Sunday, March 15, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus, Snapshot #1

I saw several tweets going around about keeping a journal right now. The tweets were about a physical journal, but screw that. I've never been able to keep a physical journal going for long. The best I ever did was during our four month "Circle Pacific" trip - I wrote a fairly detailed entry about every day. That was on a laid back, kid-free, long term trip when sitting in a bar for an afternoon catching up on my journal entries seemed like a great way to spend some time. I still jot notes down when I travel, but they aren't extensive. The idea that I'd manage to keep a real journal going now is pretty laughable.

But I like the idea of writing down some of the details about what life is like right now. I refer back to old blog posts a lot to remind myself of details of various times in my life.

If I had to pick one phrase to describe my life right now it would be "mentally exhausting." On the surface, life was going on like normal until Friday, when the announcement came that our schools were closing. But ever since it became clear that COVID-19 would spread here in the US, I have been making a lot of decisions and doing extra planning. I have been doing that without all the information I would like, because the information I really want is just not available.

I wanted to know whether the virus was spreading in the community, but the bungling of the testing situation here in the US made that unknowable until it spread enough to infect someone who got ill enough to be noticed. Or perhaps it had to wait until the testing situation improved enough to allow testing of people without a high-risk travel history. Either way, we had our first reported case of community transmission last week. I suspect transmission had been occurring in the community before that, but I do not know to what extent.

The other thing I wanted to know (and still want to know, to be honest), is how different my risk profile is from someone my age (47) who doesn't have asthma. This is not knowable right now. I spent a lot of time reading various things written by public health experts and doctors and eventually realized I was chasing information that just doesn't exist. The places that have had enough cases to be able to provide that sort of detail have not had the time to analyze their cases in that sort of detail. I am just going to have to make decisions without that information.

Here's a probably incomplete list of the decisions I've had to make in the last month or so, in rough chronological order:

1. Would we still go to the Valle de Guadalupe (a wine region in Mexico, about 2 hours from San Diego) to celebrate my sister's birthday? The trip was planned for the weekend of Feb. 29. (Answer: Yes, we did. It was a lovely weekend and I am glad we went.)

2. Would we send Pumpkin to spend that weekend with a family friend who had just returned from a business trip in Japan? (Answer: No, I canceled that when I woke up Friday morning to the news that Japan had closed its schools. Pumpkin went to spend the weekend with some other friends who were already slated to take Petunia. In retrospect, Japan has done a better job than we have of containing the virus and it would probably have been fine to keep our original plan.)

3. Would we stock up on food, etc? (Answer: Sort of. We had recently done our usual Costco run, so were well stocked on toilet paper and hand soap, anyway. I decided to take the advice to buy a little extra on each shopping trip and so we have a good supply of most of our non-perishable favorites and given what I saw when I went shopping this morning, I'm glad I did that.)

4. Would we still take our planned trip to LA for my husband's birthday? My parents were coming over to watch the kids and we were planning to spend two nights in LA, attending the Keane concert on the second night. This trip was earlier this week - driving to LA Monday, driving home Wednesday. (Answer: Yes, we went. This decision feels questionable. Time will tell if that was an OK decision or not. This was a "big" birthday and my husband has been wanting to see Keane live for years. At the time we went neither San Diego nor LA County had reported a case of community transmission. We had fun. We went to the Broad museum and saw amazing modern art, we had some wonderful food, and the concert was great. We tried to take precautions, keeping our distance from other people and using a lot of hand sanitizer.

LA county reported its first case of probable community transmission while we were there. San Diego country reported its first likely case of community transmission Wednesday night. Realistically, there has almost certainly been community transmission in both counties for awhile now. We can only hope the level was still low enough that we made it through the trip uninfected.)

5. Would we work from home upon our return from LA? (Answer: Yes. My husband's company made that decision for him, and I decided I should stay home, too.)

6. Would we go ahead with a planned visit from one of my best friends, who lives in San Francisco? The visit was scheduled for the weekend of March 21. (Answer: No, my friend and I decided to cancel the visit yesterday. This one really hurt, but we've got a phone call scheduled for Monday and we'll reschedule the visit for a later date.)

7. Would we continue grocery shopping every week like normal? (Answer: Yes, but I decided to try to switch to less busy shopping times. I also bought some cotton gloves to wear when I am in the store and try hard to keep 6 feet of distance from other people. Today's shopping trip was a mixed bag, though - I went before 8, but the store was already crowded and not everyone seemed interested in keeping their distance.)

8. What will we expect our kids to do while they are stuck here at home and we're trying to work? (Answer: They have some homework from the school and we came up with a list of some extra learning-related things they can do. Other than that, they just have to leave us alone to work.)

9. Will our kids still go to their extracurricular activities? (Answer: No. Several were canceled, and we're going to skip the others but continue to pay for them because we want those people to continue to have money, too.)

10. Will we have our cleaner come as usual? (Answer: No. We've canceled, but are again continuing to pay as if we hadn't. This afternoon, we're cleaning our house ourselves.)

11. What else will we do to help our local community during this time? (Answer: we'll make an extra donation to our food bank. We're going to order some books online from our favorite local bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy.  We're on the fence about ordering in or buying gift cards to support local restaurants - Postmates has set up for contactless delivery, but what I really want to see is my government step in to help those businesses.)

In thinking about my last few weeks, I really think governments need to just make the decisions for people. There is too much individual decision making going on. I felt relief when my county decided to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people, because then I didn't have to decide if we should go to the play we had tickets for today. Decide for people. Shut down bars, mandate restaurants switch to take-out and delivery... Just do it.

Also, someone needs to try to calm people down about grocery stores. The situation we have now with people packing in and panic-buying is not good!

That's my first update. I'll try to post again later in the week with how working from home with two kids and another adult (who is also working from home) is going. How are things going for you?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Thank you. This is super helpful and sounds like the choices I have been making. Am absolutely in the high risk category and in a CA area where I am certain community transmission has been ongoing for some time but no testing available. Have family in a college town where schools are now shut and teens are, with parental permission, having party time ... because no confirmed cases in that county yet at this time. Limited hospital care available. NO testing available without a 'confirmed ill, traveled to high infection country, infected person contact'... probably not then either based on the governor's remark that so many of the CDC test kits sent were incomplete and un-useable and numbers laughable given the population in this state.
    I think the situation is going to get very ugly. I hear the grocery chains do have a good supply in their stocking centers but the hoarding panic behaviors will make that ... less helpful if controls are not put in place. Know some stores are voluntarily doing some of that now.
    Instead of staying on the problematic side of things I am now trying to focus my attention on those who ARE thinking and following current guidelines and social distancing. And think Austria's guideline of no more than 5 together at a time has some real merit assuming your immediate family is not large. I have seen some members of my area reaching out to older people and offering to go to the store for them. We will see...
    Please keep updating this journal.


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