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Chris Gilbert


Fortunately, Coronavirus Is Just Inconvenient For Now

This is not a brag or a boast. It’s actually a little sad, and kind of pathetic, really. It’s something that maybe I’ll be able to continue to use to my advantage, though. With all of the social distancing, large events canceled, and now the ‘shelter in place’ orders, for the most part, my life has changed very little since the outbreak of Covid-19, or coronavirus.

I live alone, and don’t go out a whole lot, so, in a lot of ways, I’ve been practicing social distancing for years. I was told that shock-rocker Marilyn Manson said he’s been spending his whole life preparing for this moment. Odd that the two of us have something like that in common.

For most people, though, this has become at least a major inconvenience, rather than a minor one, and for others, it has been life changing. Kids are not in school, businesses are closing down, and people are losing their jobs. Those businesses, and those jobs, may not be there when this pandemic is over, and careers, and lives, will have to start over.

I don’t know anyone who has coronavirus. I don’t really know anyone who knows anyone who has coronavirus. Some athletes have gotten it, a senator now has it, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson came down with it in Australia. Let’s also remember that people are dying from it, and not just in far away places like China and Italy. This is serious stuff, and from my primarily sheltered world, it’s hard to remember that sometimes.

The governor of California, and governors in other states, have issued shelter in place orders. That means you are not supposed to leave your home unless you absolutely have to, like go to an essential job, take care of yourself and family needs like buying groceries or going to medical appointments, or maybe getting some exercise as long as you stay at least six feet away from another person. Yet, when you do leave your home, for the most part, today looks like any other day, except for some businesses closed and community events canceled.

I can think of two other events I’ve gone through, both in recent years, that can somewhat compare to this lockdown that the government and health officials are trying to manage. One was in 2017, when 200-thousand people were evacuated for fear that the Oroville Dam was going to break, sending millions of acre-feet of water downstream. I returned to my home really one night before I was supposed to, and found Marysville to be an eerie ghost town, with literally no one on the streets. People understood the magnitude of the emergency. Last fall, we had what our utility company called Public Safety Power Shutoffs. Electricity was intentionally turned off, to make sure in the case of high winds and low humidity, no power line would start a wildfire. One of those shutoffs lasted several days, businesses closed, and school was canceled, but people were angry. At least they knew the event would end, but they didn’t know when.

This is completely different. Even though California is one of the hardest hit states from Covid-19, no one locally knows what to make of it. In Nevada County, where I work, there have been only two coronavirus cases. Both are somewhat mild and are also on the other side of the county (Truckee) and over an hour away. In Yuba County, where I live, there have been three reported cases, and they all just happened over the weekend. All are mild, and none required hospitalization.

So in my world, school is out, restaurants are closed, there nothing on TV, and I couldn’t go to my cousin’s wedding this weekend, all because we are being told we might get sick, or that we can infect others. This is all true, of course, and we’re told it’s going to get worse, medically, before it gets better. Our common sense tells to buy in, drink the cool aid, and play along. We know it’s the right thing to do, but when you add a spouse, several kids, and a job that is either severely impacted, or lost, it becomes extremely difficult to balance the equation.

The Jewish holiday of Passover is coming up in a couple weeks. One of the tenants of the holiday is the youngest asking, “Why is this night different than all other nights?”. I think we’re asking ourselves right now, “Why is this virus different than all other viruses?”. We’ve had typhoid, malaria, ebola, different strains of flu, and other diseases, but none of them have ever shut down schools and businesses, made people rush out and buy up all the toilet paper, or perhaps cancel the baseball season.

NBC had a sound bite of a college age kid who was one of several to violate the shelter in place order and celebrate Spring Break. “If I get Corona, I get Corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying,” he said. He may be college age but he seems to be too dumb to be in college (or maybe the grades just aren’t too good). It’s understandable, though, considering people aren’t seeing the severity of the outbreak first hand.

We don’t want to see people dying, and hopefully we won’t have to. That’s the whole point, really, and we just need to keep telling ourselves that. Meanwhile, unemployment claims are expected to set a record when announced later this week, Congress is haggling over a stimulus package, and hospitals and the medical community still aren’t prepared for what we’re told is an inevitable spike in cases.

It’s going to get worse, certainly economically if not also medically. We know it, most of us understand it, and are trying to mentally and physically prepare for it. Even in my somewhat sheltered world, it’s hard not to sense negative change on the horizon. It still would be nice, though, to be able to go out. Even those of us who are naturally socially distant still would like to see a movie or go to a ball game.


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