Observations two years into the pandemic

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 17, 2022, 11:01 PM | comments: 0

Two years ago, we were hearing the word "coronavirus" on the news pretty frequently, but I don't think any American or European person really appreciated what we were about to endure. In my circles, we were already talking about how Shanghai Disneyland had closed almost a month prior, with no plan at all to reopen. It was going to be serious, but we didn't know how serious.

I didn't write about our experience until well into March, and I would say it was more weird than scary. Simon had just come off of an extended two-week spring break that went right into virtual learning, and that was terrible and lasted until the end of the year, largely by choice. Diana's work at the theater obviously stopped, and I was back to remote working. With lovely spring weather, we were getting outside quite a bit, and our whole neighborhood was active after work. Every Friday seemed like another chance to make drinks. I started a radio show that aired in Alaska and Guam, before making it to the mainland near Baltimore. The first two months were intensely terrible.

By May, shit just kept getting more weird. The federal government's response was a total shit show devoid of leadership, which wasn't exactly surprising with Trump in the White House. George Floyd was murdered, and we weren't sure at the time if the officer who killed him would be charged with the crime. Racial injustice was amplified by the pandemic as it disproportionately affected people of color. Walt Disney World announced it would reopen with all kinds of dystopian measures in place that included queue barriers and marks on the ground for social distancing, and we opted-out of our passes. Meanwhile, Covid testing was still pretty hard to come by.

Like everyone, by summer we were craving something that felt normal, so we rented a place on the beach for a few nights. Our cat Emma died, and we gained the two ragdolls. Oliver, the other cat, started getting sick on and off, and we lost him before the end of the year. Remote school was still terrible and he didn't return to in-person until the start of 2021. The election was stressful. Every asshole with a smartphone believed that they could do "research" leading to opinions that exceeded the value of experts. It wasn't a great year.

That first year was also interesting for the science around Covid, which changed quite a bit. Again, the incompetence of government, at the federal and state level, meant that there was no consistent communication. First don't buy masks because hospitals are running out, then buy them. Indoor transmission is certain, but you're probably fine outside. Math nerds got really into the statistics. There was absurd behavior at first, like people washing packages on their porch, or retail workers washing credit cards when handling them. Fortunately we learned early on that surface transmission wasn't really a thing. And as the year went on, vaccine trials were showing remarkable results, when the first people started getting shots in November.

The second year started with the insurrection, followed shortly thereafter by the inauguration. Maybe it's because we rented a beach house that week, but everything seemed to be more calm after that, to some extent. At the very least, there weren't daily assaults on the Constitution. Simon went back to school in-person. The old folks were getting their shots. On March 8, I got my first shot and it felt like a turning point. By mid-April, the adults were fully vaccinated. We resumed our theme park visits, and even stayed on-property for my birthday in July. Infection rates were bottoming out and it seemed like it was working. Simon was finally eligible for his vaccine in November, though after getting Covid from a classmate's family that failed to disclose their non-vaccinated status. We took a cruise. On a boat.

Then the omicron variant showed up, and mostly nothing changed beyond indoor mask requirements coming back, but only in some places. Hospitals became overwhelmed again, mostly with people who were still not vaccinated. The variant managed to beat vaccination without boosters, and sometimes even with, but mostly caused less severe disease. It moved so quickly that we actually understood this within weeks of its discovery. Now the combination of vaccinated people and those recently infected is causing the virus to burn out quickly. The theme parks have dropped their mask requirements.

These have easily been two of the most exhausting years of my life, and Covid was only half of it. Work and parenting were exceptionally difficult, and I learned I really do have ASD and ADHD. Oh, and I'm at midlife now, so pile that on. It seems everyone can give you a similarly intense summary of their life.

What do we do going forward? Right now, it seems like we'll keep getting vaccines now and then, and hope that future variants become even less likely to harm people. What doesn't seem to be happening is the broader reckoning that looks at how we exist in the world. I thought for sure that we would more actively pursue equality and a better healthcare system, but instead, half the politicians are focusing on legislation to pretend gay people don't exist and to protect white people from feeling uncomfortable about race. It's insane. We're coming out of two years of shit and that's all you've got?

I'm still trying to reconcile the last two years. Heck, even the last few months produced data I haven't processed. We've got a lot of things to change, and we're getting to work on that. I hope the bigger world will do the same.


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