March 7, 2021

It’s Sunday evening. I’m not in a foul mood. I really don’t care what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have to say about the British Royal Family. The weather has been nice. Vaccination news has been incredibly positive with several million more people receiving their jabs in this country over the weekend. So what to write about this evening? These essays are usually powered by a strong emotional through line of some sort but there really isn’t one percolating this evening.

Yesterday was about chores. Biweekly grocery run, once every few month Costco run, pet store for big bag of Science Diet Hairball Control Formula run, followed by laundry, and reorganizing a number of things around the condo that had fallen into disarray plus stowing away my makeshift film studio out of the dining room as Tartuffe is over and nothing else is on the horizon other than the filming of a lecture on basic geriatrics for a national board review course next week. The next theatrical project is rehearsing and performing in person over the next five weeks – masks, social distancing, and all such other safety protocols in place. Today was about connection. On line church service in the morning, picnicing in the park with old theater friends (properly socially distanced) in the afternoon, and the monthly extended family zoom meet up in the evening where the cousins all catch up with each other.

So I suppose the big question that I’m grappling with as things are improving is how much how fast and what will be restored to pre Covid norms and what will remain altered? Firstly, we are certainly improved in terms of hospitalization and death numbers from where we were early in the year and the fall has been relatively rapid, likely due to the use of vaccine among the most vulnerable populations. However, vaccine is still coming on line in fits and starts due to the previous administration’s not putting the full force of the federal government’s powers behind it and the current administration’s need to play catch up. We need to keep up all of our good habits for a while longer. If the amount of vaccine promised materializes, we’ll be in a situation around Easter where the majority of people who have been chasing vaccine will have received it and we will start to see vaccine chasing people as the public health system tries to find harder to reach and educate populations. A significant number of these people will need to be vaccinated in order for us to forego masks and social distancing, otherwise, there will be large populations trading virus around and higher chances for mutations and reintroduction into more protected areas of society.

When can we have blow out indoor parties and rehearsals and theater and sporting events and dances and all the other things we have been missing for the past year? I don’t know. I’m hopeful for the fall but a lot is going to depend on how accepting people who have been fighting against basic public health measures for political reasons come back into the fold. I would keep an eye on Texas. Their decision to completely open up everything as of this weekend will cause changes in behavior. Those changes in behavior show up as changes in case rate in 2-3 weeks, changes in hospitalization in 4-6 weeks and death rates in 6-10 weeks. It will be interesting to see what happens in Texas in April in comparison to other states playing it safely. It will also be interesting to see if new mutations spread within Texas, and then beyond its borders as traveling Texans carry it around. With luck, none of these will cause serious issues but one never knows, does one…

My professional life will have significant changes no matter what. Telemedicine is here to stay. I don’t particularly care for it on my end as I feel like I miss far too much not being in the physical presence of my patient and able to pick up on subtle cues. It will be OK for what I call my ‘Well Baby Checks’ on long term patients with stable issues, as long as they come in person occasionally, but it’s not good for new or unstable patients at all. I also have a feeling that masks are likely to remain de rigeur in health care facilities long after the pandemic has faded. They’ve made such a huge difference in the transmission of viral illness in general, as evidenced by our essentially non-existent flu season, that the Joint Commission is likely to require them on staff (and possibly on patients). I wonder if we will adopt in Western society, the habit of Asian societies of putting on a mask to go out when you have any sort of viral symptoms now that we’ve normalized them over the last year.

Both my friend and family gatherings today were interesting as the focus was not so much on the past and loss, but on the future and what possibilities are to come. The theater friends were full of discussion about what would be needed to jump start and rebuild live theater after the great pause. The family about what was coming up with professional lives and future plans for pushing ahead with life. I find that very hopeful. Americans are incredibly resilient when we need to be and move forward relatively well when given a few guideposts (and for the first time in years, I feel like we’ve been getting some from the very top). I only fear that as things improve and we all work on moving forward that we will forget the lessons the last year has taught us regading work/life balance, how to care for each other as communities, how to listen to those of differing experience, and how to slow down and savor smaller things.

I, for one, want to figure out a new balance between work, theater, writing, and just plain living. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet but going back to what was just doesn’t feel right. Forward, always forward, but with a mask on and social distancing for a few more months at least.

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