As the pandemic comes into focus

No surprise, everybody’s talking about it. Finally. What can we bloggers even add to the awareness?

In fact, there’s so much coming out, it’s impossible to keep up. My only conclusion is that what we’re reading and hearing is already two weeks behind where the outbreak actually is, thanks to the delay in the appearance of symptoms while an individual is still contagious – and that the spread of infection is already more severe than those in the White House are willing to acknowledge.

On the human level, it’s not just the mortality rate – 2 percent? that’s not the Black Plague, as cynics remind us – but the possibility of so much of the workforce being incapacitated, as well, meaning people with high deductibles in their health care coverage and minimum-wage jobs that preclude them from taking any time away from earning their meager paychecks without being homeless.

On a more abstract level, think about the speed with which it’s precipitated the stock market “correction” that was predicted for sometime after the November elections but now seems to presage recession. End of the bull market that ran through the Obama years and all that. (Glad I closed my IRAs when I did. The last recession cut their value in half, and recovering that took longer than we want to admit.) Now the market’s down roughly 30 percent in a week, nearly wiping out all of its gains during the Trump administration.

In fact, it seems impossible to talk about coronavirus without politics and finances popping into the discussion. I’ll spare you those rants.

In barely a week or two, it seems, the illness has gone from being “out there” in Seattle or even the other side of New Hampshire and suddenly started appearing much closer to home and those we know and love.

It really cut into my consciousness when I did a double-take Tuesday night while listening to a classical program streaming on Harvard’s FM station, just an hour down the road from here. The student program host was thanking her listeners for their four years of support of her on-air work, saying that this would be her last show. What? This was episode two of a six-week Tuesday feature, she had four more weeks to go. And then the words, “with the closure of the university, I’ll be heading home,” meaning New York, which coincidentally was the focus of that particular episode.

What, closing Harvard? Well, by now you know how that decision has already spread to a lot of other schools. Pack up your dorm stuff and be out of town by the weekend. I was standing with a University of New Hampshire student yesterday when his smart phone went off, informing him he was going to have an extra week off after spring break. (At a religious leaders’ gathering an hour earlier I had heard that the governor had overridden the faculty’s plea for a longer closure, like for the rest of the semester.) Is anyone else hearing from some outraged students? (Details for the virtual classrooms to be announced. Ditto, refunds or even housing for kids left in the lurch. And who wants to be confined to boring home?)

Meanwhile, in our faith communities, we’re having to make rapid adjustments. No more handshakes to close Quaker worship, for now, or food and fellowship after. For others, it affects how they celebrate the Eucharist. And what about the Friendly Kitchen’s two dinners a week for an already vulnerable populace, prepared and served by ten congregations on a rotating basis? Do we make the meals takeout to reduce social contact? How do we react to public school closures and childcare issues, especially for working parents?

As for the lockdowns in nursing homes and senior housing? Turn around, and there’s another surprise.

Let’s not overlook the panic runs on the supermarkets, either. Before the outbreak, my wife had started cutting back on our pantry backup, but now she’s feeling we should be able to sustain two or three weeks of lockdown, so we’re stocking up again, just not in alarm mode.

Think I need to get some quinine water, too? Maybe look at this as alternative medicine?

My assignment was to make sure we’d be set for my nightly martini and the rabbits’ pellets, should we go into self-isolation or official quarantine. You know, keep everybody in this household comfy for the duration. Having the state liquor store touting a 16 percent discount on purchases over $150 helped with the decision. The Bombay Sapphire was already on sale. You know, isn’t this stuff we’d be using anyway, eventually?

What I didn’t remind her is that I’m not touching alcohol until April 17, Orthodox Easter – seven whole weeks of abstinence. (Would those beautiful bottles strengthen my resolve to live, should I be afflicted in the coming weeks? Ay-ay-ay.)

So here we are, obsessing with the developments. I wonder what we’re going to learn today.

How about you?

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