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11.3.21

The Last Pandemic

The Last One of These Lasted 2 and a Half Years?!

Route 1 / Arlington / 4am, Spring 2020

    I began writing this post in pieces somewhere in September of 2020, after having been working from home ("teleworking") since mid-March of that same year.

    When I first began, making notes really, I remember thinking:

    "I should keep notes.  This is *crazy!*  6 months?  Really?  How much longer can this go?"

    Who knew?  

    Nobody, that's who.

    At first, I was amazed that 'they' were estimating: 

"This could last well into May."

    Then the Summer of 2020 was over.
   
    Then the Fall of 2020 was over.

    Then December 2020 came and went.

    And now, as I finish cleaning up these notes that make up this post, we will be a few days away from Spring of 2021.  And the one-year anniversary of my COVID-year will have come and gone.  

    As it turns out, President Biden will also be speaking to the nation today re: this same 'anniversary.'  So, apparently the day I was sent home to work was the same day that the U.S. officially decided that things were serious and getting out of control.

    For a full year as of today, I have remained indoors for as much of the day as I can.   Early on, I figured it was probably a good idea to be *in*doors when people are most likely to be out and about.  While most people began complaining about being 'locked down,' as many still call it, I had no problems with the isolation.  I've become a hermit - on purpose.  



    Since not too long into this 'new normal' I have been making an effort to try to keep to pre-pandemic hours and the same general routine as I did before 11 March of last year.  It didn't take but a few days of working from home to clearly realize that I needed to do *something* that would fight off the 'weirdness' of being in one spot for both work and non-work all the time.  

    I would bet that people who work on a farm don't have as much of that problem during this pandemic thing.   Lots of room, no crowds to deal with.  I could be totally wrong -- it's been a while since I visited a farm and I don't think anyone in my family runs one any longer or I'd ask them.  I'd have also thought that living in a secluded community would have been a good way to live during the past year, but they didn't have any better idea either ... people would 'go off the reservation' and come back to the community and *boom* -- now their community not only got sick in days, but they were 'secluded' and hard to get to for help.



    Actually, since maybe three months into this thing (less than that, maybe), mental health professionals began recommending that we try to maintain as much of our pre-pandemic routines as possible to avoid depression from the isolation (self-imposed or not) and things like that.  So, I try to get out the door by 0450, simulate the walk I used to make on work days to catch the first Metro to the Navy Yard station and then walking back.  This is about a 3-mile'ish walk.  Maintaining a routine as much as possible does, in fact, seem to help.


***

    I would take the dog in a little wagon and do minor grocery shopping at the local 7-11 or CVS Pharmacy sometime between 3 and 4 in the morning.  This would make me feel better because I was getting in at least half the steps I used to get during my commute to work.  I was also able to avoid coming into contact with anyone except the grocery clerks who are all usually more than 6 feet away, sometimes wearing *two* masks of some sort, if not working behind plexiglass barriers.  

    The experts say '30-minutes' of brisk walking per day is good.  Though I may not always be 'briskly walking', at least I'm getting in that prescribed 30 minutes of walking and doing my best to reduce breathing death.   There's a set of 33 stairs along my 'route' which I run up and run down as an excuse to not walk as 'briskly' as I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be.

    I noticed maybe 1 or 2 days before that day that in March that "people were getting weird".



    After being sent home just as the Spring of 2020 was giving it up to Summer, instead of making plans to take a vacation to Italy or maybe go to Disney World and (or?) visit family, we were all told:
" ... stay home, don't gather in areas with lots of people and don't travel long distances to visit with family ... stay home."  
    So people stayed home - for a while.  But Americans, uniquely I think, got 'weird.'   

    For example, to prevent somebody else from taking all the stuff thought to be important (only because everybody *else* thought it was important enough to hoard it) everyone wanted toilet paper, bottled water, hand sanitizer, and canned goods in local supermarkets.  But I also noticed that many of those same people who felt it necessary to beat someone else to hogging all the stuff also refused to wear masks as 'suggested' (not mandated).  So ... people were worried enough about COVID-19 to hoard supplies for themselves, but not worried enough to wear masks.  I was even wearing rubber surgical gloves everywhere for quite a while.  I also couldn't figure out why some people would wear masks but then not have a problem touching their faces, rubbing their eyes, etc.  My policy was 'buy twice as much as normal of any item purchased and put the 'other half' in a closet on a shelf.'

    Very early on (but after  'wash your hands') the wearing of medical type PPE masks was recommended as the easiest way to prevent the spread of the virus - along with maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others.  But I suppose people don't always think right.  It's a uniquely American sentiment:  "You can't tell me what to do!  I'm an American!"  Some people find it no more palatable to be told 'wear a mask so you don't infect others with a disease you may not know you have' than they do thinking the government is going to come to their home and take their guns. Maybe it's not a uniquely American way to think, but maybe it is.

    Prior to being sent home to work a year ago, my boss had asked me if I wanted to take off early to go out and see if I could find some supplies.  He had gone out already some days before and said he felt he was successful in accumulating 2 weeks of supplies.   He recommended I do the same, so I did.  At the time, that was supposed to have been enough.  Two weeks' worth of stuff.   

    Honestly, I don't think I was taking things seriously enough.  I was probably recalling some overly-panicked folks acting similarly when almost similar flu-warning was being blared when 'The Avian Flu' was thought to be on the verge of becoming a pandemic.  I guess all that hand sanitizer took care of that panic.  Hand sanitizer and a lot of training about pandemics.  Of course, I don't remember learning anything about the 1918 Spanish flu during that training while I was stationed in Italy, either.  But I'm sure somebody could prove me wrong because we had computers there.  I know.  I used them a lot.  And Powerpoint presentations. They had those, too.  So I won't accuse anyone of not pointing out the last global pandemic.  They might send me their Powerpoint presentation and make me feel bad.



    "COVID-19 information" was still, by my recollection, somewhat sparse and not being disseminated very well when I was sent home last year.  Well, let me rephrase that:  "information concerning *the seriousness of COVID-19* was not being disseminated very well, because nobody really knew much about it."   DISCLAIMER:  "Of course, I could be wrong."

    It was either that or it was my issue with being hesitant to read or listen to many commercial news sources; commercial/network websites and television 'broadcasts', etc.  Are we still supposed to call them 'broadcasts' or do we now just call them 'programs'?  I have this "attention issue" for many reasons, really.  It's not a 'fake news' issue, I don't think.  I mean, if I owned a television network or a newspaper, I'm pretty sure that I'd let all my affiliates know that I wanted them to present the news the way I wanted it to be biased, er ... sorry ... "presented".  I think, anyway.

    Anyway, it's that, plus the fact that I also get annoyed by many (most?) commercials and advertising in general.   

    To be honest, sometimes I just don't pay attention because I'm not interested (after giving someone a chance to be interesting, of course) and am usually thinking about something else I find more interesting.   It's obvious to me that, if I'm thinking about something else besides that which I'm supposed to be paying attention that *my* something is more important than *their* something.  Right?  No?

    (I added that last paragraph just in case someone wishes to say something like 'Yes, we did tell you how dangerous this COVID thing was, you just weren't paying attention.')

    I do recall a few of my coworkers (while still working in an actual-honest-to-goodness pre-COVID cubicle farm) seriously putting out their hands as others would come near them as they said:

    "Hey! Social Distancing!  Keep 6 feet away!"  

    I remember thinking  "What's this?  'A new thing'?"  I also remember signs all over like those in the Metro station under the Pentagon on my way home:  

"KEEP CALM AND WASH YOUR HANDS."   



    Still, in March of 2020, I don't remember anyone telling me that they knew how serious this pandemic could possibly get.  I do remember, though, that there was an effort at work to put together some COVID information on a website-sorta-thing ... hmmm.  So I guess I must have been at least somewhat aware that people were getting pretty nervous before they sent me home.   Maybe I really *wasn't* paying attention. 


 
    My older sister thinks I just don't 'keep up'.  

    For example:  Apparently nobody uses e-mail anymore to communicate, she says.  Everybody sends IMs from one platform or another, I guess.  I just don't pay attention.  No wonder nobody answers my e-mails at work.   I'm sorry.  Did you say something?  

    I was probably under the impression that this was all 'just another precautionary thing'.  Maybe something along the lines of (okay, worse than) 'Legionnaires Disease' or the 'Avian Flu' almost-pandemic that scared people while I was stationed in Italy.  At *that* time, there were medical folks warning of a pandemic then and bottles of hand sanitizer were all over.  Or, my memory could be all jacked-up and I'm just disremembering things already.  

    In 100 years, I probably won't remember any of this COVID-19/pandemic stuff, either.  Which is what happened this time.  Except for maybe 1 or 2 people on the planet, every one who was around in 1918 is dead.  They didn't have computers to record stuff back then, nobody today knows how to use paper-filing systems, and then there was that big fire at the warehouse in 1942 and all the records were lost, so ...

    So. Yep.  It's been one full year of this global pandemic that's killed well over a half-million Americans.  Longer than that, I guess, depending on how you measure it.   Was it November/December of 2019 or February of 2020?  Regardless, "COVID-19" was what they called it by the time I thought it might be something to take seriously.  

    "COVID-19" is an acronym for:  the name of virus (COrona), the word "Virus", the word "Disease", and the year it is said to have begun wreaking havoc upon the planet.  It used to have a longer name, something like:  "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCOV" but I would be willing to bet that the short version we all use now is because today's media outlets needed something easier for their people to spell and pronounce because ... well ... that's a whole n'other blog post.  But you only hear the longer version used by people who like to show off ... or from Dr. Anthony Fauci.  He can call it whatever he wants.  



    For a long while, I was calling it 'CORVID-19'.  Fortunately, a friend pointed out:

    "Dude, you're doing it wrong -- you probably still use e-mail, don't you."  

    Just now, I was about to type "Google is your friend." 

    But I decided there is a better way of expressing "common and actual facts are available by searching the internet on your own."  But you need to be careful.  You need to be able to exercise some degree of skill in differentiating fact from fiction.   For example:  It is a fact that the last time people on this planet experienced anything like this was in the year 1918Most people called it "The Spanish Flu" although it had other names.  But it is *not* a fact that there is a:

" ... disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And there is a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?  As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."

(There are some things that just don't sound right when heard or seen.  Which apparently has no bearing on whether or not people will believe things like that when they hear them based primarily on who says them.)

Here's a good article from Smithsonian Magazine that compares (and distinguishes differences) between the 1918 pandemic -- that we collectively forgot about that one until this one snuck up on us.  Important to note is that "you can't really compare the two."  The article explains some of the differences.

    As of not too many months ago (is "It's only been a year" an exaggeration?) it didn't seem that anyone had learned a lot since 1918.  Although that may not be exactly accurate.

    Except for the fact that occasional mentions were made over the past year in the televised (or 'streaming') news programs (ooo! See?  I'm 'current' and 'with it'!) and other media outlets like " ... we have not experienced anything like this pandemic since 1918 ... ", some apparently did learn from prior history that to 'wear masks, maintain social distancing, and close the schools' seemed like a good way to prevent the spread of the flu.  

    While many people alive today may have even learned 'pandemic lessons' from history (by Googling 'Spanish Flu'), it is possible that some may have preferred to sound more current and authoritative by claiming 'According to the CDC ... ' or 'According to Dr. Fauci ...' or 'According to the Johns Hopkins map ...' because nobody wants to claim that they know what they know or think what they think based on something from 1918.  

    And masks were different back then.  I would imagine that it wasn't very easy to get a 'Hello Kitty' mask or a fashion-coordinated mask to go with your various outfit colors.   Masks then were made of gauze or other materials even more porous.  Who'd wanna wear those?


    Also unlike 2020/2021, they couldn't put together vaccinations in record time against the pandemic they experienced in 1918.  And the recommended method then to reduce the chances of getting sick pretty much amounted to - like this time around: 'wash your hands and wear a mask'.  We're now all looking forward to reaching 'herd immunity' via vaccinations.  Well, via vaccinations distributed as widely as possible *after* well over a half million people died in the United States alone since the pandemic began. 

    Sometimes I wonder if some people last year weren't thinking 'just let it go' and handle it like they did a hundred years ago.  "It'll eventually go away after enough people get sick."

    In 1918, like now, lots of people didn't like being told what to do by their government either.  Just like this time around, some people even thought wearing masks was a bad practice.  They held rallies and parties where nobody wore a mask (in a show of defiance of being told what to do) which ended up making the virus spread faster and making more people sicker faster.  

    One public service announcement from the Red Cross then even went so far as to publicly state:  " ... the man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker."  I don't think the Red Cross would be allowed to put out a commercial like that nowadays.  President Biden said that wearing one is patriotic ... a little different than telling someone they're an idiot because they don't.    

    That last pandemic lasted 2.5 years.  We just hit the 1 year-mark today.


On 8 March 2021:  'Mask-burning' held @ Idaho Capitol Building
Update:  8 March 2021 - A public mask-burning ceremony held at Idaho Capitol Building

... sigh ...

Another DISCLAIMER:

    As I type *this* sentence, it's the day after Valentine's day, 2021.  In addition to this COVID thing, I suffered a personal loss that has affected me to a degree over the past two months or so that my 'perspective' on this whole 'global pandemic' thing, and pretty much everything else in life, has drastically changed.  I put this paragraph into this post just in case I need to explain why I maybe have (I'm not sure) or you detect a sort of cavalier attitude about this whole thing (see previous post in this blog).

    Although many commanders of many federal, state, and local installations; military bases, chain stores like '7-11,' CVS, etc., were making the decision months ago to enforce mask-wearing, social distancing, and taking all sorts of measures to prevent the spread of this thing - it wasn't declared *mandatory* for masks to be worn (on Federal Property, at least) until after President Joe Biden took a shot at making that the case sometime after 20 January 2021.   President Biden's word was 'patriotic.'

    As I type *this* paragraph, it's 5 March, 2021.  It's approximately three months after it became mandatory to wear anti-COVID masks by Presidential Executive Order.  And a few days ago, mayors and governors in some U.S. states - Texas, Mississippi - and states (Detroit is the only one I can recall at the moment) have quite dramatically announced that 'mandatory mask wearing' is no longer required and they've lifted this requirement.  I have no words to express how I feel about that nor do I think I'll be done thinking about that prior to posting these rambling paragraphs.

    As I currently understand the situation, I am expecting to be working from home well into 2021, perhaps into December.  But "nobody knows for sure".  We'll see.

    This pandemic has closed businesses.  Large and small.  Some permanently, some temporarily.  Some have luckily been able to reopen.  People have lost their jobs.  More people are actually living on the streets.  Restaurants have closed.  Bars have closed.  Retail outlets of all sorts have closed.  It's trashed the American economy for many many people.  As of 10 March 2021, there is a bajillion dollar relief program about to be signed by the President to provide financial relief to individuals, businesses, schools and various other entities and institutions trashed by this pandemic.


The streets are quiet in the early AM hours.

    This is why I think so many people now, like those during the last pandemic the world experienced, are so impatient to 'return to normal.'  It's inconvenient.  They can't work and they're *just wanting to 'go back to work'.*  Don't care how.  Don't care why.  They just know that they can't pay bills so they're just wanting to *just go back to work*.  This time, however, because of the internet, there really is going to be 'a new normal.'  

    Nowadays, the streets are so quiet.  Nervous stares as people pass each other.  Heads down, masks on our faces.  Oddly, being the grumpy person I am:  I am onboard with not having to deal with anyone except the cashier at the 7-11.   I only wish I had the job I used to have and found ideal was still possible to hold; one in which it was my responsibility to 'make things happen as planned.'  It was a 'people job.'  And I found it very validating to hear senior government, military, and civilian leaders I met and chatted with agree with me.  "People are stupid," one admiral from a foreign navy said to me once.

     We were talking about something entirely different at the time and we laughed.  But that sentence may sum up this whole stupid post and explain why we are in the situation we're in.

    I hope you have a better 2021 than last year.

- JM -

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well done......for some reason "nobody knows for sure" resonates with me very strongly.

Good job Brother, God speed and love.