Asking for a Friend

Society is opening up again, for better or worse. Still, it’s unclear exactly what to expect with this whole COVID-19 situation.

For better or worse, the virus feels less dangerous right now. One recent study seems to suggest that infection is a “one-and-done” prospect now. That is, that if a person gets the virus and then recovers, he or she won’t get it again. (This is contrary to some of the early science and testing that seemed to suggest reinfection was possible). Another recent study seems to suggest that it’s actually not that easy to pick up the virus from surfaces. (Apparently, the early indications that the virus might stick around for up to three days were the result of dead RNA, not living virus looking for a host).

In any event, people aren’t just staying at home anymore. Shops and restaurants are reopening for business. Granted, there is a lag between what we’re doing now and how we can observe the spread of the virus. Even so, late-May feels very different from early-April.

Still, it’s hard to know what to think or feel when even the very best science we can muster is ever and only “seeming to suggest” a particular situation. And corresponding plan of attack. It’ll take time before we can do any better. And in the meantime, we all have to make complicated choices in a complicated world of chaos and uncertainty. Our early-April dynamics may not have been sustainable. Even if they might have been the safest or our physical well-being, they opened up risk for our emotional well-being, social well-being, and economic well-being. So now we’re trying to navigate these tensions. I find it both fascinating and frustrating. Different people are responding to this reopening of society in different ways. It’s really kind of remarkable.

Where are we going to end up? What is wisdom in this situation? How should a person respond to all the different opinions and inferences and insinuations about shut-downs and re-openings and mitigation strategies?

Asking for a friend.

Here in Kent, people are generally pretty cautious. I’d guess that the mask usage at our local Acme Fresh Market (grocery store) is ~ 75%. And even as shops and restaurants have started reopening, I haven’t seen or heard much in the way of overcrowding. A majority of my acquaintances are still working from home. And even when people go out for walks they typically do the “dance” of crossing streets or jumping the curb to go roadside in order to accommodate personal spacing as much as possible. No one seems to particularly enjoy the shut-down that we’ve been experiencing these last two months; still, people are likely to talk about how it’s “too soon” for the governor to be opening things back up again.

Back in Richland County, where I grew up, people are approaching things pretty differently. I’ve heard that mask usage at the local Cornell’s Supercenter (grocery store) is ~ 10%. Even before the re-openings of the last week or two, I’ve heard about crowded hardware stores and drug stores. People don’t seem to be particularly concerned about personal spacing concerns. A lot of people I know from Richland County have already been back on the job for weeks. And they seem far more likely to talk about how they’re “so done” with personal restrictions.

I used to go on Facebook to keep in touch with people who live far away. I used to enjoy seeing family photos and reading updates about who’s getting married, having babies, graduating, moving, et cetera… Now, though, I go to Facebook for a lot of the same reasons that others go to the zoo. It’s a diversion motivated by fascination at the bizarre variety of creatures with weird habits and instincts. Talk about chaos! The variety of opinions — and the degree of passion with which they are held — is astonishing. And what’s even more astonishing is that it’s entirely possible for a person to relate to many different — contradictory — points on the spectrum of public opinion. It actually seems reasonable for a person to shift one’s position from day to day, or even hour to hour!

So I’m legitimately curious to hear from others: How are you approaching these dynamics? How do you decide (or how did you decide) what steps to take, when it comes to re-integrating with the rest of society? And how do you (or did you) decide the tone you’d use to communicate your perspectives with the rest of the world?

Asking for a friend.

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