Monday, April 06, 2020

The story of isolation so far

Today is Monday, April 6th.

This is a brief account of our life right now. It's by no means complete, but just some notes to reflect on this moment in history.

The oncoming COVID-19 crisis was apparent by the end of February. China had already shut down Wuhan and other cities, and reports of deaths from the virus had been coming across the news feed since January.

At first glance this seemed like nothing we haven't seen before. SARS and MERS seemed similar in that people, especially Asians, were wearing masks in public, especially in enclosed areas like on planes or in subways. Everyone assumed we'd get through this with common sense measures.

But COVID is different. It is MUCH more virulent, and incredibly easy to catch. Plus, it may infect a large percentage of people who, unknown to them, are shedding large amounts of the virus. A longish incubation period also helped spread the disease.

It really helped that Trump constantly underplayed the serious nature of the epidemic (it wasn't even acknowledged to be a pandemic until way too late). First it was a minor threat. Then a Democratic hoax. Then a two-week "time-out" was all that was needed.

By the time Trump and his cronies publicly acknowledged the seriousness of the disease, it had already spread beyond simple containment. This is a clear case of criminal negligence and dereliction of duty. But this matter will be addressed at a later date; if we survive this.

The very first instance of the virus affecting me was when I decided on March 3rd to get a haircut, since it was becoming apparent that soon we would have voluntary or involuntary isolation. It was a couple weeks before I usually get a haircut, but I'm glad I did.

The company I work for started changing policies right around that time. By the following Friday (March 13th) it was announced that on Monday only essential personnel would be allowed to come into work. Because my job is deemed essential by the state (I repair and maintain radio systems for first responders) I would no longer have to start my day at headquarters, but only go there to pick up parts or equipment.

So I am dispatched from home only in the event of emergency service, or if there is schedule maintenance at unmanned locations. For instance, we had yearly maintenance at a local town's radio system. Several sites are unmanned (if you ever noticed those little buildings at the base of cell towers, that's often where our equipment is stored) so I was allowed to service them. But at the main Police Dept. headquarters I was told to stay away until after the pandemic is over.

The weekend of the 14th and 15th was when Joyce and I started wearing gloves when shopping. It took another week or so for us to start wearing masks. Which we only have a handful of; two N95 masks and a half-dozen hospital masks, all left over from several years ago.

Fortunately we had plenty of hand sanitizer before this started. Also, I found a pint of 90% rubbing alcohol in the medicine chest, and also a quart of pure industrial alcohol in the basement. I filled a spray bottle with alcohol and placed bottles of sanitizer in our coat pockets and vehicles. And we had four or five boxes of rubber gloves from years of various projects laying around, so we're in good shape so far. Additionally, we have an old fashioned mercury thermometer and a fingertip oxygen/pulse monitor so we can set a baseline of our temperatures and oxygen metabolism while we're healthy.

And because my wife is such a resourceful bargain shopper, we began this ordeal with around 60 rolls of toilet paper. We still have about 30 left, but finally local stores are stocking them again in limited supplies, so every time we shop we pick up a couple rolls.

We're trying to keep social distancing wherever we go. In stores we try to get in and out quickly, and for the most part only essential trips. We haven't seen any friends since the 15th, except for a couple walks when they were at least six feet away.

Today, April 6th, there are signs that here in Connecticut we may be reaching the peak of new infections soon. That will only be a preliminary starting point on the road to normalcy. That is, if things every become normal again! Once new infections start to taper off, there will still be a need to isolate for at LEAST another month or two. My fear is that people will hear about infections going down and assume they can get back to their previous lifestyles, which includes public gatherings and a decrease in our current ultra-hygenic activities.

The 1918 flu pandemic occurred in at least two distinct waves. Once in winter/spring of early 1918, then again in August/September. Which proves that warm weather doesn't necessarily defeat flu virus. This could happen to us if we return to our previous habits too soon.

We have a trip to Spain planned for May 22nd. (UPDATE: It's the AirBnb deposits back, still waiting on Air Norwegian) So far the airline hasn't canceled our flight. There are encouraging signs from Spain that they have passed the peak. But still, it's not apparent when they will return to more or less "normal" life. We won't get a refund from the airline or our AirBnb unless they cancel, so we're stuck waiting it out. It's looking like we'll end up canceling, or they will. But this is a minor inconvenience compared to the thousands who are in hospitals fighting for their lives. We'll get over it if we have to cancel.

We DON'T know if we'll get over COVID-19 if we get sick.

And right now, that's the thing that matters.

More updates to follow...

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