The Loved One and I are going on our tenth day of semi-quarantine. I qualify it with that prefix because we have gone out to the grocery store a couple of times (and purchased half of Kroger’s corporate inventory each visit) and we have gone for long rides out in the country twice.
Even Gov. Holcomb’s declaration that the state of Indiana is being quarantined starting tonight isn’t really a quarantine. He calls it, rightly, a “stay-at-home” order. Plenty of businesses will still be open — including the Kroger liquor department, thank the lord in heaven. And state parks will remain open, which means TLO and I can still enjoy our Sunday afternoon drives. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area on the south end of Lake Patoka. Honestly, if you haven’t gotten down there, go. It’s pretty as all get out, especially now with the green grass coming in and flowers and tree blossoms bursting out all over the place.
Anyway, for the first few days of our self-imposed home imprisonment, I kept looking out the window as if I’d actually see the novel coronavirus creeping toward our house. I don’t know what I expected — a cloud of microorganisms, maybe. I checked the sky. I studied the clouds. I watched the wind rustle the barely-budding branches of the trees around our house. I was on the alert for any sign or omen that this horrifying thing had at last overtaken Bloomington.
It actually took until just a couple of days ago for me to fully realize that I won’t be able to see the danger. That the outdoors are not perilous. People are the danger. Other people.
Or maybe even me. That is, me being a danger to other people. Am I carrying this thing? Who knows? Am I one of the lucky ones who catches it and experiences no symptoms. Or even if I do come down with COVID-19, will it be virus-lite, like the kind Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had down in Australia?
And, for chrissakes, Australia? This damned thing is on the other side of the planet as well as around Courthouse Square. It’s all over the world. This pandemic is something nobody has ever experienced before. Oh sure, there’ve been plagues but did people even know about them until after they’d been mowing down populations for years or even decades? We have 24-hour instant news now, much to our benefit (and detriment). COVID-19 was ID’d as a fast-spreading malady in December 2019, a scant three months ago. It was declared a pandemic by the World Health Org. just 13 days ago. Billions of people on this Earth know about it and are terrified of it. The Black Plague killed anywhere from 75 – 200 million people in Europe and Asia from 1347 to 1351. Four short years. How quickly did the average resident of Pisa or Jerusalem learn about the disease? It sure as hell wasn’t a mere few weeks after it had begun wreaking its vengeance in Mongolia. Countless numbers of humans were dropping like flies all along the Silk Road long before any Genoese realized the bug had reached that trade terminus.
Our fear right now is a dreadful anticipation, something the Asians and Europeans of the 14th century didn’t have to experience. People began to realize things were screwy only when scads of them had already turned up dead. In the 21st Century, we’re petrified now and likely will be horrified when the virus’s real human toll begins to peak.
No, there aren’t any visual cues that the world suddenly is a dangerous place. The sun shone brilliantly today. Sprouts and blooms are emerging everywhere you look. The forsythias are spectacular. Chives are popping up every five feet or so on every lawn. There are daffodils galore. And down near Lake Patoka, the blossoms of tulip poplars and flowering dogwoods are bursting open.
This is my absolute favorite time of the year. There are colors. There is warmth. The sun is higher in sky, seemingly, every day. Yet maybe a million Americans will die of this creeping, encroaching disease. Acc’d’g to the Centers for Disease Control, some 2,813,503 people in this country died in 2017 (the most recent year for which the CDC offers mortality figures on its website). So millions of our neighbors keeling over is not unusual. In fact, it’s the norm.
Still, we shudder to think of what this novel coronavirus will do to us and we hide in our houses. My social media feed shows a wide range of reactions to the threat. They range from some people fretting about the end times. Truly, I know some who are warning that we’ll all be wiped out — or, at least, so many of us will die that civilization itself will be rendered unrecognizable. On the other end of the spectrum, a few folks are asking what the big deal is. One guy I know wrote on his timeline, “We’re all going to die but for almost all of us it won’t be from COVID-19. Keep calm and carry on.”
Me? I’m willing to bet we’re all going to lose at least one person we know, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker. How do I know this? I don’t. I don’t know nothin’.
Nobody does. And maybe that’s the scariest part of this whole tale.