Scenes from a Pandemic, Volume 5 – Daily courage and heroes

This post has changed three times since I started to work on it. From my perspective, that’s what I would expect, a flexible and dynamic situation, and good, in that it shows that we are learning and adapting to the danger, which is how we will overcome it. It’s probably unexpected and frustrating for everyone else, and that’s a topic for another post, about how everyone has become something of an emergency responder since COVID-19 arrived.

The governor has extended the statewide closure of schools until 4/6/20. That’s the earliest that schools will reopen. That’s yet another topic for yet another post.

Maintaining a distance of 6 feet – about 2 arm’s lengths – from others will reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 by 90%.

Body temperature fluctuates during the day and varies by person, but a temperature of 100.5 degrees or higher is a reason to call your doctor.

A few days ago, Wawa suspended its self-service coffee. It still feels strange but it’s clearly a good move, to me more about handling the lids and cups and stirrers than the coffee itself. I’ve been thanking the people who work there, and everywhere else, for sticking it out, for coming to work in a scary time. It’s interesting how many of the “life-sustaining businesses” allowed to remain open are staffed mostly by people earning minimum wage or just a bit more.

I was just trained to help in a program that helps first responders, taking care of the emergency professionals who take care of us. It takes courage to put in a uniform and head out on a typical day. We haven’t seen a typical day recently and we won’t for awhile, and when that danger that you encounter can follow you home to your family? God bless those folks who keep going and keep us going, who take any call assigned to them.

Here are some of the other good things that I see every day.

Routine courage

I see it in everyone who keeps working and keeps getting stuff done. I see it when the garbage and recycling go out, when potholes are filled, in every person and place that is keeping the lights on. I see it the people who keep the grocery stores and pharmacies and restaurants and breweries, now curb-side take-out only, running. That picture above is a few days old and that sign has already changed. That business, like others, doesn’t want customers entering at all. Instead, they have staff standing outside, running your money in and your food out. Those people sustain my expectation that a day is coming when much of what has already become normal is gone.

Habitual hand cleaning

Not all of the changes are bad. If cleaning your hands, and for that matter, not coughing or sneezing on people – seriously??? – becoming enduring routines, I will welcome that change. That doesn’t mean that COVID-19 was worth it, but it means that not everything that happens during a difficult time is bad. I need to find my copy of Rebecca Solnit’s (2009) book A Paradise built in hell: The extraordinary communities that arise in disaster and read it again.

Respect and courtesy

I’m hearing more please and thank you and formality and cordiality than I did a few weeks ago. At a time like this, we need not only social distancing, but also the social lubricant of basic civility with each other. There simply isn’t the slack in the system for us to bump into each other, in any sense of the word or concept. If a change in our attitude toward each other survives COVID-19, that would be OK with me, too.

I know of a county in Pennsylvania that had one case of COVID-19 on 3/12/20, which feels like forever ago. The same county now has 45 cases. Even worse, some of those cases are in the county prison, inmates and correctional officers. If it can get into a prison, COVID-19 can get anywhere. This is a scary time but we will get through it, together, at a distance. The list of things that we need to cover is growing, too, but we will get to it.

Solnit, R. (2009). A Paradise built in hell: The extraordinary communities that arise in disaster. New York: Penguin.