What Corona Wants

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I borrowed this photo from Mile Hi Rafting. It’s Clear Creek, but pretend it’s the Gunnison.

I’m not feeling great about the citizenry’s ability to police and regulate itself in the time of pandemic. This feeling is based on me not remaining “safer at home,” as the governor’s “Phase 1” policy is officially called, but on my observations while roaming unfettered through town.

Okay, I would like to clarify that I was hardly unfettered, clad as I was in facemask and latex gloves, but Lynn and I did make an errand circuit of Gunnison, and the report is “partly irresponsible with a possibility of flare-up in the forecast.”

I spent my morning at home, although on our walk Oz and I did greet neighbor Paul (different than friend Paul) and Sahara the deaf boxer. From about 10 feet away, Paul said that his wife, in charge of our senior care facility, feels they are in better shape than 99 percent of similar facilities around the country. Although the county just reported our fourth covid-19 fatality, and she was a 90-year-old living at the senior center.

Lynn went to work at the Almont Post Office, and on her way home discovered that if there was a parking spot along the river, it was occupied. It must have been bumper to rubber bumper as people rafted the river, often in groups. It is true that the county is allowing groups of 10 or fewer, but it’s equally true that it’s very hard to socially distance in a raft.

After lunch we set out on our errands, stopping first at Ace Hardware for Lynn’s new bulb auger, part of her project to transform our acre of weeds. She ordered ahead of time, so we just waited in the car — because you don’t have to be over 60 like you do to utilize City Market’s pick-up service.

As we waited, I watched person after person, none of them wearing facemasks, flock toward the doors. Lynn is not the only one undertaking yard work, it seems.

It’s spring, and in spring we the people always break out the rafts and start outdoor projects, and why should this year be any different?

Next we went to Safeway, where I left Lynn in the car to guard Oz and the bulb auger. The store wasn’t too crowded, but those who were there showed little interest in covering their faces and no inclination to pay attention to the arrows on the floor. Despite multiple signs everywhere instructing us to remain six feet, which is two carts, apart, I had an unmasked dad and son push right past me. An unmasked couple nonchalantly headed up the aisle I wanted to go down, in accordance with the arrow, forcing me to violate the arrow pattern myself in an effort to get back to the aisles I’d missed.

I did see my friend Jim, who is on city council. (Not the mayor, also Jim, who lives in the house I grew up in, but the Jim whose older brother was the classmate of a boy who lived in that same house before I grew up in it. As long as we’re all clear on this.) I almost didn’t recognize him, because he was wearing a facemask and his hair was longer than it’s probably ever been in his life, so there were at least two of us taking our public health seriously, alongside the mask-wearing, sanitizer-spraying employees.

From Safeway it was off to Gunnison’s “mall,” just south of the City Market parking lot that was bustling just like the days of yore. (Contrary to an earlier assertion I half made, I don’t believe City Market at any time has attempted to limit the number of people in their building, and Lynn, who shopped there last weekend, reported that no one was respecting floor arrows or distance.)

My first stop at the “mall” was the pet store. Last week I shopped on the sidewalk for a new food for Na Ki’o, who seems to be losing enthusiasm with his prescription food; this week I went into the store. The proprietor, who has restored her regular hours, said she has remained fairly busy throughout, but that Friday, the first day she opened her doors, was extremely busy.

I asked if she is requiring her customers to wear masks, because that’s our plan, but it was the plan of the mayor of Stillwater, Okla., up until business owners started getting verbally abused and threatened with guns. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me the morons of the world would not take kindly to being asked to be considerate of others when all they can ever think of is themselves.

The pet store owner feels as long as she’s wearing a mask it doesn’t matter whether her customers are, although she said “most” of them had them on. Which I would have said is generally the case at the health food store, my next stop, but the only other customers I encountered were unmasked.

Our final stop was drive-through ice cream, the main goal, outside of obtaining really delicious ice cream, being to support former neighbors who took over ownership a few short months ago. But I don’t know that I’m going to be rushing back: not a single employee appeared to be wearing a mask, and only one of the three I saw, all of them in close proximity, had gloves on.

I know at one point, early on, everyone was touting glove use and saying masks were of limited value; now the exact opposite is the adage of the day. But what we must absolutely not lose sight of in the middle of being tired of being inside, and being tired of wearing personal protective equipment, and in general being over this pandemic, is that the pandemic is not over us.

Coronavirus is having such a good time that it is loathe to leave, and some numbers cruncher yesterday announced that despite the equivalency by some to the flu, covid-19 is eight times more lethal. Eight times, and we still don’t have any means of combating this other than our lockdown tools.

There is no great test that gives you a result in five minutes unless you’re a visitor to the White House; there is no real methodology yet in place for contact tracing; there are some hopes, in fits and starts, that this medication or that may assist in rendering the virus inert (although going from 15 days of illness to 11, while a 30 percent improvement, still sounds like not much of a bargain to me); there are notions that a vaccine might be available by September early next year 2022 . . . for now, our only protection is what was available in mid-March, when we were told to close our stores (except for the big ones where everyone could still go) and other businesses, go home and stay there.

Kara pointed out just this morning that I’ve been in training for this virus for a long time, sending people home at the first sign of illness, wiping down surfaces after they’ve gone, sanitizing after counting money. I managed to avoid a lot of crud at the airport simply by washing my hands and following up with Purell at the end of each shift.

I don’t love the restrictions imposed by this virus, and often I deeply resent what it has done to the entire world, but Corona doesn’t care. Right now all we can do is play by her rules, even as she hopes we do not. I’m afraid, as the weather gets nicer and the spirits become more restless, that we’re just going to play right into her hands.

This card made the rounds of Facebook for protestors to wear. It seems like social Darwinism at its finest to me.

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