Friday, May 22, 2020

Magical thinking maybe

I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive

If there’s one thing Neil and I agree on, it’s that we both feel like we do more than our fair share of the work around here.

For example, cooking and cleanup. After I retired from my day job, while Neil was still putting in his time in the salt mine, I took it upon myself to make dinner most nights. It seemed only fair, even though I was running my own little bead business, because it's not a real job if you love what you do and work for yourself.

Now, in our fourth year since he retired, he still seems to expect me to put dinner on the table.

Once in awhile he will cook something special, making a huge mess in the kitchen, but for our usual dinners of pasta, eggs, hot dogs, soup, veggie burgers, etc. it’s usually my responsibility to whip it up, even if that just means boiling water and setting out the condiments. If I don't do it spontaneously, he hints and nudges me, because boiling water is rocket science

Did I mention that I do 100 percent of the cleanup?

That includes soaking the dishes, loading the dishwasher, and washing the pot or pan.

It’s Neil’s job to unload the dishwasher, which he does with occasional prompting. Except, while he does put away the coffee mugs, dinnerware, and cutlery, anything else such as cat bowls, cookware, Tupperware, any random items merely are left on the counter, as if he doesn’t know where they go.

These are small things really, but in this time of staying at home, we’ve eaten every meal here. So the cleanup is endless and part of the reason I’m so tired, which you can read about in my last post.

On second thought, don’t read it, it’s wordy and I’m not sure if I ever got around to making whatever point was in my head when I started writing.

Not that I always know what I want to say when I start writing. It usually comes out though, I think.

Did I mention that I clean up 100 percent of the cat hair balls? And we have some pretty actively regurgitating cats.

But that’s not really my point today.

What’s on my mind is the pandemic, specifically all the statistics and polls and prognostications about how and when and if it will ever end.

I’m very picky about numbers. When I hear that some large number of people tested positive in some meat packing plant, what I want to know is, how many people got sick and how sick did they get.

When I hear about increases in new cases, I want to know whether that’s because we did more testing, or if more people are getting very sick. I want to know what percent of the new tests were positive, how many of the new cases required hospitalization.

It’s hard to make sense of the whole thing. Yes, I take it seriously, I stay largely home, keep my social distance, and wear a mask when I have to go somewhere. I hand gel religiously. Deliveries go into mail jail. Non-perishables are quarantined. Refrigerated items are swabbed down with soap or alcohol.

But I have a hard time believing there’s more than a slight chance that a novel coronavirus particle was present at the Sam’s warehouse where we shopped this week. We take all the precautions but I’ve lost my intense grocery contamination phobia. I don't regard every cereal box as highly suspect.

I haven't heard of that any grocery store has been found to be a hot spot for virus transmission, a super-spreader venue, so to speak.

As non-essential businesses begin to open up, and people begin to venture forth, over the coming weeks we've been told to expect a resurgence of Covid-19, or spikes of the pandemic curve, or flare-ups in new hot spots. And I think that is all possible, if not probably, based on scientific expert predictions.

But even with stay-at-home orders expiring, I think people have adopted new behaviors. No hugs or handshakes, lots of hand washing, mask wearing in many cases, and generally higher levels of cleanliness and caution.

I'm still a long way from wanting to dine in a restaurant, or board an airplane, or stay in a hotel. I'm a much longer way from seeing myself at a ballgame or concert or conference, even once large group events resume. And I think I'm not alone.

Which makes me wonder about several things. Could we have done enough to make enough of a difference? Could our ongoing efforts to avoid spreading germs be enough to discourage the virus? A virus needs a live host to go forth and multiply. If we make that much more difficult, as we've been doing, might it not simply pack up its marauding RNA and go?

More evidence has been publicized that the threat of outdoor transmission is relatively low. Coronaviruses thrive in small, poorly ventilated areas, and places where there is a lot of unavoidable contact, such as crowded subway cars, theaters, sports arenas, lecture halls. Does that mean it's OK to go to a crowded beach or public park? Maybe, maybe not. I personally would't play a contact sport, not even volleyball, or linger in close quarters with groups of people at a festival, but I feel more empowered to go for a walk and not freak out if a jogger runs past me.

So I ponder whether there is some possibility that, with the summer months upon us, with outdoor options for recreation and socialization, with a measured response to reopening businesses where there is no business model for working from home, such as hair and nail salons, with maximizing the use of masks and sanitization, we might avoid an Armageddon of new cases of Covid-19 that threaten to overwhelm our health care systems again.

On a hypothetical level, I wonder if the virus has already taken out a critical mass of the weakest targets, the elderly, the immune-compromised, those with comorbidities, the congregate dwellers such as those in nursing homes and prisons, those who work shoulder to shoulder in factories. This is not meant to be heartless, I am not saying that was at all OK, but it is what has happened, it is a statement of fact about who has been hardest hit.

It is also the purest conjecture that some threshhold of deaths (and recoveries) has been crossed so as to thwart the continuous rise of infection.

Scientists seem fairly unanimous that we are nowhere near anything approaching herd immunity and that until we have available an effective vaccine, we are all in line for eventual exposure and unremitting contact of the disease.

Those of us that haven't already undergone it and recovered.

I have another wild hair (impulse, whim, crazy idea) about this virus. I muse that perhaps the virus has been in circulation for a longer while than is generally thought. In my timeline of virus events (Life in the time of Covid) I placed the first cluster of cases in mid-December, but it has come to light that the virus was circulating earlier than that. I wouldn't be surprised if we ultimately learn that many more people have antibodies than would align with the timeline as currently known.

I traveled in November. I flew to Dallas and flew back to Charlotte with a layover in Jackson, Mississippi. At the end of December I began to have a dry cough that lasted for weeks and was severe enough that I pulled a muscle in my chest. I didn't have fever but I'm not prone to running fevers. I was very tired, but had no other symptoms.

OK, I know, it probably wasn't Covid-19. For one thing, I didn't infect the many people I was in contact with, in those innocent days when we had house guests and visited grandchildren. For another, I had a chest X-ray that had no signs of pneumonia (nor broken ribs).

Unless of course, there is a milder version of the virus that is mostly asymptomatic and many more people have been exposed and not contracted the illness or had very mild cases. Then again, there's no much data to say that once you've had a mild case, or any case at all, you have any sustained immunity.

So it's probably not worth getting an antibody test, since until more is known, I'll be proceeding cautiously, antibodies or not.

Wait and see, wait and see. It's tedious but necessary. It will take a few weeks before it's clear how much the gradual opening of the economy affects the number of people who become seriously ill. Even if we can avoid an onslaught of new hospitalizations and intubations and expirations, life will still look nothing like it used to.

The new normal is here for the long haul. There is no finish line, no line in the sand delineating when we can trade this unwanted new normal for anything like our nostalgic old normal. Maybe when a vaccination has been developed and widely deployed, but that will take time, and I think it will take longer than that for people to truly trust casual proximity with other people again.

Meanwhile, it's sinking in that we are looking at a fettered future as far as the heart can see. Both my kids may be working from home for the rest of this year, at least. We probably won't be crossing any trips off our bucket list this summer. And who knows if we will see any of our extended family again for many more months.

At least for me, the relentless feelings of foreboding have receded. I seem to have made my peace with what is, for now.

It helps that my knitting group has resumed meeting in person, out of doors and spread out. But I'd only give these ladies a C for social distance. They pass over their phones to show photos, they hand you yarn or pick up one another's projects for a better look.

I hand gel and I shrug. There is some risk. I've come back around to my earliest perspective. If I get the virus, I get it.

I won't let it get me though.

If I get it, I'm hell bent on getting over it.

At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along

And now you're back
From outer space
I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I'd known for just one second you'd be back to bother me

Go on now, go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive
I will survive

It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart
And I spent oh-so many nights just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high

And you see me
Somebody new
I'm not that chained-up little person and still in love with you
And so you felt like dropping in and just expect me to be free
Well, now I'm saving all my loving for someone who's loving me

Go on now, go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one who tried to crush me with goodbye
Do you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give
And I'll survive
I will survive
I will survive

(Dino Fekaris / Frederick J. Perren © Universal Music Publishing Group)