Sunday, February 06, 2022

The Great Confinement

It all began two years ago—the first case of Covid 19 in the United States was in January 2020.  It was scary:  people in the nursing homes in New York were dying regularly.  We didn’t know how to deal with it. 

Our first response was to stay home and order groceries to be delivered.  We did that a couple of times.  Then we started going to the Bashas across the street from our resort.  Many products were in short supply.  One day we walked home with toilet paper in our bag.    We received comments—“you found toilet paper!!” 

There were lock downs.  Don’t go anywhere. We did stay home but in Arizona shopping for food was still allowed.  That wasn’t true in other parts of the country.  In some countries, you could be arrested for being on the streets or sidewalks unless you were shopping for food or seeking medical care.

The vaccines were developed, and mass vaccination sites set up.  I spent hours on-line, first just trying to connect to the overloaded website to sign up.  When I did get in, the only time slots available were 6 am or after 9 pm.  We settled on 6 am.  That meant leaving our home about 5am, diving to the parking lot at the State Farm arena in Chandler, snaking through the long line of cars to get in and then to get our shots.  We repeated this a month later except we made our appointment during the first vaccination trip.

We had entered the world of mask-wearing.  One woman wrote on Facebook, “I never guessed I would be wearing a mask and going to the teller in my bank and saying, “give me my money.”  I don’t think any of us had expected to live under these conditions.  I adjusted to it by reminding myself, again and again, this was nowhere as bad as living in Germany during World War II.  We didn’t have to hide in the basement whenever we heard an airplane.  We just had to social distance—keep 6 feet way from anyone not living in our household.  Signs sprung up, marking the 6 ft intervals on the floor or sidewalk.  Many of those signs are still in place.  There were one-way signs in grocery store aisle.  (Thankfully, those are gone.)

When we left Arizona in the spring to travel to Colorado, we found RV parks where we called in when arriving in their parking lot.  Someone, wearing a mask, then came out of the office to check us in.  Traveling through small towns in Colorado, we found the 6 ft signs in stores, but at least the stores were open. 

Our granddaughter Kylie made masks for us and for some friends.  It was a short-term experiment in entrepreneurship.  I don’t think she is planning that kind of business for her future.  Teaching school is where she is headed.

For a year, many schools were closed.  Our son Eric and his wife Liz are school teachers.  Once some schools were open for in-person learning, they had to be prepared to teach in the classroom and also online for students remaining at home.  For months, they could never be sure if they would be teaching students in the classroom or looking at a camera and teaching online students.  Some days, Eric as doing both.   All this was hard on the students and even harder on the teachers.

For the 2021-22 academic year, the schools in Littleton were open.  John, our grandson and the son of Eric and Liz, doesn’t feel he learned as much with only virtual classes and he missed his friends.  This last fall was better, they were in the classroom. Right now, things are iffy.  Their daughter, Kylie, is attending the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She is planning to go to on-campus classes this semester.

This has been going on for long enough, many are choosing not to follow the guidelines.  Today we saw a speaker on TV, talking with his mask on to a microphone (and perhaps a live audience.)  The people standing behind him were not wearing masks.  Political leaders across the country have imposed mask mandates while being seen and photographed maskless in indoor gatherings. On Sundays, when we go to church, the members of the choir are wearing masks.  Since most, if not all, of them are over age 55, I am willing to bet almost all of them, are vaccinated.

We jumped at the chance to get vaccinated—2 shots of the Pfizer vaccine last spring here in Arizona and a booster from Walgreens during the summer.  Apparently, that is not our ticket to freedom, as we were promised.  Some stores and other locations have signs reading “masks required,” some say, “masks required unless fully vaccinated.”  And now, there are signs reading "the CDC recommends wearing masks when gathered indoors.  Please be considerate of your neighbors and wear a mask."

Now it appears our shots protect us from severe illness and hospitalization and death, but not from getting Covid.  Our son Eric has received all three shots, but he still got sick.  He felt miserable and ran a fever for several days. He just turned 50.  We are 78 and we certainly don’t want to get sick like he did.  But I really feel we were deceived.  Oh, I know, this is a new virus, the “experts” aren’t really expert yet, but we are still vulnerable.  Omicron is much less serious, but it still causes illness and some hospitalizations.

A Johns Hopkins study showed that mandated lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced coronavirus-related mortality by 0.2 per cent on average, compared to a Covid-19 policy based solely on government recommendations, according to a review of science literature on the pandemic by three noted European and American economists.

There are so many contradictions.  Mask mandates are accompanied by an increasing number of medical people saying cloth masks do not protect you.  If that isn’t an incentive to ignore the mask mandates and “strong recommendations” that we wear them, I don’t know what is.  Since January we have been asked to wear a mask while indoors at church.  The CDC, fountain of all “knowledge” about the pandemic, says that in areas of high transmission, masks should be worn in all indoor gatherings.  Why did I get vaccinated? 

I know, I don’t want to go to the hospital or die if I get covid.  But for a year our president has called this the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”  Now, that doesn’t appear to be true.  Just dying is the province of the unvaccinated. 

Then I read about the death rate and how many of those in hospitals and those dying are from covid or just with covid.  Will I live long enough to really know? 

I just had blood tests as part of my annual physical exam.  I do have covid anti-bodies from my vaccinations.  I guess that is really good news.  One of our neighbors here in Arizona was in intensive care and on oxygen for about a month with covid.  But she still needed to be vaccinated because a blood test showed she didn’t have any anti-bodies.  What is real? 

I have always been extremely compliant with rules and laws.  So, I wear a mask when asked or directed to.  But, more and more, I ask “Is all this really necessary?  Will we find out in a few years that the mandates, the mask rules or “strong suggestions”, the social distancing are really only effective in making us “feel “safe.  And in making our political leaders feel they are “doing something”?

The good news is that our society is back open.  We can go to the store, go to church, go to school and concerts and movies.  Life is more back to normal (that is a ridiculous statement.)  It is either back to normal or it’s not.  But we aren’t really back to where we were in December 2019 before all this began. But our society is not shut down.  We can live our lives, even if that means wearing a mask while singing in church.

I feel betrayed. And angry. Realizing there is no one to blame, I still feel that way.  I’ll live with it, follow the guidelines and try to stay healthy.