So where are we? It has been 140 days since we shut down here — 20 weeks. The US, with 8% of the world population, has 27% of the covid cases. We’re doing a little better than that on deaths, though, with only 23% of the world total. If the states were countries, the top ten would be in Brazil, India, Russia, California, South Africa, Florida, New York, Mexico, and Peru. Oregon is way down the list, after Nepal and Rhode Island.
Although cases have been rising here in Oregon, we continue to do well, with only 0.4% of our population infected. (Florida, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, and Louisiana all have infection rates above 2%, or more than 5 times Oregon’s rate.)
A list of the US hot spots came out a few days ago, listing more than 20 states. Three of those are states bordering Oregon: California, Nevada and Idaho. If we were to drive somewhere but stay out of the hot spots, we could go to Washington state, but that would be it since the Canadian border is closed. I guess we’ll stay home.
Staying home, one day blends into the next. When I retired, I could keep track of the days of the week even though I no longer had to go into work. Sunday was church, and trash pickup was on Monday and Thursday. Now our church attendance — via livestream or Zoom — has become sporadic. And trash pickup is less of an issue since I’m no longer responsible for putting the bins out. It’s harder for me to track the days now.
Just sitting around at home should be easy, but it’s not. A friend sent something written by a psychotherapist. As I read it, the gist is that this time of pandemic and shutdown is hard for us because it is unprecedented. Our psyches don’t know how to handle it. We seek certainty, but there is none — especially with all the conflicting noise coming out of Washington. Besides the uncertainty, our brain is being deprived of the social nutrients it needs to function. The neuroscientist Dr. Hilke Plassmann coined the term Covid-19 brain. She describes it as, “a fragile, frazzled state that keeps our thoughts simultaneously on edge and unfocused.” That’s me: on edge and unfocused.
Another part of this, I think, is that we’ve gotten used to fast data. We don’t even have to wait until we get to the library to look something up — we can do it on our phone. But the data is not there. We’re still learning how this virus is transmitted and how it affects us. We know a lot more than we did in February or even last month, but there is still an awful lot we don’t know. When we add in the misinformation touted by the White House, we’re even worse off.
Then there’s the political situation. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer set off weeks and now months of protests. It looked like this country was finally ready to begin dealing with its long-established structural racism. The president, sensing an opportunity to change the subject from his failure on the pandemic, began stoking the flames. Federal police dressed as paramilitaries showed up to egg on the violence. Our governor has announced an agreement with the White House that may — may — de-escalate tensions and begin a withdrawal of the secret police.
On a more personal level, Andrea and I have been under a lot of stress since January trying to resolve an issue unrelated to covid or politics. (We’re fine. The disagreement was outside our family.) That seems to be close to resolution. We’re not there yet, but at least we can now see that there actually is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the weekend, Andrea and I drove to a park halfway between our house and my daughter’s and spent a few hours outside with her family and our son’s family. We were in a park, wearing masks and staying six feet and more apart. I found it very, very hard to be that close and not be able to hug anyone or even share a meal. And Andrea somehow picked up something that made her all stuffy and caused a rash that she is still treating with calamine five days later.
But then a few days later we went over to Andrea’s brother’s house. He set up his spotting ‘scope and showed us the craters of the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. The craters were neat, and Jupiter and its moons were one small dot with three tiny dots, but Saturn with its rings just amazed me. I couldn’t stop saying “Wow!” It changed our perspective a little. The pandemic, the social unrest, the steady stream of venom spewing out of the White House, our loneliness and uncertainty. And then there are the amazing planets far, far away, doing their own thing, spinning about our sun in the vast universe. It was beautiful.