It’s now been almost 8 months since the coronavirus first roared into Connecticut. In the blink of an eye, most of us suddenly found ourselves working from home, dramatically reducing our social activities, or both. It was relatively easy — albeit somewhat unnerving — to close everything down so quickly.
Opening back up, many months later, has proven considerably more challenging, for everyone — requiring strategic planning, innovation, and a willingness to adapt. Approaches have varied widely and have often been tentative and provisional.
Some of our clients have remained in strict self-imposed quarantine, barely venturing outside at all. Many feel particularly vulnerable, due to their age, or because of an additional serious health condition. Others have sadly lost family members or friends to Covid-19. The continuing coronavirus threat undoubtedly feels much more real to them than it does to the rest of us.
At the other end of the spectrum, some people feel that the risk is minimal, and have largely resumed normal activities, with the mandatory face mask at the grocery store as their sole grudging concession to the pandemic.
And yet, we continue to hear cautionary tales, like the wedding in a small town in rural Maine in August, where 65 people gathered inside, without masks, to celebrate. It felt safe. The town of 4,500 residents had not yet had a single case of Covid-19, and none of the 65 attendees had any symptoms that day. Within a few weeks, 177 cases of coronavirus had been traced back to that gathering, including 7 people who died.
Since then, we’ve seen many other large gatherings which also resulted in large numbers of people becoming infected.
And now, 2 months later, with the onset of colder weather and people choosing to be indoors more of the time, we’re seeing a significant rise in new cases. Some argue that this is mostly a result of greatly increased testing. But there’s also been a significant increase in hospitalizations this month — which cannot plausibly be the result of increased testing — and which may or may not lead to an increased death toll over the next few weeks. Let’s hope improvements in treating Covid-19 will at least partially mitigate that deadly result.
Still, bearing all of that in mind, we continue to need to get up each morning and get on with our lives. Most of the time, I find, life is not simply a choice between two polar extremes. There’s nearly always some reasonably safe middle path that also leads forward. I, for example, cannot remain in my home until there’s a vaccine. My mental and physical health won’t survive. However, when I do go out — and I go out every single day — I’m careful. I always wear a mask whenever I’m indoors (except at home, or in my private office space at work). If there are people nearby, I wear my mask outdoors as well. If I get onto an empty elevator, I never remove my mask. Contagious aerosols (much tinier than droplets) typically float in the air for several minutes, or even longer, and I have no way of knowing if someone with Covid-19 was on the elevator 3 minutes ago.
On the weekends my girlfriend Cathy and I hit the road. In the past 4 months we’ve been to Brattleboro and Bennington, to Saratoga Springs and Brooklyn, to Williamstown, Amherst, and Northampton, and to Narragansett and Newport. Plus, a dozen small towns and cities here in CT. Often we visit an art museum. Many of them have re-opened. An advance reservation is now required, with timed entries. So far, each of the museums has controlled the traffic flow very well, allowing only a few people in each room at one time.
We always bring along some Clorox wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and extra gloves and face masks when we travel. Because you never know how comfortable you’ll feel about the strange bathroom you need to use when you’re far from home. We also always bring some snacks to tide us over, in case we can’t find a place to eat that feels safe. We never eat inside. Ever. It’s either uncrowded sidewalk dining or take-out.
I guess this is the “new normal,” at least for now. And you know what? It’s not so bad, at all. We’re still enjoying ourselves. Having fun. Being stimulated and feeling good about life. Happy. And staying safe.