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Social Commentary

Getting a Grip on the Pandemic

Above the fold at the Solon Economist, March 19, 2020.

When I started this blog there was no intention to write daily about a pandemic. Isolation, quarantine, social distancing, shelter in place, self-quarantine, and more are words to describe our behavior in response to the coronavirus.

As a writer and blogger I understand the concepts. Who knew it would feel important to write so much about them.

The words suggest something — communal behavior, loneliness, or disruption. I’m not sure exactly which. It’s as if once we understand what’s going on we know what to do.

When I returned from yesterday’s shift at the home, farm and auto supply store my spouse was waiting on the stairs.

“Give me your phone,” she said, ready to disinfect it on the spot with a homemade disinfectant swab.

I was directed to the kitchen sink where I washed my hands, then to the bedroom where I changed clothes. If I carried something home it could be isolated and not spread throughout the house.

I recognize these instincts from spending time with my maternal grandmother who took no quarter against threats to her household. One has to wonder why they are not my own instincts.

Nuclear, biological and chemical military training well prepared me for the coronavirus pandemic. Except for the phone part, I knew the drill, and can execute it without losing focus on main events. Being an infantry soldier prepares us for life in unexpected ways.

A co-worker said they wished “the thing would run its course and be done so we can get back to normal.” I don’t know what that means. We are all active agents in a pandemic. The number of cases of Covid-19 and resulting deaths is largely dependent on what we do as a society. It’s not a given that any particular thing will happen or that a specific result is preordained.

At work a local medical facility ordered 800 welding shields to protect health care workers. We had them express shipped from the supplier to arrive overnight. If they can protect an arc welder from getting sparks on their face, they can likely prevent moisture droplet borne contamination from reaching a physician or nurse’s face. If we lose front line health care providers to the coronavirus we’re sunk.

We don’t know the future of the coronavirus, but it is likely here to stay. The pandemic will run a course but coronavirus will infect many of us potentially creating an immunity for those who survive it.

In China, where the virus originated, we’ve gone two days in a row without a new case being diagnosed. The first inklings of trouble there were in late December so if that is the course of the pandemic, 11 to 13 weeks, that’s better than it could be. It’s unknown whether the delay in recognizing the threat in the United States, and our apparent slow response will lengthen that trajectory. It will have an impact that takes additional lives.

Yesterday the home, farm and auto supply store announced a paid leave program for full and part time employees who must be quarantined. It’s not the same pay as working, but it is recognition by the family who owns the business and their managers that they must be socially responsible to remain in business. They have been flexible with other time off related to the pandemic.

Midst all of this, Spring arrived yesterday. May the gentle rain falling this morning wash away our concerns so we can accept our lives and become positive forces in the outcomes of friends and neighbors.  We hope for that regardless of whether there is a pandemic. If this blog helps readers that way, then I’m doing my job.

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