Saturday, May 16, 2020

COVID-19 and Our Way of Life

COVID-19 and Our Way of Life: 

I’ve heard too many people say, “I want this quarantine over because I’m sick of being in this house.” I’ve also heard that “they” are making “too much of a big deal about this. People die of other things.” Well, yes, people die of other things, but arguing that people die of other things is ignoring the fact that COVID-19 is highly contagious and people who may be carriers are often asymptomatic. Too many people in this country see this as a “Leftist conspiracy” designed to “persecute” the saint in the White House.  

When will COVID-19 be eradicated from our midst?  We don’t know, and a vaccine seems to be somewhere in the distant future.  This disease has taken its toll on our way of life.  This spring in Louisiana brought none of the festivals we so love.  St. Patrick’s Day festivities were non-existent. French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest, and Greek Fest all were cancelled in the wake of this pandemic. I totally understand the frustration many people feel.  Our anger and frustration does not alone derive from our love of partying and frivolity and our role as the nation’s hedonists (our more judgmental countrymen sometimes label us residents of Louisiana as decadent hedonists). These events and all of our private parties (crawfish boils, church fairs, etc.) reflect our love of life and our communal spirit.  We see friends at these events.  We shake hands, hug, and kiss. We lock hands and sing together.  When Springsteen sang “We Shall Overcome” at Jazz Fest in 2006, we wept together, shared tissues, and hugged.  We share communal meals at church celebrations, and we celebrate events like Mother’s Day with a crawfish boil. We mourn out community; we miss the family and friends we cannot see. Even when we see each other, we do so from safe distances.  We mourn those hugs and lost caresses. 

We mourn for those who have lost their jobs and revenue. Too many of our friends and neighbors no longer have income.  Many of the people who could ill afford to lose jobs have done so.  Economies across the globe are reeling, and we don’t know if even a loosening of restrictions will help in the long run.  The corona cases could spike again.  The hospitals could fill in record time.  We again could face lockdown. 

We also mourn those lost to this virus.  Many of our loved ones have succumbed to this illness.  Many of our loved ones are healthcare professionals who risk their lives daily.  Friends and neighbors work in hospitals, grocery stores, and essential businesses.  They deliver groceries and other goods.  The mail carrier wears gloves and a mask; the nurses and other healthcare professionals have daily temperature checks. 

Will there be a vaccine or a cure? Maybe a vaccine, but no one knows when.  What will happen is that this virus will weave itself into our lives, into our psyches.  We will accept its insidious presence as we did polio, measles, and other debilitating diseases.  We will watch as people sicken and sometimes die.  Living with COVID-19 will become part of our daily lives, as polio was part of our culture in another generation.   We will mourn those who die and celebrate those who recover.  We will learn to adjust—no more hand shakes at church, no more casual kiss when greeting friends.

What will we learn? We have learned the value of people and of all we took for granted.  We have explored our neighborhoods while we exercised, talk to our friends from a safe distance, and taken pleasure in simple things.  A shared movie in the den is a treat.  Eventually, we will have gatherings even with the threat of COVID-19. Our gatherings will be on our outdoor patios.  Each guest will pour wine with sanitary wipes.  We will adapt to handshakes being a thing of the past. Hopefully, we will see the wisdom in the masks as a means of keeping each other safe and look beyond our own convenience. We may pour into the Superdome to see our Saints while we wear masks. I will start the school year wearing a mask and making sure kids are seated far apart.  

This is life in the era of COVID-19. Other eras have lived through plague, polio, and other devastating illnesses.  Eventually, life settled into a rhythm for our ancestors.  It will do so again.  We will adapt to the rhythm.  Hopefully, we can adjust with grace and courtesy for others.