Pandemic Diary 10: Poorly Orchestrated

Life in quarantine: The Golden Rule, but with more soap.

* * * *
At the grocery store today, the ratio of shoppers with face protection to naked faces was roughly fifty-fifty. No one in New York State government or Ulster County government has declared the coronavirus pandemic half-over, but half of the shoppers with whom I congregated acted like they think we are more than halfway through the disaster.

Even if we are in fact more than halfway through the disaster, which would equate to another three weeks of quarantine and face masks and the scrubbing of all surfaces, there are no exemptions from the rules. But because my fellow New Yorkers have ignored rules, which is something I usually celebrate about my fellow New Yorkers, our rejection of some of the more superfluous rules in life, well, today, April 10, New York State announced further restrictions on “social distancing”—that dumb phrase from which I wish I could be socially distant—no one can use golf courses from today until April 29.

Why is this? Because New York State did not declare golf courses “nonessential,” so too many individuals discovered the glories of golf in the last three weeks and started to congregate in large groups, crowd into the pro shops, and too many hands to count have touched flags, bunker rakes, and rental equipment.

The subject of the photo at top is my masked face while at the grocery store, and I apologize. My face was a cute one when I was a child, but whoa. The mask is an improvement.

And my mask is not a medical one, I know; it is one that was handmade by a neighbor. She donated some to every house in our development, and there are some two hundred seventy five houses here.

The masks that I saw today worn by the half of the population that chose to wear masks were among the more extreme ones that I have yet seen. It appeared that some of the masked shoppers wanted to wear masks so strong that they would protect us all, even protect the naked faced shoppers from themselves. Some shoppers had masks that looked like asbestos is the problem we all face; others looked like they had dressed up as a salad bar sneeze guard for Halloween.

I am aware that anecdotal evidence is evidence only of someone with an anecdote, but it appeared to me (the one with the anecdote) that some of my neighbors still take the pandemic seriously, perhaps too seriously (Darth Vader salad bar asbestos removal mask), yet others appear to have heard that “New York is flattening the curve” and that this roughly translates to, “Whew! Glad that’s over. Why is that guy inside a salad bar?”

My housemate shopped today at New Paltz’s other grocery store, so I asked him for his anecdotal evidence. He reported that the ratio of masks to non-masks was eighty-twenty in favor of masks, which is better than what I encountered.

More than seven hundred and fifty individuals have died each of the last three days in New York State. Thousands of patients occupy ICU beds throughout the state, and four days ago, my county executive announced that there was one, as in one more than zero, one less than two, one ICU bed available in my county of some three hundred thousand people. (As of yesterday, Ulster County now has four ICU beds. We needed to convert a local high school gym building into a field hospital.)

There are as many different reactions to news as there are people to hear it. No one reaction is right or wrong: my mask may prove to have been comically insufficient, and I may be sick because I walked through a checkout line after a sick someone, and the person who wore the Darth Vader mask and walked through the same checkout will be healthy. In that case, I won’t be around to dress up as a salad bar next Halloween. I do not think that my mask is overkill, however, even though I genuinely hate to have it on my face.

If some reactions are fueled by fear, that saddens me, because information is available for us to retain some personal power in this moment in our shared lives. The straight, clear information tells us to stay home, keep a safe space between one another when in public with others, clean your hands and face like you were always supposed to, and be kind to each other. The Golden Rule, but with more soap. There might be a second wave of this airborne virus, and fear will be of no assistance if that moment arrives.

The greater danger we all face comes when information is treated by some as opinion and opinions are treated as knowledge. I fear that. As I said above, anecdotal evidence is not evidence, and I neither took a formal census of masks to non-masks in my local grocery store today, nor did I stick my press badge in my mask (there’s an idea!) to interview my fellow shoppers about their personal choices of personal protective equipment. My personal conclusion from my anecdote is that too many people, naked faces and mask wearers alike, have begun to treat the situation like it is a style choice, an unfortunate fad which will pass when some celebrity declares that it is time for the next fad.

My experience of the pandemic thus far is that the number of friends and relatives of my personal friends who have already died of COVID-19 is in the double digits and the list grows each day. My personal list includes people of every age and ethnicity already. It is likely that the list will grow longer, and the names closer.

I am furious about this moment in history, for many reasons, but fury will not keep me or my loved ones safe today. I want us all to be here come Election Day, when a combination of fury and love, perhaps split fifty-to-fifty fury to love—like the masks and non-masks at the grocery store today—will guide my vote.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 10 asks us to reflect on the word, “Orchestrate.”

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  1. susiesopinions · April 10, 2020

    It saddens me. I wear my homemade mask.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My little corner · April 10, 2020

    Fine ending! And good picture!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Pandemic Diary 17: So Near, yet so Far | The Gad About Town

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