Friday, March 12, 2021

In a Time of Virus: One Year Later

29.3 million cases of COVID.   Now over 530,000 dead as of 11:37 PM on 03/11/2021.

Since I quit writing posts we had an election, and Trump was shown the door.  But then we had an attempt at a violent overthrow of the US Congress as they moved to certify the electoral college on January 6th of this year.  You can look it up - it was very bad.  In the wake of the election loss, the GOP has more or less dropped the final bits of illusion suggesting they give a shit about democracy or decency.  Meanwhile, the Democrats remain the same spineless twits they've always been.  

Vaccines started appearing at the beginning of the year, and as of this writing, Jamie has her first shot, my parents and my brother have both of theirs, as well as my father-in-law and cousin.  The way they've rolled it out is intended to first serve the most vulnerable as the disease tends to hit, so first take care of older people and people with medical conditions.  But even as I write this, the picture is changing on a daily basis.  The White House is working on its plan to get vaccines available, and it seems to be actually working.  Meanwhile, the governor of Texas decided he's done with COVID and we're opening everything back up.  So, look for our numbers to spike uncontrollably for a while.  

My last day in the office was 03/12/2020.  I had expected to work the next day, a Friday, and then start working from home for a few weeks while the virus came and went.

On Monday, 03/08/2021, I was shocked to figure out my employer/ alma mater was offering me a shot.  I'm not 1a or 1b.  But I went ahead and got it on 03/11/2021 at 4:20 PM.   In a matter of weeks, I will start having an immune response.  By April 15th, I should be fully vaccinated and have the Pfizer vaccine doing its thing in my body.  

Jamie and I have been extraordinarily cautious, but we have also been very lucky.  My job is do-able online.  I still have a job.  I have been reasonably healthy this year (I won't get into ongoing issues with allergies) and Jamie has also been well.  Even a chronic condition which arose for one of our extended family was swiftly dealt with, and we've folded the necessary treatment into casual conversation.  We have had friends who have contracted COVID, friends with near misses, and one of Jamie's relatives passed due to COVID.  But overall, even among my work colleagues, the toll has been that of the house-bound, with very little in the way of COVID.  And that's the false sense of security I think a lot of people have had as they've gone about their business.

I do not want anyone to get COVID, but I really don't know what to say anymore that's kind or forgiving in regards to the many, many COVID denialists and anti-maskers.  They're very, very much responsible for why we're still dealing with the virus in the way we are, and why I haven't been out of my house in a year.  As they refuse to vaccinate, they will also be responsibile for untold misery and grief - and new strains of the virus.   

In February we had a freeze unlike anything in my memory after a handful of decades of living in this town and a few other years in Houston and Dallas.  I have felt uncertainty before in life and death situations, but never on such a scale.  Even after 9/11, I was aware we may see more terrorism, and we dealt with the day of and subsequents days from a hotel toom in Las Vegas, and that felt more contained than snow and ice crippling multiple cities and the piling effects mounting both in our own home and all across the state.

Months ago we instituted Friday night watch parties, and it's been one of our few social outlets.  And one with the lowest bar.  I spend almost all day 5 days a week in Zoom or Teams calls, and so connecting with people via a videochat on a computer screen has lost its luster.  I was late to the Zoom-exhaustion thing, but its real and I have to work up my enthusiasm for the check-ins with whomever we're calling this weekend.  So, yeah, watching movies with people is optimal.  

But I have the same fatigue as everyone else at this point.  We know how to live like this, so even the nervous energy of the first couple of months and the unknown that took us into the summer faded.  I have an idea now of how life might be like for a shut-in.  It's livable, but it's hard to think about weeks or months from now.  It's hard knowing loved ones are miles away, but it doesn't matter - you're not seeing them.  You're not eating with them or spending any quality time.  

It's a year of life that's been both stolen from us who both understood the threat and sought to avoid illness, and for those of us who understood the threat and what it meant to the world if we didn't heed the warnings.  

It's a year's sentence for the mistakes and pride and hubris of others.  

I had grand intentions of writing a chronicle of the months under the pandemic.  People forget, and the human mind reading things after the fact - who weren't there - can't grapple with the actual timelines or the mundane details.  But putting it down would help maybe someone, sometime.  

But, honestly, it just wasn't what I wanted to do anymore at some point.  It was too big and too exhausting.  I was spending every minute of every day with it.  

If anything, I hope that at some future date when some stranger reads this, that things will be so far from this point that they can't comprehend how absurd the past years have been, that they assume we were ignorant buffoons in this era (and you'll be right, future reader!).  Because it never needed to be quite like this.  We elected a fool and a psychopath, and despite the absolute clarity of his grotesque clownishness, he became an adored figure for millions - millions who made up stories out of whole cloth to make him a hero.  I have seen it and can't begin to account for it, exactly.  While we fought the COVID virus, a disease of the mind - planted by media whispering distrust of anyone who speaks against the great leader, who questions the great leader, and ultimately a desire to crush those who would question and doubt the great leader - took hold.  

Families have been torn asunder, marriages ended.  Children don't talk to parents, cousins to one another, siblings have shut each other off.  And, again, I've been lucky.  We dodged that bullet, too.

But make no mistake, for four years, the president was unfailingly and unapologetically stupid and cruel and could get away with it.  It's been a hell of a lesson in what people like or are fine with, so long as the player is on their team.  They're still shouting about a hoax of a virus as their neighbors become ill and die.  They're still passing the same stories put in place a year ago about how it's "just a flu" despite the horror you can bear witness to in a thousand news reports and stories.  

And that buffoon, even from his exile to Florida (he can never return to NYC, which he once tried to make himself the face of), is still trying to claim credit for the very obvious thing that pharmaceutical companies did - manufacture a vaccine.  

But... you gotta get up every morning, and you have to try to do your best and do something good.