in Checking In

Highlights of 2020: COVID-19 pandemic

Ah yes, No account of 2020 would be complete without telling the story of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

I’ve mentioned before some of the routine we’d gotten into but as time has gone on that routine has changed a bit. I spent a lot of time in the early days of the pandemic and subsequent self-quarantine just “doomscrolling,” trying to learn as much as I could about COVID. I learned earlier than most I think that the riskiest COVID situation is an indoor gathering. I stopped wiping down our groceries and mail when science showed no evidence that anyone had ever gotten infected via touching things (i.e., fomites). I could focus more fully on my job rather than feeling obsessed with finding out the latest science on COVID.

Even so, there is no doubt that the experience has changed me. I am still healthy and virus-free but the stress of watching society nearly collapse has affected my decision-making abilities to some extent, I think. Or at least things that once seemed important, like household stuff lying around that needs to be put away, don’t seem to be as important as they used to be.

The stark reminder that we individuals may be within weeks of our deaths has forced to think more long-term about my life’s goals. If I only had weeks to live, how would I want to live it? How would I like to be remembered? It has led me to be more honest in my opinions too, I think, where I am now more likely to say what I think instead of sugarcoating something. This may be a natural progression for me as I’ve always admired the Dutch’s penchant for telling it like it is. I am far more comfortable with this now.

I wanted to document what life has been like in a pandemic so early on I began to spend a few minutes of every weekday morning with my laptop and webcam, just updating where I was (and we were) quarantine-wise. As these are some more personal musings I have kept these to myself, though perhaps some day I will be comfortable sharing them. For now they are a video time capsule into this crazy world of self-quarantining.

Since we did our first home renovation and built out an upstairs bedroom/office from our attic, this has been our sole home office. Kelly and I both have desks in it and it was workable as we would usually not overlap too much and get in each other’s way. The pandemic has changed all that, with the addition of video calls to what were phone calls. Now that Kelly’s primary work space is our upstairs office I was frequently an unwilling participant in her video calls. To keep the peace, I shifted my work space across the hall to our spare bedroom where fortunately I have the use of a desk and a borrowed monitor from work. Nothing puts a focus on your relationships like enforcing them 24/7/365. Though I miss working in front of our office’s big double windows, we are now in positions to work without aggravating each other. So that’s good.

Travis is doing remote school work and hanging in there. It’s not ideal but we’re both proud of how he’s sticking with it. When he’s not doing school work, he will hop in the car and drive around town for half an hour. Sometimes it’s good to change up the scenery.

Shopping is for the most part the same as before the pandemic, only 99.9% of customers and staff wear face masks. Some stores wipe down carts but this isn’t as big of a showy thing as it was when this all started. I’m not concerned of getting infected from anything I touch since – number one – no documented fomite infections exist, and – number two – I am wearing a mask which helps keep me from touching my nose and face. When this all began, we were fortunate to have a box of about a dozen unused N95 masks that I’d purchased long ago to use with house projects. I have worn out 3 or 4 of these so far and am the only family member who prefers them. Kelly, Travis, and Hallie prefer the comfort of cloth masks. When I am going out, I will grab my mask from the kitchen counter, slap it on as soon as I get out of the car, do my shopping, slather on some hand sanitizer when I return to the car, and only then take my mask off. Seems safe.

I read early on that medical studies have shown that Vitamin D helps protect against respiratory infections. In 2019, after routine labs at the VA, I was told I was deficient in Vitamin D. This is a fairly-common problem among Americans but particularly among people of color who don’t easily synthesize sunlight into this wonder vitamin. When one of the infectious disease experts I follow on Twitter mentioned the medical study showing VitD’s protective role, I made sure I took my vitamin supplement every day. Recent labs show I now have adequate levels and I am hopeful this will keep me healthy. Dr. Fauci also recommends taking a zync supplement, which is part of the multivitamin I take. Are these wonder solutions? Maybe, maybe not. But they’re cheap, easy, and harmless. So why not?

While there are certain things I do miss, I’ve found that my introvert self has managed the pandemic very well. I do enjoy the company of others, of course, and am happy to run meetings and make things happen but there is no doubt that I am happy to retreat into thought and be left alone for a while. I’ve made use of the library’s book pick up service and have torn through some e-books available on Scribd. And of course the Internet has provided plenty of entertainment as well. A friend shared a story this week of a man who took a job as the sole caretaker of a Pacific island atoll for a year and wound up staying eight years. This might drive many people nuts but I have a feeling I would be just fine having an island to myself.

I can’t help but get angry when I walk through the neighborhood and come across a neighbor hosting a big indoor party. I’ve seen this a few times, mainly neighbors I don’t know. It’s as if no one has been paying attention over the last 10 months.

We also have some kind of church group that is living in the house across the street. Generally they keep to themselves but there is absolutely NO social distancing going on there. People come and go all the time. No masks are ever worn. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. I just smile and wave from a distance because I want nothing to do with this. I call it the COVID Church. Fortunately they don’t hold services there but there were a few mornings where there were a dozen people there working out in the garage and then going running through the neighborhood packed closely together with no masks on. I’ve been happy to see they stopped doing this after I called them out on my Facebook page and another neighbor tipped them off to my rant. I chatted with them afterward and stressed that I just don’t want to see anyone hurt. While the running has largely stopped, the maskless crowding continues.

Last week, my neighbor who is a neonatal nurse got her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Thus the vaccine has arrived of sorts at my door step. We quizzed her right afterward about her experience, any side-effects, etc. Sadly, some of her colleagues are of the conspiracy-minded and are refusing the shot. I have concerns about some vaccines, too, but in the case of COVID-19 any ill effects of the vaccine pale in comparison to the damage SARS COv2 would do. I’m far down the list of vaccine recipients and I’m happy to wait my turn. Realistically it could be summer before I get my chance.

In short, the pandemic has colored everything we have done in 2020, beginning in March (or as one friend called it, Marchfinity). Be sure to view the rest of my 2020 entries in this light.