Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

The COVID-19 train keeps a rollin’. Day 15 is much the same as the other days – work, Warframe, and tedium. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, of course. But I don’t run. So that analogy is weak at best. It’s a miniseries, not a YouTube video maybe. Miniseries implies an ending, so I like that better than, well, the alternative.

I have a new quick-catalog project for work, which is a nice distraction from the other massive projects. It’s a big one too, as the quick catalogs go – 130 pages or so. But there is one pesky item holding me up. One. Item. Out of 130 pages…1280 items. Le sigh. It could be so much worse than that, so I’m not really upset so much as needing to have something to make the days seem different. And this gets to be the one for now.

I wanted to talk about a phrase I am really not happy about. The New Normal. Firstly, this isn’t normal. Not by a long shot. This is the new now, and will, in time, end. But we must not make the mistake of thinking this is normal. Normal is what comes next, as we move into a post-stay-home order world. This is, and must be seen as, an aberration to normalcy. But if we accept or adjust to the idea that this is somehow normal, we do ourselves a grave disservice.

Imagine this being normal. That day to day, we hide inside, only venturing out for limited, specific, activities. Still avoiding friends & family. Imagine that there are no bars, restaurants, churches, theaters, etc. to go to. Ever. Does that sound normal to you?

I really hope not.

So when we see people talking about this as the new normal, it concerns me. I mean, the whole thing concerns me, but that especially.

Behavioral psychologists claim that if you do a thing for, on average, 66 days, it becomes a habit. 66 days. I am on day 15 of not being able to go to work (but able to work), and Illinois is on day 12 of the stay home order. In another two months, the average person will have internalized this behavior as normal. And then what? I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that it worries me.

Maybe in the next post, I’ll talk about what comes next, and how we begin to build a new normal.

Day 15 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/1/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 40,384
  • Cases: 6,980
  • Positive Test Percentage: 17.28%
  • Infection Rate: 0.055%
  • Deaths: 141
  • Case Fatality Rate: 2.02%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)

Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 13: We Need to Skip Ahead A Little, Brother

Day 13…I can’t really believe it. Last week was rough.

I intended this to be a daily log of what I was doing and experiencing during a sort of forced semi-quarantine. That never really happened – all the previous posts were written at least a week off their publication date. This one, however, is being written today. I decided to skip trying to do daily posts for last week because, well, the week is just too homogenized to be worth a daily look. Especially in retrospect.

And here we are, two days later. I need to prioritize this project – it’s a record for later as well as a release.

Ok, I changed the titles to reflect the actual day. Ugh.

Alright, it’s Monday. We have been in a stay home world since last Saturday – just over a week. And that has been a far harder thing than I expected. Not the staying home part – I am far too good at that. The getting out part. See, when you are like me, unsocial, depressed, and more than able to work from home, a stay home order isn’t a big deal. But getting out…that needs to be something you force. Why? Simple, it’s not healthy, physically or psychologically, to stay home all day. We are social animals, and this is hard.

Day 10: Costco

So, Friday, I forced myself to go to Costco. That was interesting for a lot of reasons. Firstly, I got light headed just being outside. I have experienced this before when ending hospital stays – it seems to be a kind of agoraphobic response. I don’t have that particular phobia, but nothing else quite makes sense. The feeling of being out in the open can be overwhelming when you haven’t been outside in a week. And that is a dangerous thing. If you read this, make sure to get out some. At least every other day. Go drive, walk, cycle, whatever you need to do to get outside and away from home a bit. You don’t need to even go anywhere specific, just be not-home.

Anyway, Costco was different. They now have an employee outside wiping all the carts down before you can grab one. Then, the entrance funnels you through an amusement-park like line in the area where the carts used to be. Once inside, it’s not too different. They have added whiteboard signs to list what they are out of, which is nice. They had everything I needed, even though paper rolls were limited to one each. The checkout now has tape lines every 6′ or so…and they extend halfway back in some areas. There is also now a self-check, which was kind of redundant, as the attendant basically scanned everything for me anyway. Regular checkout has the plexi shields in front of the cashiers. On leaving, the receipt check is totally perfunctory. They don’t even get close anymore.

I did hear what the different entrance procedure was all about as I left. It seems they are limited to 550 people, and the fire marshal checks. Several times a day. So, when they hit capacity, they no longer allow new customers to enter. Thus, a line. It’s really different.

Day 11 & 12: Warframe

Video games for the win. That’s about it.

Day 13: Work and Realizations

Day 13 was a back to work thing. Lots of email today. This isn’t a work blog, so that’s that.

But I did realize something important. We look at the COVID-19 numbers, and keep comparing them to the seasonal influenza numbers. So, of course, they look off. Seasonal numbers are way higher in every respect save case mortality rate. So, we still have people saying this is stupidly overblown, and gee, the flu is worse.

Ok, fair cop. But what if the average seasonal influenza outbreak happened in a month? Annual flu season runs, roughly, October through May. the 2017-18 flu season resulted in an estimated 45 million cases, with 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,099 deaths. Again, that’s over 8 months. And it was a bad one (2018-19 had about 35.5 million cases, with 490,600 hospitalized, and 34,200 deaths). On average, we see 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010. So, yeah, it’s bad.

Imagine that hitting in three weeks.

Now does all this make sense? And this is what we are looking at – experts estimate millions of cases, 100,000 or more deaths.

Day 13 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 3/30/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 30,446
  • Cases: 5,057
  • Positive Test Percentage: 16.61%
  • Infection Rate: 0.04%
  • Deaths: 73
  • Case Fatality Rate: 1.44%
Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 3: Friday. Finally Something Normal

Day 3 opens with me doing what I always do on Friday…work from home. Of course, this is the enforced version, so it’s still weird.

I got those images converted, and then…well..um…

Ok, so I am having a motivation issue. Not that I don’t have this on a normal day, but today is an extra-special one it seems. I have this catalog project to work on, and that’s a ton of slow work staring me down. I need to do it, but don’t want to.

So I do the usual Friday stuff – update new items with images in the archive.

I had some hope, friends were planning to get together tomorrow, but that got killed with the Governor issued a state-wide ‘stay-home’ order, which bans going out for non-essential stuff. So that was ended before it began.

This is looking like it’s going to last a long time, it’s only day 3 of me being home and all, but I have to say I don’t see the end.

Politics Again

In our system, there is one overwhelming thread that runs through all sides of the political divide.

Power once gathered is slow to be released.

It’s actually easy to see. Remember those lists of silly laws that make the rounds every so often? Wile a lot of those are, or seem to be, urban legends, there are some that still are legit. And that those are still on the books is a kind of perfect example of my point.

Power, once gathered, is unlikely to be released.

And look at what we have happening now. By state and municipal fiat we are closing businesses, restricting travel, and greatly altering the way in which we live. All for a virus with a lower case fatality rate than many other diseases we tend to ignore. I am not saying these steps are wrong, merely that we need to pay attention to the government in this – they have been allowed to gather a lot of power in the past week, and need to be held to the fire to release it.

Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 2: Progress, But At What Price To My Health?

Well, day 2 is not great. I was nauseous yesterday, and woke up this AM thinking it was time to puke. I didn’t, thankfully, but it was a near thing.

Nerves. Fucking nerves.

One thing that did come of that fun morning experience was the decision that if I do come down with this disease, I’m switching to video blogging – that way there will be some kind of record for everyone of how the disease, and any subsequent treatment, changes you. Well, me, not you. But you get the point.

Of course, this is an upper respiratory infection, so nausea isn’t a side effect, right?

Oh, now we have some doctors saying that it is. And it’s the first one to appear. Joyous. I think, for my sanity, I need to ignore them, and stick to, literally, every other doctor out there. Coughing, not nausea, is the warning. Well, that and a fever. No fever here. I do, however, have bad lungs from clots in the past (plus smoking, plus a bout of pneumonia in 2008 or so), so coughing is a thing that I do a lot. Often, maybe, not exactly a lot. Hell, I’ve had low-grade coughs last 6-8 months. So coughing is something I do, illness or no. But now I am more aware of it.

Work went well – more good progress on a really annoying project to migrate some 9000 images to a Dropbox so the parent company’s team can access them. And provide descriptions. Mostly because the people who should be doing that second part won’t. An unnamed coworker foisted it upon me. First, I did the list. That part was actually easy. The images aren’t hard, just really annoying. And there are a lot of them. Once I clean the PSD files, then it’s time to convert to JPG and PNG. JPG is easy – Photoshop has a built-in fast conversion tool for that. PNG…less so. So, I moved them to my PC laptop to run them through Irfanview.

Sigh.

Day 2 brings no real updates to the state of things. I want to act like this is normal, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. Look, I like the idea of working from home as much as the next person in a similar role. But. I have no choice, and that makes it different. That changes the whole dynamic. Add in the fact that a lot of people are flat out suffering, and this becomes something wholly different.

A few days ago, I put this on Facebook. As I find myself distancing from that platform, I wanted to repeat it here. I think it matters.

Something I learned a long time ago was that when preventative measures or actions work, we never hear about it.

Think about that. We hear about the terror attacks that work, or almost do, but not the thousands (and that is an understatement) that were stopped in the planning phase. So, we think that this or that security measure is silly, or overkill, or whatever. And many are, in my opinion. But every one of them is a preventative measure based on previous attempts.

If we look back in several months, and think to ourselves, ‘damn, these quarantine measures and shutdowns were totally overkill’, then they worked. It’s a hard position to take now, because while I KNOW how that works, every time it comes up, I change positions on this response. And I know how that sausage is made…how much harder for those who are just getting introduced to the concept.

Successful prevention looks like overkill. Or nothing happening at all. But it’s still work being done.

As we close out day 2, let’s keep that in mind. Nothing happened will be success.

Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 1: Working From Home For The Win?

Today was day 1 of COVID-19 induced work from home.

It’s interesting, i think I got more accomplished today than I expected. I am certain it was more than I would have done at work. So far so good! Getting an early win is important, since it might set the pace for the rest of the forced WFH time. Even had a chance to enjoy running and gunning in Warframe.

I did get an email to update our company site today. The word came down that unless you have to be in the office, you need to stay home. Specifically, the message reads “Office personnel in positions that do not require constant physical presence in the office will be working remotely.” I didn’t receive an email from the boss to this effect. Maybe the local managers are responsible for telling everyone. Doesn’t matter, I was out yesterday at COB.

We are still being allowed to move about freely, which is good. I had to go out to pick up a prescription for my wife, and I saw something that really drove home how different things have gotten. it’s only been a few days since Governor Pritzker shut down all the bars and restaurants to dine-in customers. So parking lots are empty. One such place is the fast-casual restaurant Portillo’s. Mostly they are a hotdog stand with delusions of grandeur. On a normal day, at about 5:00PM or so (when I went past), the drive-thru has maybe 20-30 cars, wrapped around the parking lot (which would also be full). Today?

Four. Four cars.

While it’s day 1 for me, it’s been 3 days since JB ordered all the bars & restaurants closed to dine-in customers. And the lack of people at Portillo’s is…weird. It, more than anything, drives home the changes we are living through.

About That Closing…

So, politics for a moment. I get the need to keep people apart to stop the spread of this virus. I do. But what I don’t get is the need for our governor to be a petulant child about it. Yes, he did the hard, likely needed, thing. But he did it because he felt slighted. Look, I get it, politicians are, broadly speaking, less stable or mature than actors. If we have Governor Pique Fit, this is going to go poorly in Illinois.

Day 15: Two Weeks In, Unknown Weeks To Go

Day 0: COVID-19 And The Watcher

I received the COVID-19 ‘work from home’ email today. Which isn’t a big deal. My efforts toward supporting a WFH day every week have me already good to go. So something like 90% of my work is in the cloud already, and I am already good with staying home to work. I’ll start tomorrow, making this Day 0 of my pandemic life changes.

But.

I think it started when I was packing up the desk for the absence. I had the desktop computer ready to take home, my personal stuff off on the credenza to the side, and the desk wiped down. And it started. The vague feeling of nausea. The feeling in the first moments after I’m fired. It got worse at home. So, despite the work computer sitting on my table, despite knowing that I was still working, I really felt like I’d been fired. And no amount of rational thought helped. It makes me think about all the people impacted by stay-at-home orders, by the other in Illinois impacted by the forced closure of social spaces – bars, restaurants, and the like. How are they doing?

I also think others are experiencing the same feelings. We know we aren’t fired. We know that the checks are still coming. But damn, forcing everyone home is hard. Being forced to stay home is hard. I wonder what the long-term fallout will be, both in how we do work, and how much we trust those who control our lives. Perhaps my boss was right, the response to COVID-19 will change everything.

Whatever, it’s only Day 0, and I’m already not loving it. I’ll have more, and longer, posts as this develops. For now, this is what I have.