Life in a COVID19 Hotspot

At this point, it’s affecting everyone. Social media is inundated with all the things we should and should not be doing in relation to the global pandemic. Pictures of empty shelves are everywhere and most importantly no one know how much longer they’ll be able to have a clean butt.

I took a personal day today to take my dog hiking for the first time since the baby was born. I’ve had the personal day planned for a couple weeks. We’ve had lots of city walks and a couple nature walks since December, but no mountain trail hikes since before Thanksgiving. For the last four years hiking time has been my time to recharge and bond with my dog. Not having for a few months has been tough, but understandable.

As I thought last night about getting out of the city and hiking, I felt a sort of profound unease at doing so. And it wasn’t because I was actively afraid I was going to contract the virus and bring it home, it was different. Hiking, or any sort of leisure activity outside the house just feels irresponsible. I don’t actually think it is, but that’s the way it feels.

As of today, I have been work from home (WFH) for two and a half weeks and it’s been amazing to watch opinion shift in Seattle. I stayed home on Monday March 2 with the sniffles. It felt absurd, but Fred Hutch was recommending anyone with any symptoms stay home. Luckily I had my laptop and was able to easily plug in and WFH that day. As it turns out, Friday February 28 will be my last day in the office for at least two full months with the mandatory work from home now extended to April 24.

When I started staying home the jury was still out. Cases had started popping up and reports that COVID19 had been spreading through Seattle for weeks had been published. Still, I felt ridiculous. Sniffles, keeping me home? I’m really just being lazy and taking advantage of the situation. But my coworkers were more than grateful, and productivity wasn’t bad. So I stayed home a few more days until the mandatory order came down.

Since March 3, opinion has changed dramatically in Seattle. Most people thought measures were being overblown, and even Fred Hutch (my employer) admitted they were ahead of the game, and the Mandatory WFH policy seemed aggressive, but they were trying to flatten the curve as early as possible. I am so grateful for the proactive leadership we have here at Fred Hutch, and the huge strides they took to prevent employees from getting it (no employees have tested positive as of today), as well as the strides they’re taking to learn and combat the disease.

In a widely shared graphic, a tan curve represents a scenario without social distancing measures and where the U.S. hospital system becomes inundated with coronavirus patients. (credit: NPR)

So this changing opinion here has been dramatic. People are bought in. COVID19 is real. It’s dangerous, and we as a community have to prevent it to protect the most sensitive Seattlites. Russell Wilson and Ciara pledge 1 million meals to community yesterday which is amazing. Contrast that with spring breakers in Florida and I am simultaneously grateful for the Seattle community and scared for other communities around the country. The whole Seattle (and Washington State) community has rallied in ways I haven’t seen before. People who are generally contrarian or sniping at local politicians for their responses, or dismissive of science are bought in too. There is finally a sense of unity that is refreshing after so long of stark lines dividing populations in the state and country.

This is real, and together Seattle is combating COVID19. I don’t think the same thing can be said for communities that aren’t affected yet, and that’s disheartening. People will die in Florida because someone decided their spring break trip to the beach was more important than making sure they didn’t spread the disease. That’s heartbreaking, but it doesn’t mean that people in other places can’t do more. The silent spread of COVID19 is the most scary, for me at least. If I contracted it three days ago, I could have been spreading it without knowing.

Last week, I was frustrated. I saw many people of the opinion that the government was overreaching and being dramatic. There is a paradox for the government to live right now: be slow, non-responsive and wait until its a disaster to act (once people are bought in) OR be proactive, head off the disaster and have people complaining that it was never a disaster and never going to be a disaster. This was really upsetting me last week, because the government is in a no-win situation. But I have seen those criticisms evaporate over the last week or so. And as San Francisco and New York move to a shelter in place, the question for Seattle is now if not when. Instead of criticisms for over-responding I am now hearing “what are they waiting for, let’s do it.”

As always now, wash hands, socially distance and stay home when possible. You all don’t need to feel my guilt for wanting to leave the home, but it’s something to consider. I think the Seattle community is doing a good job of being cognizant of how their actions affect others, is your community doing the same?

Thanks for reading. Thoughts? Questions? Hate Mail? Comment below!

-JL

Published by writerlarkin

Neuroscience and Research Project Manager background; deep passion for all things fantasy and writing and mythology!

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