien: there’s eleven parks, two public beaches, the private Tokeneke beach club, three country clubs including the first organized golf club in Connecticut, a hunt club, the public Darien Boat Club, and Noroton Yacht Club.”

The drive-through testing was to be in a lower parking lot adjacent to the Town Hall for residents that had a doctor’s order and had already been screened and given an appointment.

“In a post on Twitter, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin called the decision “maddening,” and said that homeowners near where the testing was scheduled to take place should not be “offended,” because it was only going to be temporary.”

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