charting a pandemic path

Around the world, most of us are sharing in the battle to limit the damage from COVID-19 to the extent possible.

In some places, the path is proscribed by local or national government and there are not a lot of personal decisions to make.

Here in my county in upstate New York (USA), things are not laid out as clearly. I have been trying to prepare and make plans, but circumstances keep changing – and so must the plans. Our state and local governments and community organizations have been much more proactive than the federal government, but, as more and more cases are diagnosed closer and closer to where I live, additional measures continue to roll out.

Over a week ago, I started the general preparedness guidelines to have a couple of weeks of food and medications available in case we had to self-isolate. This was not a big deal for our house, but I have been much more concerned about preparing things for my dad, known here as Paco. He lives in a senior community in an independent living apartment, so he has a number of services available in-house, but I visit every day to check on him, make sure his medications are all organized and his schedule is laid out, etc. Early last week, a sign went up that people who were having any symptoms of illness should not visit. This is practical and a commonsense precaution that I would follow anyway, but, later in the week, the health care part of the center was closed to all visitors, except those whose loved one is in very grave condition. This meant that Paco could no longer go over to concerts and singalongs held in the health care facility. At the same time, they cancelled activities in independent living that involved outside performers or volunteers. For example, the Irish dancers would not be able to come for a scheduled pre-St. Patrick’s Day performance.

At this point, I had to face the probability that even healthy visitors might not be able to visit independent living at some point, so I started making contingency plans that could be carried out reasonably well without me. Sadly, we’ve had to cancel a planned visit from my sisters and their families to celebrate Paco’s 95th birthday later this month. They all live in areas where the virus is more prevalent and we didn’t want to risk them bringing it with them, given that they might not have obvious symptoms.

Thursday night into Friday, several large employers announced that they would be having most of their employees work from home starting on Monday. The universities had also announced that they were moving most of their instruction online for several weeks or the rest of the semester. Professional sports leagues announced they were suspending or delaying their seasons. Some combination of these functioned as a trigger that caused some people who hadn’t been taking the virus very seriously to spring into action – or, at least, into shopping. I went to my favorite grocery store to pick up a few things for Paco and for my household and was surprised to find that there was almost no peanut butter, canned legumes, frozen vegetables, etc. in the store. And I hadn’t even checked the cleaning supplies and paper goods aisles. The evidence of panic-buying took me by surprise. Given that I had been in concern and preparation mode for days, I had obviously underestimated the number of people who were suddenly paying attention and freaking out a bit.

On Saturday, the county executive announced that all primary and secondary schools will close through mid-April. Now, people are even more upset.

It appears that there are some people who still think that fears of the virus are overblown, given that we have no known cases in our county, even though our neighboring counties do have confirmed cases; they don’t want their personal and family routines disrupted. Others have been following the news and the advice of medical experts and realize that, while we can’t stop the virus completely, there will be fewer deaths and more treatment available to those with severe illness if we can spread out the number of cases over a longer period of time, so as not to overwhelm our medical system. The way to do that is to reduce the number of people who are in close contact and in large groups, also known as social distancing.

There are a number of different opinions about how much distance is required and how many is considered too many to be in a crowd. This leaves some situations to personal discretion. I admit that I had a difficult time figuring out what to do about church attendance this weekend. Our diocese has dispensed with our obligation to attend mass, but services are still being held. I am not especially concerned about my getting seriously ill, but I am concerned with the possibility of bringing the virus into Paco’s community, so I’ve decided to participate in a mass on television. At least for now, I plan to still shop. occasionally eat at restaurants, and attend small gatherings with friends. If we start seeing community spread in my town, though, I’d cut back further. If we get to that point, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to visit Paco; it’s likely that only residents and staff would be allowed in the building.

I admit that it is disconcerting to know that, despite our best efforts, people are going to continue to get sick, some of them severely sick, and some of them will die. I hope that our communities will face up to this challenge and do as much as we can to protect people, especially the most vulnerable.

Be well. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be considerate.

Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

7 thoughts on “charting a pandemic path”

  1. What you experience now are only the beginning of, what might come.
    In Europe several countries have decided to close down everything not necessary for surviving. The borders, schools, kindergartens, public offices, public transport etc.
    People here are advised to stay home most possible, only to go out for needed shopping or for medical stuff and all this for at least one month to avoid the spreading of the Corona virus too fast, as the hospitals can help all, if too many become sick in one time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Irene. I read an article from a health professional in the northeast region of the US where I live saying that we are about eleven days behind Italy in pandemic terms. I think that many states and counties in the US are trying to put in place stricter policies now to help flatten the curve enough to keep from running out of ventilators and hospital space. It is a noble goal but it is difficult to predict if we are doing enough soon enough to reach it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think, that the most important must be to get people to understand, this is more than serious and might be dangerous for people with low immune system, Diabetics and people with heart and lung problems.


        1. Very true. The elder population and people of any age with underlying health problems are the most likely to have serious respiratory symptoms. The first major outbreak in the United States was in a nursing home. Unfortunately, a number of the patients have died because the virus on top of their age and other illnesses was too much for them to withstand.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a moving target, isn’t it? Until the middle of last week, we were in New Orleans, which had an early surge in cases, so bars and restaurants have been closed for awhile. Several days ago the city issued a “shelter in place” order. We must return to NOLA tomorrow for a health check up, which is one of the allowed exceptions, and I’m counting the minutes until then, hoping they don’t actually close the borders before we can get the check-up. I guess the upside of this is that NOLA has really ramped up its testing, though it also leads to a spike in the # of cases because they are actually finding them…Hope you and yours stay safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We are fine and sheltering at home. The most difficult thing is not being able to visit my dad, who turns 95 later this week. NYS has tightened their restrictions further. Our part of the state is just beginning to see community spread and I don’t feel safe going into my dad’s senior apartment building anymore. God forbid that I exposed anyone before developing symptoms myself.

      I hope that the checkup goes splendidly and that there is no difficulty getting there and back. It’s true that we are never sure what each day will bring. I guess that was always true, but we are all reminded of it each day in the present crisis. Take good care and continue reaching out from the social bubble in a safe way.

      Liked by 1 person

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