I’m back to normal. Or as normal as I ever get. I think I was born under an eccentric star and have been just a bit off kilter ever since. A number of long deep sleeps and a few naps have restored my equilibrium somewhat and I am back in my usual physical space of feeling just a little bit aged but with the ability to power through usual work days with some left over to expend on a project or two at night. With the book more or less done and nothing much theatrical coming up in the near future, that means the bins of family papers, photographs, old theater programs, and other ephemera that have been staring at me from the front hallway since January must be tackled. It will give me the excuse of scanning in a few more pieces of visual memorabilia to share with my stories I suppose.
My Facebook timeline is a plethora of vaccine selfies as the full opening up of appointments for everyone over the age of sixteen has been accomplished. This means by Memorial Day, a significant portion of the healthy population will have received vaccine and by the Fourth of July, most of those wanting to be vaccinated will have finished their six weeks of marinating and will be good to go. I’m hopeful that means that the pandemic will be under reasonable control by fall and we can resume most normal activities. There are two things that are going to hold this back.
The first is the significant portion of the population that is still holding on to political ideas about the virus and vaccination that are making them avoid getting their shots. If it was a small minority, it would be pretty immaterial as that misunderstood concept of herd immunity would take over and protect society from significantly spreading coronavirus anyway. But it’s not a small minority. Polls suggest it’s more like 30% of the population and that’s a large enough group to prevent eradication of the pandemic. It’s also a big enough group to keep trading virus back and forth setting up new strains which could potentially become more lethal or which will slip by the vaccination rendering that immunity useless. The second is the usual American ideas of exceptionalism keeping us from understanding that this is not a uniquely American problem.
This is a global pandemic. It’s everywhere from the concrete canyons of Manhattan to the jungles of the Amazon to the plains of central Asia. And we live in an interconnected world. Given modern travel technology, most of us are capable of reaching pretty much anywhere on the planet within 24-48 hours and our microbes come along for the ride when we board that Airbus A-320. To truly beat the pandemic, it has to be forced back not just here but everywhere. That means getting out billions of doses of vaccine, many to much poorer countries with sketchier transportation networks and governmental institutions. I wouldn’t want to be the guy in charge of figuring out how to get vaccine to the population of Somalia. With more stable leadership now in place, we can come together with other advanced countries and help with a world wide concerted effort but it’s still going to take a bit of time, energy, and money.
While the pandemic is coming under control domestically (and Alabama still looks pretty good number wise at the moment), it’s still been inching back up around here with cases up about 10% over two weeks ago. Mind you the absolute number looks pretty good, about a tenth of what it was at the peak of the winter surge in January, but any uptick is worrisome. It’s probably the result of spring break, the governor’s letting the mask mandate expire, and a general movement of people back into public space as vaccines take hold. Anecdotally, most of the people being admitted currently are young/middle aged and the mortality rate isn’t quite as high, but a number of them remain extremely ill so please, everyone, don’t fall of the horse right before the finish line. Keep up those good habits until six weeks after your initial vaccination and beyond to protect your neighbors who are behind you in the line.
The world picture is not so good. There were more new cases of Covid world wide last week than in any week since the beginning of the pandemic. Numbers are pushing upward in Brazil, India, and Southern Africa due to more infectious (and in some cases more lethal) variants. They will get here eventually. It’s inevitable. But, with luck, we’ll have enough vaccine out there to keep them from getting a significant foothold in the population and our reinvigorated public health institutions will be able to identify and isolate them quickly, as should have been done last year.
I had a recurring dream with all my weekend napping. I reenrolled at Stanford and decided to start anew on my college career. But I was trying to do it with my nearly sixty year old brain and I was floundering and failing and having a fairly rotten time. None of my classes was meeting where it was supposed to. The layout of the campus kept changing. The bursar’s office was dunning me for tuition bills for courses I was pretty sure I hadn’t taken (History of Roman chariot racing? Advanced Bioplar disorder?) After the third time I found myself back in the same general milieu, I woke up wondering what my subconscious was trying to tell me. Was it a Groundhog Day phenomenon born of this incessant pause in living patterns? Had I sniffed a madeleine before falling asleep and was I trying to recover lost youth? Perhaps my brain knows that I’m approaching a crossroads of some sort and is warning me not to take the same old road but veer onto some other path in the yellow wood.
Seven more work days until I have a chance to try and clear the brain and the plague diary morphs at least in part into a travel diary for a while. In the meantime. Wash your hands. Wear your mask indoors around people you don’t know. Stay out of the mosh pit until at least six weeks after your initial vaccine.