Staying Connected in the Age of Covid-19

These days, when imagining my blog, most subjects strike me as beside the point or self- indulgent.  There’s a plague and a recession thundering right outside my window.  Though I’d dearly like to be out in the world, volunteering where I can, I’m 77 and know I should stay home.  So I thought that I might at least begin a conversation to break up the isolation that threatens many of us.

Let me say one thing first: I will try to speak only for myself.  However isolated, I am still privileged.  I have the means to support myself and am in relatively good health.  And I know that millions of people have neither.  My heart goes out especially to them, and I hope that they, too, can take some small comfort in joining together in conversation during the time of the plague.

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For several days now, as we walk or drive on empty streets, and peer through the windows of markets with barren shelves, Franny and I have notes how surreal it feels, like something in a horror or a science fiction movie.  Most of my life has been lived in a bubble.  I have encountered threats before—illness, accidents, divorce—but not something that is so overarching, so large, so impersonal, and yet so immediate and personal.

Sure, there was polio before the vaccine.  I remember the 1950’s, and how worried my parents were.  There was the Vietnam War.  Would I be called up?  How could I avoid fighting in a war I hated—and dreaded?  But I managed to avoid the draft; others fought in my place.  I have experienced very little that commanded my attention so completely that and required me to change my way of life as the current Corona plague has done..

Like most of you, my life has been increasingly absorbed by the disease we call Covid-19 or Corona virus.  For a month or more, the virus has been out there—in China—and very interesting, a little horrifying, but now it is closing in.  Then Iran and Italy. Moving westward into Washington state.  It’s moving eastward, moving inexorable in our direction.

Like you, I’ve become a virologist, an epidemiologist, a public health worker, reading graphs and absorbing article after article to learn about the trends.  How the explosive growth followed by massive response in China differs from the more indulgent course of treatment in Italy.  How we have to “flatten the curve” to make sure that the growth of the disease isn’t so rapid that it overwhelms our health care systems.  I’m practicing my diagnostic and clinical skills, noting every nuance of self-care, making sure that I follow the rules just right—even though I generally hate rules.  I’ll be a good citizen this time by keeping my distance from others—even from my children and grandchildren.

And I’m grateful that I’ll never have to make life and death decisions—to treat or not to treat—like doctors in Italy and Iran are making, and like some US doctors are already imagining with fear and revulsion.

As it draws closer and closer, the plague has taken me over, like some extraterrestrial being I can’t comprehend.  I read every article I can find.  I am glued to TV news.  There’s a fascination that sometimes borders on the morbid.  How many people are ill.  How many people are dead.  How many will die.  How our society will recover, and when.

Part of the fascination is political.  Trump’s lies, his denials and misdirections.  His focus, as usual, on himself, his election prospects and his businesses, not the suffering of others.  But I try to tear myself away from my Trump obsession that has already lasted for three years.  There’s a health care crisis to deal with.

Part of my fascination is with the brilliance of some of the public health doctors and the courage of journalists who journey into the most dangerous places so that we might understand what’s going on.  I find myself envious of their ability to help.

More and more, each day, the Corona virus has begun to dictate how I live.  Who I see and how I see them—more “virtual” visits now.  Franny and I have accepted our quarantine.   It has affected how and what I eat. Last Thursday, Franny and I bought enough canned and dried goods to last a month; but now we wonder if we should go out to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables.  Probably not.  We are gobbling immune boosters. Except for our daily walks, we spend almost all of our time inside at home, looking out at the sunny days, as though we live in a bunker.

Stepping back I’m inclined to say thatw my words are hyperbolic, alarmist.   But it’s not hyperbolic.  It’s just a description.

Of course, each of us responds according to our nature and our experience.  Those of us who are over 60 or 70 can’t help but be more nervous than are younger people.  But our responses still range from terror to sanguinity, from following every defensive rule to blithely ignoring most of them.  On one hand, “I’ve settled in for a long siege.  Here’s hoping everyone is as responsible as I am.”  On the other, “I’ll visit with friends at a bar or at Starbucks if I want.  Damn the sissies.”    My children caution us to stay in.  We’ve heard of other people’s children who want their parents to continue to live in as close to their usual way as possible.

I could go on and on but that’s enough for now.  Please take this as an invitation: Share your experiences and your thoughts,  so that we can weather this storm together.

 

 

19 thoughts on “Staying Connected in the Age of Covid-19”

  1. Thank you for this Barry. Surreal is the word. And I think there is something so sudden about it even though we saw it coming. It still seems Duden. We are lucky enough to be hiding out on Lieutenant Island. At least we have a view and the freedom to walk around. Hardly anyone is here. But the economic crash and the virus are pretty scary. We are among the lucky ones who have the resources to protect ourselves. Harv is just grateful he is not working in a hospital. Let’s try to stay connected through this nightmare.

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  2. Barry, As usual, you eloquently express what many of us are feeling. Indeed, those of us who are knowledge workers and have the resources, are truly blessed, and damn lucky. I am teaching a class tonight for 18 students on Zoom–it’s a new world for those of us who thought “zoom” was a 1964 GTO Pontiac that went really fast

    Today, we hosted one of our daughters in the new “Powell WeWork space” in our home while her husband took care of the three kids ages 5, 5, and 9. FYI, our WeWork space comes with a private office and lunch. Very reasonable family rates, as well.

    We have also told our physical trainer we are not going to the gym, and cleaning crew not to come to our house, and we will continue to pay them for as long as this lasts. (Again, thank God we can do this.) Our trainer just emailed our workout routine feeling she is earning her hourly fee. It’s a source of dignity for her. Lots of stories continue to emerge.

    Our mayor, Eric Garcetti, for whom our son works in speech writing and communications, just gave an inspiring and calm speech, most likely written by our son, in how we are coming together as a community. He included comments from the heads of all the major food markets in L.A. explaining that there is no food shortage and the panic buying is hurtful to everyone.

    Finally, we just received an order of eggs, bananas, etc. Debby said, “Oh boy, soup and banana bread for dinner, and we don’t have to share the banana bread with our grandkids.” We were laughing to tears. Humor is the best medicine, indeed.

    Keep the blogs coming. Love to all, Bruce

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    1. Hey Bruce,

      I love the spread of your response. As always, you’ve brought others in–your family, your trainer–in the most generous way.

      I think that the pandemic will challenge our capacity to be generous–or to keep on being generous when the going gets harder. I’d be willing to bet that we find the “culture” of pandemic response changing as the problems deepen.

      Let’s keep on noodling about who do to, what to think, and how to treat others.

      B

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  3. Wonderfully written as usual. I think the isolation and not knowing how long this will last is the hardest. Really, it just started. I too, am so lucky to have the ability to self care although I will be taking care of my granddaughter for as long as this lasts. At least I can!

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  4. As always Barry I am often struck by a sentence or two that you write within your piece. In this post, you captured eloquently the paradoxical nature of what we are experiencing; COVID-19 is impersonal and beyond us individually and yet it is personal and immediate all at the same time. Bell well and healthy.

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  5. I can’t escape feeling that Trump should be stricken by this virus because of the way that he has handled this crisis. As Biden said during the last debate, why hasn’t the military been asked to participate. The military has a lot of barracks that have been shuttered but could quickly be reopened to help with the bed and equipment shortages. There are many military hospitals and they could set up tent cities to care for the stricken. There are service members who participated in damping out the Ebola outbreak. They have lots of Meals Ready to Eat that could be distributed to those in need. Instead of this, we are being offered tax breaks. WTF!!
    I was wondering if anyone remembered the polio epidemic. This epidemic brings that era back to mind, except that we do not have our parents to worry for us. Now we are now the ones that need to be fully briefed and aware of the situation. It feels like a plague of locusts will envelop us at any moment. Is this one of the biblical plagues that has been lying dormant for 2,000 years?
    So Jean and I are hunkered down as much as possible, but Hilary has to work overtime at her hospital job where there are already cases of the virus. Not much we can do about the situation.

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    1. Hey Mitch,

      I’ve been calling for the military, too–The Army Corp of Engineers. Also to nationalize any service that’s slow and chaotic the way it was done during WW11.

      I sure do remember the polio epidemic and how nervous it made my mother.

      I’ve been using the work “plague,” too. It feels like the only one that lends enough gravity to the situation.

      Good luck to you, Jean, and especially Hillary.

      I’m hoping to hear from you regularly on the subject of the plague and the Depression. I’m also hoping you ask friends to join the conversation.

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  6. At 83 years of age, I am, of course, at high risk. I canceled a trip to Florida, and am with my puppy, Maggie Thatcher, huncker down at home. My apartment is downstairs from my Daughter and her family. My first memory of a plague was in the early forties. My Dad took me to visit an aircraft carrier. There were two places I could not see. The Radar because it was “secret” and the sickbay because of Polio. I couldn’t go to swiming at the YMCA, but we still had to go to school. Like today, it wasn’t fair! I stay busy walking Maggie, watching the tellie, ready in my Kindle. I do feel lonely and miss good conversations. Perhaps, we should put together a telephone conference and debate the State of the Nation.

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    1. David, so much of what you say feels familiar. The time of polio, the time with reading and television, which I’m grateful for but wonder whether, in the future, if i’ll resent. Telephone conferences are a good idea.

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  7. Thank you, Barry.

    This is indeed surrealistic and very scary.

    We in Israel have been told today not to leave our homes unless it is essential. It is not yet a complete closure, but it is getting closer. No police in the streets yet. But the army is preparing to help out, if things get much worse.

    The Ministry of Health issues new directives every day. Their goal is to prevent mass illness and mass hospitalizations which our hospital system can not handle here. They want to avoid us getting to the situation in Italy.

    I am worried if we can trust our leaders in this existential crisis. Not sure. They have gotten used to lying to us. But so far Netanyahu seems serious and appears to be doing the best that he can –with the help of the Ministry of Health –to at least to delay the deadly disease. No one has died here yet, although5 people are in critical condition.

    We are not allowed to visit our children or grandchildren, who live just around the corner, which is very hard. And they are not allowed to visit us. So we just had a Zoom “meeting” with some of them.

    I know that Barry is reading a lot about the coronavirus, the economy , etc. We watch some news here but not too much because some of it is too scary, like a report about what has happened in Italy in recent weeks, or news reports that some “experts”say that millions of people will die in the world from this virus during the next 12-18 months. What do these “experts” really know? From all I read and hear, there are so many more questions than answers.

    This is a very difficult time for families, who have to be home all day with their children. It is very very stressful, and takes superior parenting. Fortunately, my daughters and their husbands are pretty good at this, but I know it is very hard for them and their children. And then I wonder about so many families that do not have the skills that my daughters and their husbands have–families with various disabilities, physical and mental, families with lots of tension in normal times, etc., etc.

    Is the scientific and medical community developing a cure for this virus. There were some positive reports about this on social media, here and there, but how real are they? Or, how far away are the doctors and researchers from a vaccine or some medical cures? Will thousands of people have to get sick from this virus? and thousands omore die? Is it inevitable? Or will societal closures really work, as they appear to have worked in China, if we can believe what we are hearing about China, that they are going back to “normal” life?

    These are some of the disturbing thoughts on my mind, as I try to be hopeful, despite all the news and panic to the contrary.

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  8. A friend forwarded this to me. How wonderful that there are folks out there who are pondering bigger questions. I for one feel VERY lucky and fortunate to be in my shoes. I applaud those who have given so much of themselves during this crisis. I am practicing reasonable social distancing…trying not to come into contact with new people but fostering community with 6-8 with whom I have spent time with in the last month. I find that I am almost fighting to not go to fear…thus far Iam ahead of the game. I am more concerned with people going nuts than I am the virus. BREATHE…I CHOOSE TO THINK OF THIS TIME AS A RETREAT.

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    1. Hi Joanie, I appreciate your efforts to keep fear at bay, to stop fear from dominating. As the virus expands its assault on our people, it will become harder. Hopefully your efforts at calm will be as communicative as the virus, itself.

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