One of the weirdest parts of pandemic life that I really didn’t anticipate was the difficulties I’d face on weekends. It’s particularly strange to me because for 11 years I worked almost every weekend taking the debate teams I coached to tournaments all over the country. When I went back to working at non-profits in 2015 with a normal (ish) nine-to-five job, weekends were a revelation. I had two whole days to structure for myself. I could run in the morning, eat brunch with friends, read or watch the Cubs at night, maybe have dinner with friends after an afternoon game. It sort of blew my mind that there was all of this time and no debate registration, rounds to judge, kiddos to coach, or planes to catch.
I thought that experience had given me a unique appreciation of that unscheduled time. Even when I slept in or didn’t take full advantage of one of those days it felt like a choice I made to take care of me.
Weekends in a pandemic are turning out to be the hardest times for me. As I wrote last Saturday, some days in a pandemic just feel gray and off. I’m now realizing those days, at least for me, tend to be weekends. I think it’s probably because the lack of structure that used to give me so much freedom now just stretches ahead of me with very few options.
I generally don’t mind living alone. I have a deep network of friends and family that rarely give me time to feel lonely. As an introvert I have tended to be more protective of time alone than time with friends. Well, it’s now been 30 days since I’ve seen any of those people outside of a Zoom meeting or social media and while I love seeing them all virtually there is something just off about a world alone with very few options to engage with the outside world.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still cover five miles of ground somehow today, but that will take 60-90 minutes depending on whether I walk or run...and then what? There is nowhere to go, there is no one to see. Even as a person who generally thrives via intrinsic motivation, 30 days in this is testing my limits. I’ll be fine, but facing down this reality for some undefined amount of time is daunting.
Speaking of it being 30 days in, I wanted to take some time in this entry to reflect on where we were and where we are.
According to the CDC on March 11 there were 1,215 total cases of coronavirus in the United States. As of yesterday at 4 p.m. the number of cases in the United States was 492,416. I actually had a much harder time finding precise data on deaths by day, but finally stumbled on this collection of charts which show that on March 10 there were 30 total deaths in the United States from coronavirus. As of yesterday that number was 18,747. Numerous outlets, including the New York Times are reporting that as of today the US has surpassed 500,000 cases and 20,000 deaths due to coronavirus.
It isn’t just the health numbers, though. New unemployment claims this week topped six million for the second week in a row and honestly you have to see what that looks like relative to historic data to understand, so here’s a chart from the New York Times:
The growth in coronavirus cases, death and unemployment are not the only things skyrocketing right now. The mental health toll the pandemic is taking on the country is very real. The Los Angeles Times reported on this yesterday and no, this is not a typo:
At Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a nonprofit organization, crisis counselors fielded more than 1,800 calls related to COVID-19 in March, versus just 20 in February.
One month into the COVID-19 pandemic, people are not okay in any number of ways. Be gentle with each other and reach out if you need help.