Limbo. The word originated with the Latin limbus, meaning boundary or border. In Catholic theology it’s the place between heaven and hell, for those who die in original sin but aren’t among the damned in the underworld. It has nothing to do with the dance shown below, though it feels like the pandemic has forced me into similar contortions.
Hell. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, it’s other people. It’s also the realm whose hottest, most painful spot should be reserved for WHOEVER INVENTED THE BLOODY LEAF BLOWER THAT’S BLASTING OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. But I digress.
If J. P. had to navigate this country right now, he’d amend his definition to “unvaccinated, unmasked other people and the shitheads who lead them on.” (That’s connards for all you French purists.)
Smart. What jam-packed football stadiums are not. Kudos to LSU and the other schools that require proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Mandate. Formerly a bureaucratic buzzword; now radioactive. Not to be confused with mansplaining. However, the rabid anti-mandaters are often overbearing, bad-tempered men, while the nurses who hold their hands in their last moments are almost always women.
The Fish Cheer. If you’re too young to remember Woodstock (or got so stoned that you forgot you were there): This was when Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe & the Fish yelled, “Gimme an F! Gimme a U!” etc., from the stage and the crowd yelled the letters and the word back at him.
It’s official: #CovidIsNotOver, not with that hashtag and the picture above suddenly trending on Twitter. I knew the pandemic was still with us, but am feeling whipsawed by the confusing information and “guidance” coming from everywhere, and suspect I’m not the only one. Let’s see if we have all this straight.
The super-contagious Delta variant is now causing the majority (51.7% as of July 9) of U.S. cases.
Cases and hospitalizations are both rising, especially where the vaccination rate is low. (Here in Georgia it’s only about 25% in some spots.)
Studies in Israel indicate Pfizer vaccine is significantly less effective against Delta, even with two jabs.
The CDC says schools should fully reopen, and fully-vaccinated students and teachers don’t need masks inside buildings.
There’s no vaccine for kids under 12. In some states, the rate for those 12-18 is abysmal. (2% last month in Alabama. That’s two, not 20.)
After sixteen months, it’s depressing to realize how much we still don’t know. It’s equally disheartening and infuriating to think how little we’re willing to do in the name of collective safety.
The CDC is not recommending that schools require vaccination for students and staff. What happens when an unmasked, Trump-loving, vax-hating teacher infects a classroom? Meanwhile, do we pause or reverse other reopenings, like dine-in restaurants, offices, theaters, bars, concert halls, museums, hair salons, gyms, bookstores, and life?
I’m okay with keeping my head down and my mask on a while longer. It’s still getting awfully damn old, friends. Take care and be safe.
We’re not there yet, still have miles to go before we sleep, but the news that vaccinated people can go without masks in most places is the clearest signal yet that we’re heading toward the finish line. That led me to think about how we got here, all the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the last fourteen months, so I put together a roundup. (Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com).
March 25, 2020: I’ve hardly been out of the condo for three weeks. Except for my wife, my last offline human interaction was five days ago with a grocery clerk. Every time I wash my hands, which is often, I feel like Lady MacBeth: “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” But I know I’m one of the lucky ones and hope everyone understands that yes, we are in this together.
April 17, 2020 (after a trip to the grocery store): At home, we wipe everything down with disinfectant before stowing it. Some of the experts say this isn’t necessary but as long as grocery workers are getting sick we’re not taking any chances, however small. The people at the local Kroger’s are always helpful, polite, and understanding. One of them told us he’s an out-of-work actor.
May 13, 2020: I deeply miss non-virtual contact, concerts, theaters, salad bars, dive bars, parks, haircuts, handshakes, barbecue, beach sunsets, and much more. I realize this doesn’t mean a damned thing when millions of us are missing food on the table and an untold number are missing the loved ones they’ve lost. The problems of a person like me don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
June 30, 2020: I hope everyone who reads this wears a mask, but if you don’t mind looking like a ’50s sci-fi spaceman, there’s another option: a face shield. I’ve been giving one a shakedown cruise for the last few weeks and plan to stick with it. (Update: I ditched it after a few months. It turned out to be cumbersome and no safer than a mask.)
July 22, 2020: My shoulder hurts again. The pain flares out from the joint, up the side of my neck, almost to the top of my head. I can’t take Tylenol because I already took some for my other headache, the one that comes from not sleeping. I was half-awake most of the night, dreaming of disjointed voices and images. I should get my shoulder looked at, but even though they take plenty of precautions, I’m nervous about risking a visit to a doctor’s office.
August 4, 2020: In less than 24 hours last week I learned that two friends have the virus, one in a hospital, the other recovering at home. I worry about these good people and can’t do much for them except hope. I knew it was only a matter of time before the monster struck inside my circle. Even so, there’s an extra trace of fear and uncertainty in my gut, an ember that won’t burn out.
September 1, 2020: When you’re staying home on Labor Day weekend with no football, it helps to have music that resonates in the heart. This includes the Allman Brothers’ cover of “The Weight,” with a blistering guest vocal by Susan Tedeschi. Never has this song felt more like the truth: the plague has put the load right on everybody, Crazy Chester is in the White House, and the Devil is walking the countryside in a WalMart camo suit. But Judgement Day is coming on November 3.
October 22, 2020: It’s Thursday afternoon and the pandemic has got you down. You need a break from the loop of bad news, a slice of normalcy, a little fun. If any of that sounds familiar, go to Facebook or Instagram at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for “It’s 5 O’ Clock Somewhere: A Musical Social From a Distance,” an hour of music and good times hosted by the amazing John Pizzarelli. (Update: The show is still on.)
November 22, 2020: Thanksgiving my ass. Square one and ground zero is where we are, for the third bloody time. We’ve ridden the roller coaster of pain and poverty, death and despair for nine months, but there’s no delivery, no blessed event in sight. People in our part of Atlanta are good about wearing masks, and the Georgia case counts are a fraction of the appalling numbers in the Midwest. But they’re rising. Again. And we’re stuck inside. Still.
December 15, 2020: My wife and I have had to postpone something we’d been looking forward to: a visit to Florida. We’d planned to head down to Cape Coral, which is known for canals, manatees, and nature preserves, just the ticket for a plague-weary pair like ourselves. We booked a nice place on a canal, then looked at how the case numbers have exploded and realized Christmas and New Year’s could trigger another surge. The only sane thing to do is put off our trip.
January 27, 2021: A wet, grey winter morning turned downright grim with the latest news about how bad the pandemic is in Atlanta. According to a nationwide breakdown, published by the New York Times and based mainly on state data, my county is at “an extremely high risk level.” We’re advised to avoid all indoor activities, events with more than a handful of people, and nonessential travel. I’m waiting for that text that tells me I can get vaccinated.
February 17, 2021: As of last week, I’m among the ranks of the half-protected, a lot luckier than many of us because I didn’t have to scramble for vaccine. Elated and slightly anxious, I drove through the rain to the vaccination site, a former department store in one of Atlanta’s countless malls. My nerves hit the roof when I walked inside and for the first time in nearly a year found myself in a big indoor space with a crowd of people(!). Everyone wore a mask and the staff kept us distanced, but it still felt strange.
March 8, 2021: My second dose went in just fine. I didn’t feel anxious about being in a crowd at the clinic, like the first time. Best of all, I dodged the onerous side effects that sometimes come with round 2: no chills, fatigue, fever, or muscle aches. My arm itches a little but isn’t sore. I feel very blessed to belong to what’s still an exclusive club.
April 22, 2021: Call me what you will: I’m amazed that we’re hardly even discussing mandatory vaccination. I know you can’t make the horses drink, but still: we had measles under control until anti-vax and religious fanatics opened the door to fresh outbreaks. Now Connecticut is moving to end the religious exemption to vaccinating kids for school, as other states have already done. If that’s a public health threat, what about people who deliberately leave themselves, their families, and everyone in their communities at risk of a terrible death?
May 11, 2021: First actual handshake in fourteen months? Check, and it felt great. Unmasked conversations with other vaccinated people? Check. Go face-naked outdoors? Check. Feel a lot less paranoid about doorknobs, mail, packages, keypads, and waiting-room furniture? Double-check! Toss the hand sanitizer altogether? Nuh-uh. For the moment, this also goes for indoor dining, theaters, and live music, even with distancing and reduced capacity, but it won’t be long. Take care and be safe.