Like everybody else, the pandemic is "top of mind" 24 x 7 for me. I'm writing to help myself not internalize all of it. You can find other posts in the series at https://odonnellweb.com/pelican/tag/coronavirus.html
Sportswriter Craig Calcaterra mentioned in his daily pandemic blog post that an amateur historian friend came up with a list of questions that he thought future historians will want to know about this time. I’ve covered much of this in various posts, but to make it easy to find I’m answering the questions in this blog post. So future historian that is reading this... I hope it helps.
I just came in from a 3-mile walk and while walking I was catching up on Planet Money. The interview with some folks from Bellevue Hospital in NYC was oddly reassuring. They’ve planned for this kind of thing and are ready for it, or are as ready as anybody can be. As the oldest public hospital in the country it’s certainly not their first pandemic. The head of ER Nursing that they interviewed was reassuringly confident that “they’ve got this.” I hope so.
We watched the series finale of The Magicians tonight. I was reasonably happy with it. They tied up the loose ends and gave us a generally happy ending. Only thing missing was the appearance by Quinton that I was expecting all season. It never happened.
And now those questions...
When was the last day you went into work?
I’ve been working from home off and on (depending on the job) since 2004. I’ve worked from home full-time with my current job since September 2016. Nothing has really changed in that regard for me.
When did your state or city order everyone to stay at home?
I’m in Virginia. Governor Northam declared a state of emergency on March 12, closed all schools for the remainder of the school year on March 23, with a strong suggestion to stay at home, and an actual stay-at-home order on March 30. Our stay at home order is in effect through June 10th, which I believe is the farthest out of any state in the nation. Our governor was a practicing pediatric neurologist before getting into politics. It’s nice to have a responsible adult in charge.
Has there been a particular change to your lifestyle that has been difficult to make or accept?
My wife is considered high-risk for severe Covid-19 complications, so other than walks around the neighborhood and riding shotgun on a couple of errands she hasn’t left the house since March 10. We are empty-nesters so going out to eat and doing social things on the weekends was common for us. All of which are relatively minor in the big picture.
What do you miss the most?
My wife starting working for a school this last fall and was going to have the summer off for the first time in her life. I can work from anywhere. We had extensive travel planned for the summer, starting with Spring Break in Puerto Rico this week. We had multiple beach trips planned, our daughter’s grad school commencement, and extended time in Boston and Atlanta visiting family while I worked from wherever. All of that is obviously canceled.
What is the most unusual thing you have noticed since this crisis began?
The run on paper products and groceries in general. There is no reason to think the grocery supply chain will fail anytime soon. Capitalism may suck at running healthcare, but it’s pretty good at getting goods to market. We stocked up a bit in February, just making sure we could feed ourselves for 2 weeks if we all got too sick to leave the house. So soup, pasta, etc. Even if everybody did that I would expect the supply chain to handle it pretty well. It’s a two-week spike in demand. People must really be hoarding to cause the extending challenge we are seeing.
Do you know anyone who has COVID-19?
I’m not aware of any first degree connections with the virus. My wife does though.
Do you know anyone who had died from complications related to COVID-19?
I don’t, but the spouse of somebody my wife knows is dead due to Covid-19.
How long do you think it will be before the stay-at-home order is lifted in your community?
It’s on through June 10 at the moment. I’ll think it’ll be extended beyond that and may exist in some form until we have a widely distributed vaccine.
Will you immediately return to your normal routine after the stay-at-home order is lifted? Or will you wait before returning to normal? If you’ll wait, how much longer will you do so?
With my wife being high risk I’m expecting to practice social distancing until herd immunity is established via a vaccine.
What’s the first thing you want to do when the stay-at-home order is lifted?
I want to go out - live sports, concerts, etc. However, given that I expect the White House to exert a lot of pressure to force normalcy before it’s safe I expect to continue social distancing long after its officially safe to not do so.
Have you been ordering food out from local restaurants (carry-out or delivery)?
I’ve been picking up beer weekly from my favorite local brewery. We have not ordered any food since this started.
How often have you been going to the grocery store?
Once per week - Thursday mornings. Also, a pharmacy drive-through most weeks to pick up prescriptions.
Will you wear a mask when you go out?
I have been for 3 weeks when grocery shopping. I don’t on neighborhood walks as its easy to stay 20 feet (ca. 6 m) from anybody.
Do you think other people have been taking this crisis seriously?
The majority probably are, however, a majority is not enough. A lot of people claim they are, but in practice have not developed good habits. It’s going to be worse in the coming weeks as Spring fever takes hold.
Do you think people have been over-reacting to this situation?
I think generally we’ve under-reacted. In theory, severe social distancing for 2-3 weeks could cause the virus to die out from a lack of hosts. It’s not really possible in practice, and the reality is America as a county is not set up to ever pull something like that off. But had we done that in early February we might be in a much better place today.
How many people do you think will eventually die from COVID-19?
The official death toll in the US will likely be in the low six figures. The actual death toll will be over a million. We are not testing enough to actually know, and in fact, there is a political reason to not know the real number.
Do you think schools will re-open yet this year?
I was predicting at the very first mention of closures that school was done for the year. I’m not convinced we can open the schools again prior to the establishment of herd immunity.
Do you think that summer sports like baseball will occur?
They should cancel the season. I expect they will announce some sort of abbreviated season and then will bail on it as a second wave of Covid-19 cases sweep across America after we attempt to return to normalcy too soon.
What is one thing you have done since this crisis started that you don’t usually do?
Sleep in maybe? I’m normally up around 7 AM and in my home office for work by 730 AM. I’m still awake by 7 AM, but we linger in bed until at least 8 most days. Neither of us are in a hurry to face the day.
Is there anything that has changed in your life since this crisis began that you hope to keep after the crisis ends?
My wife and I have been finding things to do together that aren’t watching TV or sitting side by side staring at our phones. We’ve played more board games, currently have a partially completed jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table, and we’ve even tried YouTube salsa dancing lessons. I’ve also been taking a 3-mile walk each day while listening to podcasts or an audiobook. I hope those habits continue.