It’s Going To Be A While

This projection, published Friday by the Chicago Tribune, has really wrecked my mental health.

It’s hard to believe that just staying in, staying away, not touching, is so difficult for us. I mean, the thing we have to do is to not do something. That shouldn’t be so hard, right?

After twenty days of self-isolation here in Chicago, things have been getting hairy. I can see it in the video chats. One group of friends fell into depression on Tuesday. Another set got into a funk a couple days later. The demands on us are just too much. 

For me, it was Wednesday that I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, do any work, do anything. By Friday I had talked myself out of the worst, but I was still emotional, getting teary-eyed at the slightest thing, like scenes in “Hoosiers”, the basketball movie. I shudder to think of what the closing scene in “Field of Dreams” would do to me.

This is the week when how long all of this will last began to sink in. Friday, the Chicago Tribune published studies that projected peaks in Illinois of either mid-May or mid-June. The optimistic scenario of mid-May is still another six weeks from now, twice the length of what we’ve endured so far. So, thinking about how the future may go, the following logic chain has been running through my head:

  1. The peak of Covid infections in the Northern and Coastal U.S. is still at least six weeks away.
  2. After the peak, we still need to ride the curve back down, before we can leave self-isolation, which is likely many weeks more.
  3. Even when we’re allowed out, safety measures will likely ban large gatherings like concerts, sports events, church worship, schools, movie theaters, conferences, and street festivals. There will be some sort of change for bars and restaurants.
  4. Parts of the country that adopted isolation measures later, like the South, may still be suffering from Covid long after places like Chicago. Will that require travel bans? How could they possibly be enforced?
  5. A vaccine is likely more than a year away. Optimists think nine months is possible, but even in that scenario, it will take months more to ramp up production once the vaccine is discovered.

In short: We are going to be living in isolation for at minimum three more months, likely more. When we get out of our isolation, preventing a relapse will require drastic changes in how we live and work, making many of the communal activities we rely on, no longer possible.

Are you having a hard time taking in that last paragraph? I know I am. I actually had to get up and walk around a bit after writing it. 

Things are likely to go back to the way they were in February, but it’s going to take a while. Even then, we are all going to be socially scarred to some degree.

And so we forge on. Already, I’ve had to make a number of big changes. I can’t go swimming, which was my best method for coping with my diagnosed A.D.H.D. My joints aren’t good with running, so I was power walking a bit, which is not as good; but now I can’t because I’m self-quarantining because I had Covid symptoms last week. Maybe find a cheap stationary bike? I’m trying to do lots of video chats to make up for the lack of personal meetings, but even they have diminishing returns. I think today I’ll send postcards. I want to try making some baked goods, but first I need yeast. Friends have sent me articles on how to make airborne yeast, so I’ll do that.

To make it through, we need to be productive. Everything is a struggle, constant change, constant adapting. 

By the time the virus has passed, our world will have changed immeasurably, and so will have we.