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The end of the beginning

Started: 2020-04-05 22:01:42

Submitted: 2020-04-06 01:15:38

Visibility: World-readable

Masks are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

This was the first week since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis that nothing changed, and I began to think that, maybe, most of the shoes have dropped.

Which is not to say that I think we're going to see the end of this crisis any time soon. But maybe we've finally reached the end of the beginning, and it's not going to get any worse here — there's credible evidence that Seattle and San Francisco acted early enough to prevent further spread of the disease (including my being exiled from my office four weeks ago), so the local medical system seems poised to handle the expected demand. (My sister Bethany lives in New York City, so I still have a personal stake in the the newly-anointed epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States.) But unless and until we can ramp up testing and contact tracing and come up with a credible plan for reopening enough of society without re-exposing the vulnerable population to the novel Coronavirus, we're going to remain trapped in our houses for the next twelve or eighteen months while we wait expectantly for a vaccine.

(I am not looking forward to anti-vaxers spinning the eventual vaccine, though maybe by that point we as a society will have decided we have had enough of their bullshit and decide to keep them isolated until they grow up and do the right thing and get vaccinated.)

Meanwhile Calvin's school district has figured out a way to count his time as classroom education time, and they've backed down from their steadfast refusal to consider online education on the grounds that it would be inequitable and allow some privileged children to continue to get ahead (which Calvin's teacher never followed anyway). There's still an open question about what happens at the end of the school year; though I can't imagine any solution other than "pass (almost) everyone and hope for the best" is practical.

Julian's preschool inquired about our plans for transitioning him into kindergarten, and all I could do was laugh because there's no way I can come up with a credible plan when I don't know whether school is even going to be open next year, nor do I know where we'll be living (and when we're going to get there). The modal outcome is that Julian never returns to preschool, because by the time the COVID-19 pandemic is under any sort of control it's the summer, Calvin is out of school, and we're moving back to the Bay Area. But there's still so much uncertainty around all of my plans that it pretty much obliterates any tentative plans I can come up with.

The one thing that gives me some hope for finding a job to let me move back to the Bay Area is that the recruiters have, tentatively, began returning to my inbox (after deserting the field entirely in March). This is my crude metric to measure the pulse of the industry (and the strength of my resume) and now I feel like (maybe) hiring is still ongoing as we figure out how to navigate the (temporary) new normal.

Jaeger wearing a home-made cloth mask
Jaeger wearing a home-made cloth mask

The one thing that changed in the news that I felt almost immediately was the CDC's recommendation on Friday that we should all start wearing masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. (Up until this point American public health officials had generally said that masks were unnecessary (because we'd just wear them wrong) and we should save the real masks for real health care providers.) But we didn't have any suitable masks (except for the handful of N95 masks I found in the garage from home repair projects and wildfires), so Kiesa found a pattern online and pulled out the sewing machine from the closet (on indefinite loan from my mother) and cut up an old bed sheet to make a couple of simple reusable cloth masks.

Kiesa sews cloth masks
Kiesa sews cloth masks

It's not really clear how useful home-made cloth masks are at preventing the transmission of COVID-19, though it's probably useful just as a symbol of civic responsibility, in the same way that people in my neighborhood now cross the street or walk in the street itself to avoid meeting people on the sidewalk. (I saw someone on Twitter complain that home-made cloth masks were only 40% effective — which is still way better than nothing, especially when we're trying to reduce transmission from asymptomatic people and reduce the exponential growth of the virus. Reducing R0 by "only" 40% seems like a no-brainer to me.)

Kiesa makes cloth masks
Kiesa makes cloth masks

Over the weekend, within twenty-four hours of the CDC changing its recommendation, I saw (anecdotally) what felt like a meaningful increase in people wearing masks outside: before Friday, I saw only the occasional mask on the sidewalks and paths in Wallingford; after Friday, it seemed like 20-25% of people were wearing masks.

We're one week closer to the end of the crisis and hope seems to be working for me so for so I'm going to go for it.