Life as we know it has changed in an astonishingly quick moment. Last week it was fairly normal when it looked like China might be able to contain the virus but then panic set in across the country. Sports leagues like the NBA, NCAA, ACC, and NHL canceled their games. Raleigh’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade was called off. Then Wake County Public Schools decided last Friday to not count absences before turning around on Saturday and closing schools. A week ago I worked my first day at home and have not been back to the office except for a brief time Saturday to retrieve the plants off my desk.
We are doing what is termed “social distancing,” where we interact with as few people as possible. The kids are at home, Kelly and I are at home and we have largely given up any trips outside of the house except for dire emergencies. It is frightening and surreal. In an instant life has changed drastically.
It has been day three of our all being at home. Our home is big enough that we can find our own corners and not disturb each other. When we’re sharing our home office, Kelly has complained about how loudly I chew gum (narrator: it’s not that loud). Spirits are high now but the realization is setting in that this will not be over any time soon. We may have to shelter in place like this for months.
The saving grace is that we are not strictly confined to our homes. At least, not yet. We can go for drives, walks, bike rides, dog walks. Whatever. We are just encouraged to maintain that six-foot distance experts suggest will keep us safe from getting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Funny how my computer was unaware of how to spell “coronavirus” just now and flagged it.
Hallie’s been going off to run in Umstead State Park in the mornings. Travis has been in the driveway shooting baskets and occasionally going on walks. Kelly and I have been walking our newly-acquired dogs. This afternoon we went for a bike ride to Anderson Point and back, setting a Personal Record for me for our ride out. Getting some fresh air and exercise makes this different from your typical snowstorm, or hurricane, or wartime siege. The least dangerous place one can be is in the outdoors away from people. It could be worse.
I am fortunate to have an awesome home office setup. My company is well-versed in remote working, using Slack and Zoom regularly. Most of us haven’t missed a beat with the shift away from the office. There’s a feeling of all being in this together.
Even so, the infection numbers keep climbing globally, nationwide, and locally. North Carolina has reported 63 cases as of today, which is a growth of about 25% per day. Troubling reports from Italy and the Netherlands suggest perfectly healthy people are falling deathly ill to this disease, not just the elderly or those with “comorbidities.” Fox News has spent weeks downplaying the threat, calling it a Democratic hoax, and now has completely changed its tune (albeit too little, too late). Trump denied it was a threat all the way up until this week when he made a sober statement that it was true. This was not enough to keep the stock market from tanking as wealth has evaporated with every word he has spoken. The Market knows that no one is really in charge. Uncertainty abounds.
This whole situation is quite a lesson for me as I’m the kind of guy who likes to be prepared. Hurricane on the horizon? I know about it a week before my friends. Power outage? I can rig up a generator in the blink of an eye. The local nuke plant melts down? I can be on my way to a neighboring state in 10 minutes or less.
But a plague? A global pandemic? What can be done besides hiding out? It’s not like I can buy a surplus ventilator on eBay, much less choose a different planet on which to take shelter. I have to trust that someone is working on a vaccine, or building more hospital capacity, or that I won’t accidentally expose myself to someone who’s infected (and who would know as it can spread asymptomatically?).
My fate has been taken completely out of my hands. It’s not a comforting place to be.
There is much doom and gloom on the horizon. I am reading dozens of news stories a day, almost all bad news. America is several weeks away from the peak of infections. Millions will be impacted. Hospitals will soon be overwhelmed. To top it off, no one has any immunity to this virus and each victim typically infects two others (as I mentioned before, often without knowing it). Any one of us may be mere weeks away from our deaths. If this isn’t a sobering thought I don’t know what is.
This week I’ve begun doing some video blogging to help record my mindset and document the situation. I hope to share these stories with my grandkids someday when the world is far less crazy. For now I don’t plan to share them publicly.
The one bright spot I have in all of this is that our society will likely look much different when we get to the other side of it. America’s lack of health care has been laid bare, as well as the unfairness of the massive gap between the haves and the have nots. SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t care whether your Democrat or Republican, white or black, Asian or American, or anything at all. It attacks humanity. I hope that humanity comes together and fights back. It will take all of us.
Whereever you are, I hope you’re dealing with this abrupt change as best you can. Hang in there and stay positive. One day the madness will be over.