Pandemics and Perspective, Now We Have Both

So, the coronavirus is a thing. Or, should I call it COVID-19? I’m not being flip. I’m certainly not laughing or even smiling as I write this, but I think it’s important not to get too heavy, you know? To maintain a sense of perspective.

I did think about writing on something else this week. Coronavirus is all over the media already. There’s more than enough to sort through without me adding my two cents. But current events are my thing. Plus I thought, one must face things, right? This is my first pandemic, after all.

I’m not scared exactly. But I am, what’s the right word? Watchful. I’m taking the news with a tablespoon of salt, for sure. That’s critically important because the amount of nonsense, of misinformation out there is staggering. Thanks to internet speed fake news is flying about faster than Superman. People are sharing without thinking, or without thinking deeply. As a journalist I know this instinctively, and I’m naturally skeptical anyway. But in a situation like this, you absolutely have to be wary of what you presume to be fact. You have to go to trusted sources because the media, hell, the government, is not doing a great job at communicating clearly what the citizenry need to know.

I even saw an article suggesting that the coronavirus needed a brand. It’s purpose? To ensure that informed urgency takes the place of panic. I thought it was a brilliant idea. As the piece said, “Now, more than ever, we need a crisply defined set of messaging and information about the coronavirus’ capabilities, spread, effects, treatment and mitigation methods.”

We’re not getting that. Partly because I don’t think the powers that be really know what exactly we’re dealing with. Diseases crop up, yes. But scientists and medical professionals don’t just wake up, take a few swabs, and know everything there is to know about a virus. It may take months, even years to fully unravel everything. Meanwhile, we’ve all got to go through it, and freaking out is not going to help.

Racism against Asians, panic buying in the event of quarantine, stimulus packages, remote work as a necessity rather than a nice to have, it’s a lot to deal with. Humans are notoriously bad at dealing with change, especially sudden, demanding change. But this is the world we live in. Now, we’ve got to deal with it.

So, while I’m not going all out like Naomi Campbell in a full hazmat suit and goggles at LAX airport (see picture) – not entirely unreasonable while flying though I hear many planes are quite empty these days – I am being cautious. I’m all about social segregation, for one thing. Now I’m happy to stay home. Where just a few weeks ago, I was whining in earnest about my need to get out more.

So, in that regard, things aren’t much different from my usual MO. But my motivation is very different. For instance, I need to do some returns, but I don’t want to ride the train downtown because the mask I ordered won’t be here until the end of the month.

I also went without my weekly Chinese food. Not because the people who make it are Chinese, but because I don’t want to leave my house or consume any food made by anyone. I disdain all restaurants because I don’t want to be in close proximity to anyone because I don’t know where they’ve been, or where the people they’ve been around have been. I have an aging parent, after all, who I may need to care for, though I pray not.

I’m a homebody anyway, but I find it ridiculously hard to leave my house before it gets dark. It’s as though subconsciously I think I can dodge the germs if they can’t see me or something. Silly I know, but seriously. I quite enjoy staring out the window at my quiet, peaceful yard and neighborhood. And all week I’ve gone to the gym around 8 pm when there’s next to no one there.

I think other people may feel like I do because when I visit Target or Walmart for this or that after my workout, they seem busier than usual. Maybe we all have the same odd notion? About dodging germs under cover of darkness. I’m kidding. Sort of.

But I do get the sense that people are tip toeing around each other. Most everyone’s being cautious, and rightfully so. And please don’t cough or sneeze in public. You could be having a simple allergy flare up – common with the changing seasons – and necks will snap ‘round so fast to stare at you – or glare at you – you want to slink away in shame.

My mom and I were laughing together just yesterday at how our natural disdain for hugging is quite advantageous these days. We no longer have to justify why we don’t want to accept that kind of spontaneous affection from strangers, or near strangers. My mama’s fallen into her role as a mean old lady with great relish, cursing at people to “get the f$&*! away from me” when she’s at the gym.

I laughed at her gleeful account, but my laughter didn’t last long. Laughter is important, especially in times like this. But it feels a bit inappropriate when things are so uncertain. The only thing that is certain is that more people are going to get this virus, and that is extremely unnerving because we don’t know what else is going to happen.

We don’t know if hospitals and the systems that we take for granted will be able to sustain us when things get thick. I’ve read some horribly sad tales of strained medical resources in Italy, for instance. Even if only a fraction of its true – I consume most coronavirus news with a raised eyebrow, which is its own kind of unnerving – it’s scary. But that’s why perspective is so important right now. Staying calm, being thoughtful, considerate, practical. These things, I think, will help us to be alright.

Faith is also comforting. I believe that if we do all we can to stay healthy, to be kind to one another, and to help each other when we need it, we’ll be okay.

Stay healthy, everyone.

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