My penchant for holding on to stuff for too long—like papers, T-shirts, golf scorecards; recorded programs in a variety of genres—is meant to provide the artifacts that will simplify the work of future archeologists looking to flesh out the details of life on this little slice of planet Earth. (Should be helpful to my future biographers, too, right?) Today, a look through my blog posts from this time of pandemic has provided me a valuable perspective I had not expected to find.
My first mention of COVID-19 here on The Little Blog That Could came on March 16, 2020, before there were any deaths in Texas from the virus. As the pandemic was just getting started, and before I had even a twinkling of a clear understanding of what was going on, I glibly titled my blog posts as a “Telework Journal” series that I thought was going to be kind of funny, like the “Furlough Journal” posts I did ridiculing politicians when the government shut down in October 2013…and again in January 2019. When it came to working from home, I noted that “There are some things I do at work that have to be done at work, things involving both the recording of episodes of a podcast and the live broadcasting of a little weekly television show.” That turned out to be just plain wrong, in a matter of a couple of weeks; we found other ways to do things. I also mentioned that the “hardships” I faced weren’t really so hard. That part was true, and still is.
Only two days later I recognize that people were realizing the medical danger of this thing, but by the next week I was doing a smart-alecky take on the need for a comfortable chair in my home office. In another two weeks I seem a little more humbled by the reality of what was happening, yet one week after that I act as though the thing has plateaued and now is the right time to assess lessons learned. (Idiot.)
On April 20 I find I am aware that there are people who believe that the overall response to COVID-19 was overblown: they cite as evidence the fact that fewer people have actually died at that point than were predicted. After five weeks. (Impatient idiots.) By Memorial Day I’m criticizing as childish those people who are fighting the calls for isolation and masking; this was also the last time I used “Telework” in the titles, apparently having realized by now that it wasn’t so funny after all.
And then something strange happened: COVID-19 all but disappeared from the blog. From June 2020 on, there are posts about politics and the election, followed by post-election complaining about what we now call the Big Lie, my disbelief at what happened at the Capitol on January 6, and my dismay at the failure to convict Donald Trump after the second impeachment. There is discussion of the progress of building a legal case against the seditionists and traitors behind the Capitol attack, of the end of the war in Afghanistan, and of the 20th anniversary of September 11. There is a critique of American journalism for its responsibility for the rise in crazy conservatives, and a shot fired across the bow of Christian nationalism; even tried a little humor.
But in the past year and a half, no discussion about arguably the single biggest news development of my lifetime. It surprised me to find this to be the case…I think it’s a result of all those other things that were going on in those months, and that I had just made my adjustment to living in “COVID times” without any notable personal impacts. Until now.
The initial fear of COVID-19 was, I think, based on the realization that (1) it was killing lots and lots of people, and (2) we didn’t have a weapon to fight it or a means with which to protect ourselves from it. Then we learned that wearing masks helped stifle the spread of the contagion, and then we got enough masks that there were enough for everyone. Remember back at the beginning where we had to buy them online because all the local stores were out? It didn’t take too long for the stores to become filled with rows and rows of masks, in a dizzying variety of styles and colors. Wearing the mask is a nuisance, but it is very effective in preventing the virus from infecting people in casual settings. It was almost the least you could do, short of pretending there was no virus out there, as your part in society’s effort to fight the spread of the disease.
But we needed more, and early this year we got it in the form of vaccines. A couple of simple shots, and now a booster, so similar to the shots we’ve given our children for generations to fight diseases that used to ravage populations, have provided us with a solid level of protection from serious illness. They’re not perfect; neither are the masks. But used together they’ve made a difference, and allowed a growing percentage of people to return to a more normal version of life. We could go to stores and restaurants and bars and ballgames, and travel to visit friends and relatives, start to do some of the things we’d had to give up early in 2020 when that was the only way we had to protect ourselves and our communities from a disease that has killed almost five and a half million people so far since early last year.
Last weekend my wife and I traveled to visit relatives for a few days at Christmas, and we came home on Sunday. By Tuesday, a nephew reported that he hadn’t felt well after our get-together, so he got himself tested: he was positive for COVID-19. Yesterday we spent much of the day searching for a place where we could get tested quickly: my regular medical clinic had no appointments available for seven days, same with local drug stores, and her doctor didn’t offer testing at all. But that doctor recommended an urgent care clinic in the next town over, where they didn’t even require an appointment!
We drove there after work last evening and were back out the door in less than an hour and a half, with most of that time spent filling out forms; we’re keeping isolated now while we wait for our results. Neither of us has symptoms and both of us are fully vaccinated, so by the time we expect to find out if we’re positive or negative the CDC-recommended five days of isolation will be over. So far, being directly exposed to COVID-19 has cost me a couple of planned rounds of golf and one physical therapy session, that I can reschedule, to wrap up treatment on my shoulder. In the words of Hawkeye Pierce, never let it be said that I didn’t do the least that I could do.