Sunday, March 15, 2020

Plague Diary #1

We are in the middle of a global pandemic.  It's going to get worse before it gets better, certainly in the United States where we are at the very beginning of the curve.

There's a literary tradition of "plague diaries;"  they've been the main source of historical information about the bubonic plague, for example.  But we have the internet now, and I was a blogger long before I was a journalist.  I know from experience how writing and shared experience can benefit both writer and reader.  In any crisis of my life, I turn to words.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

Some people are a bit...wound up. I had someone who has known me for decades chew me out about the headline of an article I posted and then unfriend me.

But for the most part, I not only don't want to get away from social media, I love the way people try to share information and opinions and ideas and ask for help and keep each other entertained and generally shore each other up in the face of trouble. I would never have seen videos of Italians singing to each other from balconies if I wasn't paying attention to social media.

I don't think the barrage of information is "fear-mongering" or bad. If anything, I'm worried people aren't afraid *enough.* The disease is circulating in our communities and people are going about their business like whole countries aren't shut down...whole countries who are about two weeks ahead of us on the timeline. Those people might be fine, but I and others might not, and we can't avoid humans entirely. Their unconcern could kill people.

I've been reading and sharing news, graphs about "flattening the curve" and gallows humor.  I'm currently feeling reasonably good about seeing this coming; I stocked up my kitchen two weeks ago (though I never did make to Costco...I'm going to wait a little while on that), and convinced my husband to start working from home a week or so ago.  As of Wednesday, I stopped all non-essential appointments or outings, and while I went out Friday to interview people for a story I'm canceling all expeditions that don't lead directly to money or groceries.  (I'm going to get my meds delivered). I'm doing a job interview tomorrow that was originally scheduled for in-person.  I'm visiting with friends via Zoom.

Some of that is because I'm diabetic (therefore in a risk category) and I just went through fun times in the hospital with a kidney stone and sepsis last September.  I don't like my chances, though I have a lifetime history of being hard to kill.  Some of it is because I have seasonal allergies (a curse upon Bartlett pears!) and I've been low-key congested, tired, and slightly achey for weeks.  I'm both more susceptible to secondary infections, and more likely to not know that I'm sick until I spike a fever.  So...home it is.

People in Pine Lake where I live and most of my social sphere seem to be taking it seriously.  The weather has been nice but there are fewer people out and about, and the ones who are seem to be keeping a reasonable distance from one another.  I overheard a couple of neighbors talking about carrying a six foot pole to maintain "social distance," and I walked past an exercise class that was being conducted on the beach (presumably because outside was deemed safer, though with Pine Lakers you never know).  City Hall is closed for now, some of the older residents are self-isolating, people are organizing to pick up groceries and run other errands for people who don't want to leave their homes, and one of our neighbors is making elderberry syrup.  Which she is selling for the exact same amount she normally does.   Local governments are also taking it seriously:  schools are shut down, public offices are closing, meetings are being livestreamed.  COVID-19 cases who can't isolate at home for whatever reason are being sent to Hard Labor Creek State Park, which is about an hour from Atlanta, has commercial kitchens in the group camps and lots of room. 

Outside of Pine Lake and on the ground as it were, not so much.  We drove around a bit yesterday to see what was happening.  Wal-Mart was crowded, which is understandable I suppose.  Downtown Stone Mountain was full of people and cars, which is less so. 

It's less an ideological divide than one of temperament and how people get information. As I say my social sphere is mostly taking it seriously, but some on the fringes...aren't.  The difference between left and right politics is mainly in which conspiracy theory/dumbass interpretation they believe, though there's a measurable difference in how many people believe them on each side.  Trump supporters and watchers of Fox News think that either 1) the whole thing is made up to crash the stock market, make Trump look bad, and keep him from getting re-elected, or 2) it's just a "bad flu" that Democrats are politicizing it and blowing out of proportion to make Trump look bad.  Folks on the other side of the ideological line favor the theory that it's being exaggerated to scare people and seize power, or is a bioweapon.  Or they think we can make it go away with lavender oil and positive vibes.  What disturbs me is that while the latter views are mostly being presented by wingnuts who get shouted down pretty quickly by my peers, the former are being taken seriously by people I....would have assumed were smarter than that.


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