The COVID Diaries #1

It’s suddenly getting very real.

My family of five and I are battening down the hatches. After watching the virus spread around the world over the last few weeks, it’s now spreading rapidly in Australia. At the time of writing there are about 200 cases confirmed, but we know that testing is running 2-3 days behind. In addition, some friends in the medical world are telling me that they’re seeing patients who almost certainly have the virus, but importantly, don’t have a good history of transmission. My suspicion is that it’s actually everywhere, we just haven’t been able to confirm it yet.

The political climate has certainly accelerated, and the attitude of general society. What last week was speculation and panic-buying toilet paper has turned into hysteria and panic-buying everything.

My family started stocking up food a few weeks ago. We tend to be worst-case-scenario kind of people, so that is the kind of thing we normally do. But I’m glad we did, because we are now in a situation where we’re not dependent on whatever is left on the pillaged shelves of our local supermarket. At the moment it seems to be bare of staples, and there isn’t much left in terms of fresh fruit and vegies, or meat. I suspect that the fresh stuff will be restocked relatively soon because it’s still being grown on the farms, but I’m not sure about the staples. The bare sheves don’t reflect a real shortage, just people’s worry about one. I do worry about food security and dodgy supply chains in the near future though.

Wife and I spent much of the morning calling our older relatives and suggesting actions which are likely to improve their chances. None of them are old, so they’re probably fairly safe, but their risk is certainly higher than, say, mine. Luckily they all have good options for hunkering down and getting some serious Netflix hours in. Unfortunately they won’t be able to spend time with my branch of the family as the risk of cross-infection is too high. It’s a good time to learn out how to operate FaceTime.

I’m optimistic about the experience of potential isolation and lockdown. A year or so ago I read a book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger (recommended!), which described some of the ways that major stresses like war often improve people’s lives, in the long term. People who have suffered through sieges (or the Blitz) often miss the cameraderie of those days. I hope that my family will have the same experience if (when) the schools are closed down. Unfortunately we are supposed to be moving house next week, but if that manages to go ahead, then we’ll just have a project to work on together – setting up the house.

In planning for the closure of schools, I took the kids to the library today and basically borrowed all the books that there are. Big Girl was great – spent a lot of time thoughtfully gathering things which she might find useful for her studies as well as another 8 books in a series that she’s reading. Little Girl and Boy were less helpful, but given they’re 4 and 1.5 respectively, I think I can forgive them. I collected some suitably hefty tomes, but not much more substantial than I’d normally read. I’ve learned from experience that situations like this are actually not the right time to read War and Peace. It’s tough to concentrate and maintain focus, despite ample time. Better to re-read an old favourite.

The shadow looms though. Wife and I are both frontline healthcare workers, and despite all of this vaguely jolly planning we still have to go to work. I think that it is very likely that we will both contract COVID-19 in the coming weeks. We’re healthy and young (ish) so we’ll probably be fine. We will almost certainly give it to the kids, but they will probably also be ok. But we will then have to self- isolate, and won’t be able to work for a while.

I worry about the strain that all of this will put on the health system, both for infected people and also for “normal” sick people. I expect this to go through nursing homes like a dose of the salts. We may see a couple of years’ worth of deaths of the 80-plus cohort in the next month or so.

There may be a bright side though – historical experience of wars and crises indicates that mental health presentations actually go down in times like this, probably due to a rise in community spirit and a change in focus for the affected individual. Mental health is a major component of our healthcare burden, so that may be a silver lining.

Anyway, I plan to update this series of posts every couple of days or whenever I think of something worth writing. It’s a nice way to get it all out of my head and maybe give other people a relatable insight. Perhaps it might even be a useful source of nostalgia in coming years.

~ Keep your distance ~ Wash your hands ~ Call your peeps ~ Stay strong ~


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