Tomorrow, Friday May 29, will end the 11th week of Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order first issued on March 16. That seems like a long time ago, and it also seems like just yesterday. I remember walking 5 miles around my neighborhood the next day: typically busy El Camino Real had almost no traffic, only a few essential stores were open, and the parks and sidewalks were empty. It was eerily quiet, and a little ominous. But busses were running, garbage was getting picked up, and mail was being delivered. The number of Covid-19 cases and reported deaths were climbing, and I could sense the danger of the virus in the air.
But it was a sunny and warm day, and I felt determined that following the advice from public health and medical professionals would help me and my loved ones to stay safe.
Then, I fought the virus from entering my home by washing my hands, wiping down everything I touched, limiting errands to the most vital needs, and going on long walks early in the morning when fewer people were out. My physician husband went to work at the clinic or the ICU every day, leaving his scrubs and shoes in the garage before he entered the safe haven I had protected all day. I improved my Zoom skills so I could stay in touch with the parents and children I coach, and so I could continue to offer parenting workshops. And I connected with friends and family more than usual, though always virtually.
And here we are with over 1.6 million confirmed cases and over 100,000 confirmed deaths (with the real numbers of both estimated to be much higher). The sadness and hopelessness I feel over all the suffering and loss are overwhelming at times. The anxiety I feel over knowing that the virus is still present, and the awareness that we must still be vigilant in protecting ourselves, can feel overwhelming too.
Now, we’ve learned a lot in the past 11 weeks. We know that the virus is spread the fastest at indoor locations, which offer close contact with large groups of people. We know that wearing a mask and keeping a 6’ social distance are ways to reduce the risk. We know that the hospitals and the local health care system are not overrun. We know that the SIP order helped save lives. And we know that parents can rise to the occasion again, and add “teacher” to their long list of skills.
While grocery shopping still feels like an adventure, my local grocery store offers free disinfectant wipes as I enter, there are spacing marks on the floor, and we now know that the virus is rarely spread through contact with food. So I am more comfortable as I enter the store, and appreciate seeing masks on all my fellow shoppers and clerks.
While I dearly miss getting together with a group of people, my husband and I are now comfortable with having our closest friends (only 2 at a time) in our backyard to share a socially distanced meal. And while it’s sad to not be able to hug, just being together in person feels healthy and healing.
Looking into the future, I see masks, socially distancing, and small groups becoming the norm. I see schools opening in the fall, though we don’t yet know exactly what they will look like. I see dine-in restaurants opening up, though I don’t yet know when I will l want to visit one. I see some friends saying they are going to continue to stay home, and others who can’t wait to venture outside. Some people will continue to wipe down packages, and some won’t. We all must do what feels the safest to us. So let’s all respect each other, and accept that others might do things differently than us. Let’s acknowledge that we still are living in a pandemic and life still feels challenging.
What is needed now is patience and kindness and thoughtfulness, and not telling others what to do. These are confusing and difficult times for many of us, and our acceptance of other’s feelings can go a long way. We don’t need to tell others what they should do; we do need to do what feels right for us.
A lot has changed from then to now. But some advice has remained the same: wear a mask, avoid large crowds, keep 6” apart from others, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. Be considerate when out in public (and at home), be kind, and together we’ll get through this.