It’s the second Saturday in November, not quite two weeks after the election. Neo-Nazis are busy marching in DC, we have an administration that refuses a gracious concession despite a major defeat, and Covid marches on at disastrous levels. In the last week alone 1 out of 378 Americans tested positive for Covid. Since the beginning of the pandemic 9 months ago, roughly 1 out of 31 Americans has tested positive. We’re at something over 250,000 deaths. For those of you still hoping for ‘herd immunity’ which will require roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of Americans to test positive, basic math tells us 5 to 6 million will die.
I opened up my Facebook feed yesterday and started to scroll through. The first four posts were all related to serious Covid problems. A friend mourning the death of a parent from Covid earlier than afternoon, another friend celebrating release from the hospital but still requiring home oxygen, a friend bemoaning a positive test that day which will require two weeks quarantining off work with concomitant loss of income, a friend two weeks out of the hospital who still doesn’t have the strength to do much besides rest up. I can’t help but wonder how much longer I can keep avoiding it. I’m not stupid and don’t take unnecessary risks and have clamped way down on my activities but I still march into hospital buildings every work day that are full of the ill and I don’t believe for a minute that everyone in them is negative, no matter how much checking of temperatures they do at entry.
I have a lot to say about what’s about to happen to the health system in certain parts of the country, but I think I’ll save that for the next entry.
I’m tired of writing about doom and gloom. I want to write about positive things today and there are a few positive things going on as a result of the pandemic that should be celebrated. A few nights ago, I came home really grouchy and I’ve learned over the years that there’s no better cure for that then to put on a Jerry Herman show, so I put on the Carol Channing 90s revival of Hello, Dolly! (I like this one because it includes a bunch of the dance music and the tempi are quicker than usual which gives it even more energy). It got me thinking about the times I’ve done the show in the past. There are a number of speeches in the show, usually monologues that break the fourth wall and which are straight out of the Thornton Wilder source material that are important. Wilder really understood how to dig down to the essence of humanity in American culture in Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Matchmaker and remind us of what’s truly important. “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow”. “For years I had not shed one tear nor had I been filled with the wonderful hope that something or other would turn out well. And so I decided to rejoin the human race”. “Even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I’ll be a ditch digger who once had a wonderful day”. I think it’s these moments and the deep humanity of the characters that make it one of my favorite shows despite the gooey trappings.
So what is the good? Personally, keeping these posts up has helped me continue to hone my writing and has given me the discipline to write these essays a couple of times a week as a record of how at least one person has been affected and reacted to the pandemic and it has allowed me to explore a number of topics in epidemiology, sociology, and psychology that I might not otherwise have encountered. It’s given me an excuse to be in touch with old friends that I might not otherwise have communicated with. It’s made me withdraw from some of my over scheduling, a coping device I’ve used for years to run away from having to face emotions, and made me actually confront and process some of the things that have happened to me over the years.
I see a lot of good as I look around me at society. People are learning to cook again. I should join their ranks (and I’m actually not a bad cook, I just had the luxury of a trained chef in my kitchen for fifteen years) but I’ve just never been terribly interested in cooking for one. When things open up and I can have people over for dinner, I’ll break out some of my favored recipes from years past. I’ve seen a lot of people return to long neglected hobbies and crafts. People are sewing, knitting, painting, building and expressing themselves practically and creatively. Items created in 2020 with love and care will come down through the generations in the future with a story attached, much in the way that we prize great grandmothers shawl or the chest great grandfather made. Performers are becoming more and more creative in how they use new technologies or how they gather an audience. I have been to drive in performances, bring your own lawn chair to a parking lot performances, and seen people on Zoom or other streaming platforms actively creating new entertainment hybrids between stage and film.
We’ve got a long way to go and given current trends, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. States which are rejecting public health science for political reasons are going to continue to fuel the spread nationally. Can that be fixed? I hope so but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of education, and a removal of those media vectors that propagate disinformation. We’ll see what happens. As I’ve said repeatedly, viruses don’t care about your politics, only that your behaviors allow it to spread. I’ll keep trying to do my small part to reduce the spread by (everyone all together now…) washing my hands, wearing a mask, and minimizing my time indoors with crowds of other people.