I’ll admit: I’ve been obsessively reading Coronavirus news for two weeks, trying to weigh how founded my fears were against what some might argue is media hype. Two weeks ago I emailed my parents and aunt, who are in their late 60s and 70s and have some health issues that put them in a high-risk category for the virus (experts agree that the overall mortality rate for those who get infected is probably close to 1%, but in people over 60 it’s closer to 8%, and for those over 80, it’s 15%). I urged them to take some precautions and listen closely to recommendations from the CDC. I told them this was going to get very serious very fast. Then I wondered if maybe I was unnecessarily making them anxious, if maybe this wasn’t going to be the big deal that certainly seemed likely. I read more news articles. I discussed plans with Drew, including whether we should cancel our spring break trip next month and how we might navigate school closure. I posted a Corona-related letter last week and then an update a few days later that has garnered a lot of discussion. Yesterday the WHO declared a global pandemic, Trump imposed a travel ban, and here in the US we are still waiting for adequate testing. It’s a lot!
So I wanted to check in: How are you all of you doing? What, if anything, has changed in your lives, what are you doing differently, what are you feeling anxious about (if anything), and how are you keeping sane and calm?
For our part, I’m continuing to stay informed but know I need to make a better effort to turn off the news and seek some forms of escape. I’m still doing normal things – tonight I’m taking a friend out for a belated birthday dinner, I’m going to pilates class, I’m getting a hair cut. But I’m also making some changes and doing some things I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I mailed my parents and aunt some hand sanitizer yesterday after they said it was sold out everywhere where they live and they couldn’t find any online either. I’ve stopped going to the pilates studio that’s always very crowded with 15-20 students in a tiny room and am only going to the studio that caps at five students (in a bigger space), and I’m doing more workouts at home.
And the biggest change: Starting tomorrow we’re going to begin keeping the kids home from school in an effort to help “flatten the curve.” I informed Joanie’s teacher this morning and she said, “But kids are safe. They won’t get sick.” And I told her it wasn’t them I was most worried about. I worry about her. I worry about the older grown-ups in the other students’ lives who will be vulnerable to the germs the kids are exposed to at school and, in turn, expose them to. I worry about our hospitals not having the space for everyone who will potentially get sick at the same time if we don’t make some effort to stagger the pace of cases. So, because I have a flexible schedule and can stay home with my kids more easily than a lot of other parents, I am doing what I think is most civically responsible. I imagine schools here will likely close by the end of next week anyway, so we’re just getting a little head start.
As I said, I’ve been obsessively following the news, and I have some links to articles I thought were most helpful in understanding what’s going on and the potential impact if you’re interested in reading:
On the plus side, there are signs when crucial steps are taken, the curve flattens: the last two of 16 temporary hospitals in the epicenter city of Wuhan (which has been on lockdown for fifty days) have been shut down.
I plan to continue posting columns as I normally would and will try to keep this space a place you can come to for a little escape from the news, but I also want to give space for those who want to discuss what’s going on, how you’re feeling, and how you’re coping. Expect more check-in posts like this one in coming weeks (and maybe a forum thread too?). I’m thinking of all of you and the myriad ways our lives are about to change, at least temporarily. Let’s try more than ever to be kind and patient with each other (I’m going to work on this one!) and to do what we can to help lift burdens when we’re able to. Check on your older family members, neighbors, and friends! They’re probably feeling extra anxious. Stay safe, be smart, keep calm.