There’s a virus going around that has everyone talking – and by talking, I mean panic-scrolling, social distancing, and stocking up on toilet paper. Schools and health clubs of all varieties are closed. Sporting events are off. Churches with resources have resorted to streaming as all assemblies of more than 50 people have been banned in some states, discouraged in others. These are uncertain times. But how long will it last? When will it end, and how?
The scariest part is how this virus spreads, by simply breathing near someone who is a carrier or has been in contact with someone else who could be carrying it. Since you can be infected without displaying any symptoms, everyone is supposed to stay home and self-quarantine. If you have to go out, you’re to keep a “social distance” from everyone, especially avoiding the elderly. We are trying not to end up like Italy, where the northern part of the country is quarantined from the southern part because over 365 people died in the last 24 hours from the virus, and hospitals just cannot keep up with the hordes of people freshly infected.
The shelves at Target are empty. They’ve put temporary quantity caps on what items are available. I place a slightly larger than usual grocery delivery order, hoping that at least half of it will be available and we will have food for a bit; it takes two full days to arrive and when it does, the order is incomplete. We call our elderly neighbors and our friends and people we had planned to see. Distancing ourselves from each other is our best defense to keep the number of infected people low. The lower the number of people infected, the higher our chances of this whole ordeal being put to bed in just a few weeks. Similarly, the more people who ignore the advice of experts to stay indoors, the less likely our chances of not overwhelming the already burdened healthcare system and medical workers who are risking their lives to treat people for this virus, among handling other everyday emergencies.
All of this is very strange to explain (over and over again) to a middle schooler. Why we can’t go bouldering this weekend (no touching germy rocks, all the gyms are closed anyway), or “get out of the house” by running to Target as a family (less people in the depleted aisles, please), or why a walk in the sunshine is our only recourse for socialization (and even then why we have to walk on the other side of the street when neighbors approach). Six feet. They want us to stay six feet apart at all times.
Is this storm a disaster we’ll be cleaning up for years? Or is it a hard and sudden downpour, about to be over before we even know it?
Don’t wear the medical masks, they don’t help anyway – but then, what will?
Don’t buy all the supplies, just get enough for what you need – but what do we ACTUALLY need, and for how long?
Don’t go into the office, telecommute – but I work mostly from home already, and our upcoming shoots are dropping off like flies.
Try to maintain business as usual – but all the preproduction meetings turn to Skype calls, with conversations mostly revolving around how we are all reacting to this virus.
How long until we can use our cameras to make money again?
This is all very difficult to comprehend. I have been living wide-eyed and bewildered, but this morning I broke when I heard the news from my favorite co-op, the one across from the high-rise where I was raised and where, later, Christian filmed a video for a natural wellness instructor while Lola and I played for hours at the adjacent park. This is the co-op with the best samples, where the staff are made up of bike punks and hippies and educators, generous people who “own” the place, quite literally: Co-op workers and members are given first priority to purchasing a piece of the place they love. It’s a loving environment, and a community with benefits that go beyond healthy, nourishing food. I’ve laughed with more than one employee at checkout that they have this job strictly to counterbalance the amount it costs for their passion for organic/vegan/raw food, but they’ll always tell me they love working there and would even without the discount. The co-op is a really special place.
And now they are closed, because an employee there tested positive for Covid-19.
Their press statement put me in tears. I was there just a week ago. As a business they have to be affected majorly by this closing, and yet their final words spoke to facing this challenge with compassion and courage, and encouraged us to do the same.
“Please take care of yourself and your family. Please be kind to others.”
I had perviously nodded without emotion registering the news of other coronavirus-positive cases in my state. “Unnamed Minnesotan in some-obscure-county-I-have-never-heard-of confirmed positive for Covid-19” — this makes sense, I’d reason, since they probably traveled overseas, and on a cruise ship, or had family who did and carried it back to Minnesota. I’ll never meet them or anyone in their proximity, I say to myself. And it rings less familiar than, say, “Employee of the busy co-op sandwiched in the cleavage of Minneapolis/St Paul, located off the freeway in the middle of everything where you buy coffee on the way to shoots, tests positive for a virus they likely didn’t contract by doing anything fun but probably by touching something someone sick touched when they were restocking shelves of food and toilet paper for all the panic-purchasers.”
So I cried for them and for what they must be feeling right now. Nobody likes to be sick and inconvenience their co-workers, and this feels like the ultimate inconvenience (although, as the press statement reiterates, Seward Co-Op offers generously paid sick time). Nobody likes to feel like some kind of medical enigma, which is what everyone being diagnosed right now surely feels in the novelty of this virus. Nobody knows what’s going on.
It’s almost spring. Snow flurries out my window, but it’s too warm out today for the flakes to stick. They drop dizzily from depressed skies and dampen the streets, like they were only rain drops all along.
It felt selfish before to sob over my own loss of income while sitting in perfect health watching the numbers tick upward of so many others who don’t have it this good. But days ago all the fear felt so far away, and now it doesn’t. It feels imminent, like the preventative closures of restaurants and bars sure to come in the days ahead. It feels looming, like the thick grey clouds in the sky obscuring the sunrise this morning. And the fear feels suffocating, thick, like the way this virus makes healthy lungs turn on people and how European doctors are already having to decide who to put on ventilators and who to let gasp out for air because supplies are scarce and now, that looks like it could happen here, too.
I finally cry for all of this, for the collective terror and my own private fear thinly veiled by my faith, for my aging parents with various health issues, and for the people who are without support during these uncertain times. We have friends with chronic illness and others who are bringing fresh new babies home into quarantine, their mother-in-laws unable to help relieve their postpartum. I wish my first response had been to let tears pour out for all these things. Instead I soak now in their generous release, my body grateful for the first physical sign of surrender in ages. I had not realized how hard my jaw was clenching. I let it slacken, opening my mouth to wordless prayers, a perfectly silent liturgy for the pandemic-panicked like me.
Appearing now over the heavyset skies, a spray of sunshine like nothing else. I take it as a sign of hope that everything will be back to the way it should be before we even know it. Then the heavens fade just as quickly back to grey, but for a moment I saw the sun and I felt its reassuring warmth.