Quantum

I borrowed someone’s picture. I don’t know what it means, but it looks cool.

Quantum. Say it long enough and it starts to sound like a Patuxet name, and it actually kind of is, because the man we call Squanto called himself Tisquantum, so there it is, right there in his name, as he made that foolhardy mistake of being friendly to the Pilgrims, which, I only just learned this past Thanksgiving, are totally different from Puritans.

(Pilgrims, in case you are wondering, were separatists, while Puritans were not. I’m sure this clears it up for you as well as it did for me, and now I no longer have any idea whether my ancestors were Pilgrims or Puritans, which apparently matters.)

But quantum, while perhaps a perfectly useful word in whatever language the Patuxet spoke, in this instance derives from the Latin quantus, how much. [I had to resort to a paper dictionary to tell you this, since online Merriam-Webster doesn’t appear to care about word origins.]

And how much, indeed. “Quantum” can be any amount, or a portion, or if you’re talking particles, as they so often do on Star Trek, you’re talking “very small increments,” but if you’re just talking to talk, then “quantum” can be large or significant.

So let’s talk about a virus that is such a small part of our world that ordinary eyes will never see its quantum particles even as they pass through same-said eyes, and the quantum leap we are now confronting in Gunnison County: three weeks ago, on the county’s Monday report that is sometimes weekly, sometimes every other, we had 42 reported cases of covid. Last week, when they included home tests that got reported and visitors, we were at 209. Yesterday we were at 442.

So what are we doing about this? Same as the rest of America: not very much. City Market — it is unclear if this is among the King Soopers stores prepared to go on strike tomorrow — put up giant “masks required” signs on its front doors, but the closer Lynn and I got to the overcrowded produce section Sunday, the less that edict was followed. If you can do all your shopping over by the pharmacy, you might be safe.

The hospital sent out an e-mail listing its safety protocols: no visitors, only patients and outpatients allowed, and all of us must sanitize our hands. Everything but the one that would keep us really safe: the part where all staff members would be fully vaccinated, which by now we can agree ought to mean booster included.

And the hospital decided to limit its community blood draws to those johnnies-on-the-spot who have already signed up, meaning, I believe, that this will be the third consecutive year without a health fair for most of the community. Having recently paid (with insurance) over $700 for the same blood tests that cost less than $100 at the health fair, I can personally attest to the quantum value the community is losing with this decision.

I can’t really quarrel with any of the hospital’s decisions, other than the one where they let health-care personnel run around unvaccinated — oh, and the one where they dropped a cool $3.25 million on yet another parcel of vacant land that may or may not one day become a $19 million “medical arts” facility to go with the ever-expanding hospital, their family medicine clinic in Gunnison, their on-mountain clinic in Mt. Crested Butte, their physical therapy clinic on Main Street, their new space that was once our dollar store and may someday contain offices . . . I don’t know if they still occupy offices in the Smith Opera House for their foundation, but you can always tell a county entity around here by the size of its real estate sprawl.

[I did also read recently about our paramedic sprawl. Most EMT coverage areas are around 100 square miles; ours cover 4,400 square miles, or an area the size of Delaware. I suppose we should all count ourselves fortunate if an EMT reaches us at all.]

Meanwhile, with a minimum of 4 percent of the county’s population taken down for some sort of count — good luck following CDC guidelines — in the last three weeks, we may hit a point where a precipice situation becomes untenable. I heard one of the City Market clerks, at 4 p.m. Sunday, tell someone else he’d been there since 5:30 a.m., and the editor of the CB News, while suggesting corporate Vail Resorts could do a lot better, noted that Crested Butte-level management types have been spotted out operating the lifts.

Six Points, our most popular thrift store, was closed without explanation Saturday, although it was open Monday. Lynn and I tried to source a take-out meal awhile back, and we ended up waiting inside the restaurant (after waiting at home for the specified 30 minutes) for an hour, which was what we had hoped to avoid by ordering takeout in the first place. It was hard to get too exasperated, although we managed, because the two-person waitstaff and the owner all looked dead on their feet. The other day when I went by their door, the place appeared closed and there was a sign on the door, but I didn’t stop to read it.

We tried take-out again the other night — you’d think we’d learn — and the online take-out option said it was not available; try delivery. The delivery option said it was not available and try take-out. So I called, and a woman asked if she could help me, but I don’t know what she planned to help me with: “We are way too short-staffed, so we’re not taking orders now. Maybe in an hour.”

With everyone short-handed to begin with, this quantum rise in covid cases could really cripple us, especially when my sister and her husband are going on their third week of “mild” cases. (I just yesterday heard a doctor define “mild” as meaning no supplemental oxygen required.)

All of us at Pat’s passed our rapid tests yesterday. Depending on the day and the medical professional, that may or may not mean anything, but it’s all we’ve got as we sally forth into a world of quantum particles coming in quantum amounts.

Here you go: everything I know about quantum physics.

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