We are 10 days into our local stay home order, and a week into our statewide order. I had to cancel my trip to the midwest to visit my mom, who is elderly and 2 years out from open heart surgery. She lives alone with my sister nearby and is doing great by the way. This meant I had 6 nights off before going back to my ED nursing job. I was faced with a choice; do I pick up extra shifts because our department always operates short staffed even before the pandemic started, or do I take advantage of nights off at home, to rest up and eat well and get outside in the sunlight. I spent time reading the emails from my manager and the hospital administration, I read posts from colleagues about nurses being quarantined, I read about the PPE situation in the department and, the posts from my union rep about actions to take and I realized that this pandemic is going to be a marathon so I decided to take the time off as a gift. I rarely stay home when I am off from work more than a few nights, we usually travel somewhere, so this time at home feels like a gift. I have been spending the time doing spring cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen. I am working on a project clearing out 32 years of stored stuff that I have been avoiding for the last 5 years. I have had time to snuggle on the couch in front of movies, do a little cooking and play my guitar.
I find myself reading studies about SARS trying to understand the truth about what we actually know. Nursing is my third career and my first one was as a research microbiologist. I know how to look at data, and read research studies, and I understand infectious diseases and how they spread. I question every headline and statement I see in the news or on social media, how do they know that? what studies are they basing that statement on? I follow the CDC, WHO and other data driven websites and make my own conclusions about what the data seems to be telling us. I try not to post statements that I can’t back up with facts, and I don’t apologize for being a nerdy science type. Because of this background I am usually calm and don’t freak out at every little thing because I can look beneath the sensationalism and find the facts. This virus is new however, and we have little history about it’s behavior. We can extrapolate and predict based on the behavior of similar viruses, we can model systems of transmission and study how to protect ourselves. The truth is, we are not far enough into this pandemic to have the data we need to make some of the decisions we need to make. It is going to take time and trust in the scientific community (not the political or corporate community) to do the experiments; studying the epidemiology, developing a vaccine, and developing antivirals that can mitigate course of infection and maybe even act prophylactically. We have not seen anything like this on a global level before. Other novel infections have been contained in certain locales long enough to develop ways to fight them with vaccines or medication protocols. The time for containment of this virus is long past; we must self isolate, be meticulous with hand washing and take care of our immune systems.
So what is the good in this? Many people get to spend more time with their families, focused on each other and what is important to them. We as a community are finding ways to help each other with errands, check ins, and support. We are all learning more about technology and how we can connect virtually. There has been an outpouring of music on the internet from artists all over the world. In the long run our healthcare system will have to improve, as this pandemic is exposing lots of places where we are grossly unprepared for a pandemic or other kinds of disasters.
I tend to look at the world though a healthcare and science lens, and rely on others to take care of the economy. I don’t have talent or much interest in deeply understanding how the economy works, however, I have been forced to learn a lot in the last five years since becoming a single parent and putting a child through college on a single income. I am grateful that I have a good, stable job (that I happen to love) with great benefits. But not all are so lucky. Two of my 3 young adult children are without income right now. I am supporting one and the other is managing on savings and scrambling to create new income streams. It is a scary time for everyone, and I am quite aware that my family is privileged. My kids will be ok in the long run, they are resourceful, smart and generous, and I am in a place to help them if they need it.
My heart aches for those without safety nets. Without income, or most of all without people to lean on. I try to end each day with gratitude.