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Bending the curve

Started: 2020-03-22 21:12:43

Submitted: 2020-03-23 00:21:21

Visibility: World-readable

I wanted zombies, this virus sucks

After two weeks of whiplash from all of the reactions to COVID-19, things settled down into a new normal.

Kiesa and I continued working from the house all week. Calvin's school remained closed, and Kiesa tried to come up with the right home-school program to keep him occupied and learning. Julian's preschool is still open, but we kept him in the house because we could and to reduce our overall exposure profile (and to free up his slot in preschool that someone else might be able to use it). Sharon, our au pair, has pivoted to taking care of Julian all day long; I think she has played several dozen games of Catan Junior by now.

With everyone in the house all week long, leaving only for short errands (and vigorous hand-washing when we returned), we were effectively sheltering-in-place, although we are not currently under any official mandates to do so. Nothing has changed since last Sunday, when restaurants and coffee shops were ordered to serve take-out or delivery only. After two weeks of churn and the daily deluge of new closures and cancellations it was oddly disconcerting to suddenly have nothing change. I keep on waiting for the next shoes to drop, and I can't help but worry that I've stumbled into Imelda Marcos' closet and there are an unknowably large number of shoes yet to drop.

"I wanted zombies, this virus sucks"

I continued to carefully ration my trips out of the house. My neighborhood coffee shop, Irwin's, switched to take-out-only. I dropped by twice during the week for coffee, to get out of the house and to try to support the local business, and saw one of the baristas who now knows me by name (from visiting in happier times, a few weeks ago). I asked how things were going in the otherwise-empty shop and he sighed and said "Well I still have a job." I tried to put my own tribulations in perspective: even though my world has been turned up-side-down in the span of a couple of weeks, I don't have to worry about my job or my mortgage.

I tried to keep a schedule that vaguely resembled a regular work schedule. There were a couple of days when I was able to get several whole hours of productive work done at a time, and a couple of days when I wasn't able to concentrate enough to do much of anything. My team set up a video chat for our twice-weekly standup, which helped a bit with the social isolation.

I also took the time to prune my Twitter feed of accounts that do not give me joy. I'm sure it helps some people to post dire worst-case scenarios and attempt to Twitter-shame everyone into locking themselves in their closets, but this is not what I need to be reading. I also decided that I needed to post more cat pictures on the Internet, so I created a new Twitter feed @cats_willow, just for my cat Willow. Most of the pictures so far are Willow lounging in the sun in my bedroom, because that's the room I've repurposed as an office during the day so that's where I spend most of my time. (This is now my fourth Twitter account, but so far I'm managing to keep them all straight.)

Willow sits in the corner
Willow sits in the corner

I have now been exiled from work for more than two weeks, so I at least know that I didn't catch COVID-19 from work. What I don't know is how long we're going to be effectively locked down waiting and hoping. We don't even know if we've been successful in bending the curve by reacting when we did; if we're lucky maybe Seattle will be spared a massive catastrophe. But bending the curve is just buying time (time we've already squandered with the colossal fuck-up of not having enough test kits available and ready to go); my take-away from the Imperial College London study was that the total capacity of the acute care system is several orders of magnitude too small to be able to handle the cases that would result from everyone returning to their life. So we have a couple of worst-case scenarios to choose from: megadeaths from the virus running rampant through the unprotected population, or eighteen months of lockdown while we wait for a vaccine and hope it's effective enough to grant herd immunity and kill off the virus for good.

Or maybe, other people in my Twitter feed suggest, there's hope: if we surge testing capability and the capacity of the health care system maybe we can begin to release the lock-downs. But that's weeks or months away; and until then, it's clear this is going to get worse (and even odds it'll get cataclysmically worse) before it starts to get better.