I get it, I really do: this is about attempting healthy fear in what we thought we could manage but is really uncharted territory. But even at the local level, where Gunnison County appears to have been more prepared than many places, official actions intended to be decisive are leaving more questions than answers.
Decisions changed by the half-day, each of them making day-to-day function more difficult. Bans started with groups of 50 or more, then extreme limiting of less than 50. Ski areas were specifically exempted from the county ban on Friday, but Vail Resorts, which includes Crested Butte, voluntarily shut down for a week on Saturday, and by this morning our governor has closed all ski areas in the state for a week.
On Friday our day-care centers were open; today they are closed. Because this week was spring break anyway, when Gunnison fairly rolls up the roads, maybe that’s not as big a hardship as it would be any other week, like next week. But the news did tell me that nationally we’re losing some percentage (20?) of our health-care workers, who now have to stay home with kids.
(A doctor from some Minnesota center for infectious diseases seems to be at odds with other experts, downplaying the notion of surface transmission and doubting that kids are spreading it to one another to then bring home. It sounded like he was advocating for adults to get out of crowded rooms, because the spread through air can take place beyond six feet, and sending kids back to school.)
There’s nothing like a pandemic to give lie to the adage “60 is the new 40.” It is time to face facts: I am moving rapidly toward what is clinically, and pathologically, considered “geriatric.” The county hasn’t yet come out and said “People 60 and older must stay home and not go anywhere,” but it’s clear that’s what they want to say — and may yet.
Some news program this morning told me that the survival rate for covid-19 for people under 60 is 99 percent, which means that almost all these death reports must be for people 60 and older. Lynn and I aren’t there yet, but we are close enough.
Kara and I spent much of the weekend in virtual contact, adjusting and readjusting and trying to figure out how to keep a very small business afloat. At some point on Sunday the Crested Butte chamber of commerce sent out a form that was supposed to go to Delaney Keating by 5 p.m.
Delaney once owned a small Gunnison business; since then she’s done a number of other things, and I have no idea what her professional capacity is these days, but for some reason she’s collecting forms for a disaster relief loan fund.
But the coronavirus shut-down in Gunnison County is really only a few days old, and the economic harm to Pat’s Screen Printing is barely unfolded. Rather than fill out a form prematurely, I sent an e-mail detailing our current situation — and got back an auto reply that Delaney is out of the office until March 19. What, I ask you, was the point of sending something to businesses on a Sunday urging immediate response, to get a non-response back?
Our county response team has decided to move away from providing coronavirus numbers. My theory is that this is because our numbers so far don’t match the number officials think we have, due to a severe lack of testing kits. If you tell people there are six positives, although we had 22 tests pending on Saturday, that’s probably license to carry on with business as usual. Our number, based just on people seen at the county’s mobile center, could easily be 10 times the official count. That becomes worrisome.
Lynn and I ventured out briefly on Saturday to get milk and pizza, and the first person I bumped into in the health food store was a man in his 80s, with whom I held a conversation from no more than two feet away. We were not doing our part to “social distance” or “flatten the curve,” two terms that weren’t in my vocabulary one week ago.
The directive from the county has been extremely vague in regard to delivery services such as the Postal Service and UPS. I imagine that’s because they don’t know what to do. That’s probably the last bastion of civilization right there, if you’re going to send everyone home to order everything on-line. We’d probably better hope the doctor from Minnesota is right about low surface transmissibility (which ought to be a word but perhaps isn’t).
I am going to work today, where the plan is to let no one but employees and the people who have interacted with more people than anyone else, the mail carrier and delivery people, in. Today is payday; it is also the day business tax returns are due, and while the rest of the country is closing down, the IRS has so far not made any provision for extending deadlines. I also have to put money in mine and Lynn’s bank account, and our bank doesn’t have a drive-up window. I have no idea what sort of provision they’re making.
So: co-workers, delivery people, accountant, bankers. Experts think the virus can be spread for at least two days before people show symptoms. And me approaching 60. A famous cartoon figure used to say, “What, me worry?” But worrying is what I do best, or most.
We are trying to stop a world that doesn’t know how to be stopped, and in many instances doesn’t want to be stopped. We are trying to “keep calm” but without “carrying on.” No one foot in front of the other, unless you’re pacing in your house. (Although our county is encouraging people to recreate in the outdoors, just not in groups. I’m wondering when it occurs to them that playgrounds have lots of surfaces for many people to touch.)
My nephew Justin went to Target near his home in Arvada the other day. He needed something from the pharmacy, and he was also going to pick up distilled water for his elderly neighbor’s CPAP or oxygen concentrator. There was one gallon of water left on the shelf, too high and far back for Justin to reach. He asked a taller man nearby for assistance. The man, who may not have even had distilled water on his list, plucked the jug off the shelf, put it in his own cart, and rolled away without another look at Justin.
Just because we are in a crisis does not mean we need to be jerks about it, although some people clearly missed that memo. Let us take a lesson from this useless creep, and try to do better than that. Let us consider how our actions, even basic actions like breathing in someone else’s vicinity, might impact others, and make the healthiest decisions we can manage.
Even if we — or maybe I just mean me — aren’t always the most considerate people on the planet, we should try, in what are likely to be very trying weeks ahead, to practice not only kindness but rampant consideration. It may be all we can do.