My Covid Times Diary, March 24th
So in my post on Sunday night, You will never be the same again, I recommended that one of the things you should do is to write about what’s happening to you during Covid Times. We are living during an exceptional time in history, and in the future people are going to want to know what it was like. And what it was really like, not just what it was supposedly like in their parents’ or grandparent’s exaggerated stories of walking barefoot through the snow uphill both ways to school to avoid the virus.
So, I decided to take my own advice and have decided that once a week I’ll write a little diary about my life in Covid Times. This will be a little different from what I normally write for the Ministry of Happiness blog. My end goal here won’t be to help you find ways to live a happier life, but just to relay an honest account of what I’m thinking and feeling as we go through a global pandemic.
Week 1 of Covid Times
Ok, so this really isn’t week one right? I mean China has been on fire with this virus for a couple of months and we knew it was coming, eventually. As someone who is what I would consider a light prepper, I was somewhat ready for this. By that I mean two things, first prepper light means I always have a disaster kit that includes several weeks of food and water, medical supplies. I have ways to defend myself and I’ve put a whole lot of thought into multiple what if scenarios. Secondly, I pay attention to the sorts of things that could lead to survival situations, political unrest, natural disasters and of course disease outbreaks that might become pandemics.
So as the news from China got worse, as the number cases started to grow worldwide, I moved into action. I bought a new backpack to replace my old go bag backpack. I ordered some additional dehydrated food supplies to add to my stock. I picked up some things that I needed to add to my supplies, rubbing alcohol, antibiotic ointment, there always seem to be a couple of things you’ve forgotten or are out of date in your kit. I did a Walmart run while in Sacramento for canned foods, they are far cheaper at Walmart and especially cheaper outside of the Bay Area.
I went to my storage space and brought all of my reserve food supplies to my home. So in addition to a full cupboard, I also have my tub of emergency supplies, pasta, Top Ramen, salt, pepper some other basics. I also brought my long-term emergency stash, I have liter soda bottles that I washed and sterilized and have filled with rice or beans. Basically a months supply of emergency rations and my case of MRE’s. Given all of this I now have probably 2-3 months of food in my house. Given the particular situation, I worried about how I might keep a good supply of fresh vegetables for a time, so I signed up for a CSA box and now every two weeks I get a box of fresh vegetables delivered to my home. I filled up my emergency water supplies so now I have about 14 gallons of water on hand. Not that I expect water to stop flowing, but it gives me a bit of comfort to know I have enough water for a week or so on hand if that should happen for any reason.
So basically I have all of the supplies I need. As this all started I stocked up on some things I also wanted and I got a 3 month supply of my most necessary medications, I also bought a gallon of ice cream.
The virus hits the US
Then it happened, the virus hit the United States, first just outside of Seattle an outbreak occurred. It didn’t take long before cases started to show up in the Bay Area, mostly around San Jose to the south of where I live. At that point, it was a matter of time before cases showed up where I live. We knew that it was being passed along by community transmission and that likely there were asymptomatic people transferring the virus in our area. Then, there were two people who tested positive at the Senior Center down the street from my place. That’s when it got real for me, that’s when I told people that it was a matter of time before we would have some time off from school/work. Two weeks later and it was obvious from all of the meetings I was suddenly having that we would be moving all instruction online. It really accelerated at that point, we went from classes online, to some staff working from home, to almost all staff, to a few people on campus, to recommending no one come to campus, to now a vice chancellor having to approve anyone going to campus and those approvals becoming rare.
I won’t go into all of the work stuff I’m dealing with, you can imagine, hell you’re going through it. A lot of meetings, a massive amount of change and a significant learning curve about the way we need to operate, the inevitable frustration with how and when decisions are made. That has nothing to do with my particular situation, regardless of how fast or how good the decisions are, when you don’t get to make them, when there is as much uncertainty as there is now, with all of the anxiety and fear, there will be frustration. But as I said, I think about this stuff all of the time, I’m good in an emergency, so for the first week or so as things were changing rapidly, as we were making literally hundreds of decisions a day, I was at my best. I enjoyed these days more than my normal days at my job, as morbid as that may sound. I also canceled my gym membership figuring a crowded germ filled gym would be a bad idea for a time.
Shelter in place
The big change that drove a lot of what happened at work was the Bay Area’s six counties getting a shelter in place order. This basically meant, unless you really need to, stay the hell home. Initially it didn’t work that way so much, lots of people were still out and about, so was I a little, picking up the last little bit of supplies, my last lottery tickets for awhile, why not take a shot at getting rich while the world goes to shit for a time.
Sheltering in place is not a big deal for me. I’m a big time introvert, I don’t make friends easily, I live alone and I’ve only been here for about 8 months. So I don’t spend a lot of time with other people. So for me normally, I work, I go to the gym, I hike, walk the coast, I go to the track, the movies or take trips. But I do almost all of that alone.
So now, other than working from home, and lifting at home, I bought some freeweights to avoid going to the apartment complex gym, life is generally the same. I still go out everyday and walk or to run a bit. Sometimes I go to Mori Point in Pacifica, but there are too many people out still. Sometimes I hit a local trail but that is far more crowded than it used to be. So I’ve settled with walking around San Bruno. I’ve scoped out a two mile loop and most days run or walk that route. Once a week I need to go to the ocean and walk the coast for sanity reasons, but am careful with my distancing around the people there.
Things are starting to get real
The first few days of shelter in place and people were nervous but mellow, but things are starting to get real for people. The number of infections are going up, yesterday was the first day that 100 people died in one day in the US. The growth curve for the disease in the US is disturbingly higher than then even the Italy curve, time will soon tell if that is a temporary situation or if we’re in real trouble, but it definitely has made people nervous. I heard conversations near the beach between two people who live in that neighborhood about how anyone not living in that neighborhood should go home and not bring their germs to the beach. Of course, they were standing a foot apart talking, breaking the most basic social distancing rule. I’ve read similar sentiments online from people in Marin County and from people in upstate New York about people from New York City. The most dangerous thing about a situation like this is not the virus, it’s the way society reacts.
People so far, have not reacted well. First they did a minor run on supermarkets including the standard things like hand sanitizer, cold medicines, thermometers, cleaning products, etc… then the second wave was the ingredients to make hand sanitizer (rubbing alcohol and aloe) along with Top Ramen, water, rice and beans. Oddly the first thing to sell out and remains sold out still is toilet paper, the minute it’s stocked it’s out. It makes no rational sense that people have freaked out about toilet paper. I’ve also started seeing surgical gloves and clorox wipes on the ground as litter. People are afraid to keep a used glove in their car. I’ve had a few friends express that they are starting to feel nervous. Some have reported friends or family who are ill or caught out of the country. People when they are scared start looking for scapegoats, get paranoid and start thinking us against them. If you want to see how bad this can shake out, find an episode of the original Twilight Zone online called the Monsters are Due on Maple Street.
For me, so far no one in my life is sick enough to be hospitalized, although I have family members who may have had a mild case of the virus back in New York. My biggest fear is economic, I have a family member whose job is very much at risk. I have elderly parents, and aunts who are at high risk, I personally have all of the underlying comorbidities that could lead to a severe case were I to get infected. But I’m medicated and in good health and in pretty good physical condition, I’m older, but not yet 60, so my chances of survival would be ok. My mom is a 78 year-old smoker with poor respiratory health, we discussed the reality tonight that if she gets this disease, she’s likely dead. These are the type of scary realities that people are dealing with right now, which is why they are nervous and a bit freaked out. Not to mention that they are dealing with change, which they don’t handle well.
Right now, people are doing what they can so to try and be normal, to keep up appearances. I haven’t been impressed with people so far. I’ve watched people not take this disease seriously, I’ve watched them ignore social distancing rules, I’m watching them set up the framework for us against them. I still believe that overall this will be a far worse economic hit than it will be in terms of loss of life. Every death will be sad, of course, but the economic impact will be massive and if bad enough, will kill albeit indirectly, nearly the same amount of people. The hard times are actually not here yet, but they’re coming. In the next 3-4 weeks the deaths will start to add up quickly, the fear will grow exponentially and hopefully people’s better angels will prevail. It’s not a certainty that they will, and if they don’t, I worry about my family not about myself. Here’s hoping the madness stays at bay. ~ Michael “Rev” Kane