Functioning Through a Pandemic

As of the first draft of this post, it’s been 6 days since my company transitioned most of its workforce into work-from-home arrangements, which was coincidentally the same day that the NBA suspended its entire season as one of its players tested positive for COVID-19. It’s been 3 days since the local schools suspended operations through spring break and beyond (for now), and the first day of Bay Area’s self-imposed shelter in place order, each discrete event building upon the last to try to contain this outbreak before it overwhelms our stretched healthcare systems. The stock market has dropped 30%+ solidly into bear territory and a certain recession in the span of only a week, and many other countries in the world whose infections are coinciding with the United States’s are also ramping up measures to keep the virus from spreading too fast.

For those of us lucky enough to continue working from home, it still has been a tricky transition. Now that we’re past the initial wave of suggestions on tips to WFH, there’s renewed recognition that young children still require some form of care around the house, and the realities of households with both parents working makes the arrangement particularly challenging. At the same time, even veterans of working from home have highlighted the fact that focus has been difficult for everyone, in light of how the world is changing—how history is being made—day-by-day, hour-by-hour.

The initial responses of our governments, social institutions and companies were insuring that business can stay as usual—that work can continue, that the economy will rebound, that minor inconveniences were sufficient. As each day passed, the viral infection rates proved that mild remedies did not slow it down. The level of intensity and disruption ramped up so quickly, so acutely, that its implications haven’t even had the time to sink in yet. It may be obvious to some, but I find that I have to reassure myself, sometimes repeatedly: we’re going through extraordinary times, and it’s okay to be anxious!

It doesn’t help that our primary tool in this COVID-19 fight is social distancing and voluntary quarantine, which can only exacerbate the feeling of helplessness and isolation. That said, there is a degree of macabre glee in consuming entertainment around the issue of pandemics and societal breakdowns: whether it’s the Pandemic board game, or the ever-popular Plague, Inc. video game/infection simulator, or the movie Contagion, or the excellent World War Z novel1. These media help ground the unknown into an understandable framework, something that can be worked through eventually, and solved. Certainty, and perhaps inevitable victory.

Of course, for those of us who are staying at home with roommates or family2, they are a source of both joy and occasional frustration. Personally, I’ve found it difficult to simply use work as a distraction from the ongoing situation.

Instead, I’m turning to the daily quiet moments; enjoying the chilly but sunny March weather in the Bay Area; gratified of our family’s general health—and continuing my journaling routine to remind myself of the truly important facets of life, every single day.

  1. The movie of the same name: less good.

  2. And given the price of housing in the Bay Area, it seems outright irresponsible not sharing living costs with someones else.

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