It has literally been six weeks of quarantine due to COVID-19 – a novel coronavirus spreading mayhem and death across the globe. The first weeks everything happened so fast and we all scrambled to adjust as quickly as possible. So much so that March and much of April was essentially lost in a roller coaster of emotions and reactions. Highs and lows and everything in between.
How will history remember this time where the entire world shut down and economies shed all the non-essential and superfluous trappings of society in an attempt to slow the infection rate, so hospitals could treat and save as many lives as possible? It depends – like it always seems to – on where you lie on the political and religious spectrums. And in the US, it also depends on which state you live in, since there has yet to be a coordinated national response.
The US is divided along party lines. One side focused on responding to a pandemic threat to public health – one they saw coming as far back as January and to which Federal government did nothing to respond to until over a month later. The other side focused on responding with cries of civil liberty violations and lamenting the collapse of an economy built on the need for people to spend every last dollar they earn while unemployment numbers skyrocket. It is a vicious circle where no side is completely right or wrong as most moral and ethical dilemmas so often are.
Here in Utah, schools were closed on March 13, 2020 for initially a three to four-week timeframe, later extended to last until May 1st, and finally through the end of the current school year by the Governor – the only thing consistent across the state. The same day, March 13th, my work embarked on a capacity test of how many people we could support working remotely. The next day it was declared that if you could do your work from home you should – until further notice. It has now been six full weeks of 100% remote working. The county I live in has designated essential businesses that are allowed to remain open, everything else ordered to shut down to enforce social distancing and slow the spread of this contagion. Only one other county has similar orders to stay at home. Where so many people live and work in different counties, this feels like chaos or a non-response for many.
- I work in heathcare. I see and am privy to the emergency and crisis planning happening for the communities we serve, and it inspires me
- I personally have a kidney disease (of the autoimmune kind) which puts me at extreme risk, with loved ones in all of the highest risk categories for which contracting this disease would also likely be fatal
- I’m watching friends and neighbors lose loved ones, unable to bury their dead with the type of ritual and gatherings that one would expect. I can say I’ve attending a virtual graveside service via video conference
- I have two kids adjusting to schools that were cancelled for the remainder of the school year, with zero notice, who three days later started learning online with teachers who are not nearly appreciated for what they do in normal times but who are now not only caring for and focused on my kids and what they are learning but are themselves having to adjust to a new normal
The first month was hard. But now is much harder as the economy crashes around us and the divides that have existed in our society are exposed for the crisis they should always have been. While leaders debate about the right time to ease the quarantine restrictions to stay home, I wonder why we aren’t focused on the larger problem: why our economy is so broken that this many people can’t afford to miss even one paycheck without facing financial ruin. I’ve seen articles written that call this proof that we are living in a failed state. I both hope that isn’t true long-term and fear that it will be.
I find myself in the middle ground on the current stay-home vs. reopen-everything debate. Because, as usual, it is in the gray area (aka the hardest area) where most fall. There are no easy answers right now. There is nothing black and white about choosing life over money because we are all so entwined with the various aspects of the pandemic response. My wish is that people who protest, or gather together in a way that goes against social distancing, had a way to fully own that right by also waiving their privilege to healthcare when they blatantly disregard the recommendations from experts trying their best to give us all the best way to achieve those middle-ground options. How difficult is it to stay home as much as you can and socially distance when you don’t? To do otherwise is literally a slap in the face to those who will suffer as a direct result of large scale gatherings. Don’t believe me? There’s already reporting of spikes in confirmed infection cases in the states where large-scale protesting occurred in the last few weeks. You can’t argue with epidemiology, no matter how hard you try.
I will continue to observe and report. These are historic times, friends. I hope everyone I know is staying safe – and has enough toilet paper to meet first-world standards. (Will this be the joke of 2020 when it is all over? I wonder.) I have personally left my house a total of 5 times in six weeks and foresee that trend continuing for the majority of summer – or until we understand this disease more. I wonder how history will see this in hindsight and hope I’m still around to witness that as well.