A few stories from New York.
Our favorite pizza shop went to "delivery only" on Friday. Too much interaction at the window. They put up a sign saying they were going to close for the weekend, and reevaluate on Monday. Sign was still up, lights were still off tonight.
The barber says, "It's the week before Christmas. Normally we'd be busy. Yesterday it was empty. Do you think people already left the city?" Her son's daycare had a positive case last week. She waited in line two hours to get him tested at urgent care. He came back negative. She comments that the owner of the barber shop "Carries a lot of stress. A lot of stress." The owner asks me on my way out, "Are you keeping everything under control?" He asked me the same question when I got there an hour ago. He's been on the phone the whole time. Things do not seem to be under control.
Our principal emails us saying that there have been seven confirmed cases at the school and that the NYC DOE situation room is so overloaded with calls that she haven't received an official report number yet. A parent emails our class asking if everyone could rapid test their kid before school in the morning. Another replies, "Can anyone tell us where to find tests? We went to 4 places today..." The thread becomes a strong endorsement of independent pharmacies.
I run into my neighbor while walking the dog. He's mid-thirties, in great shape, and so far as I know, not an infectious disease expert. He says, "All my friends are testing positive right now." I ask, "How are they doing?" "It's like a head cold. For all of them. That's it. It's in the head, not the chest. I'm so excited. This is how it ends. Everyone's going to get it and it's just going to be a cold."
Seems like the East Coast is at the tip of the Covid spear again. I'm hoping it's helpful to capture some observations and thoughts, as you'll be going through this soon if you're not already. If nothing else, it's cathartic to write this, and helpful for me to try and figure out which of my thoughts are:
- an accurate evaluation of present risk
- a post-traumatic response to 2020
- an attempt to dismiss evidence that contradicts my deep desire to believe the pandemic's almost over
I've heard a couple folks say that it feels like March 2020 again. There are aspects that rhyme, for sure. A cascade of businesses closing "out of an abundance of caution." Rumblings between parents about if we should pull our kids out of school, knowing that the DOE will move a few days too slow. Professional sports pressing pause.
And then, thankfully, there's a lot that's different. So far, the scarce commodity is tests, not toilet paper. Folks are afraid of missing Christmas, not hospitalization.
There's a new feeling too, that wasn't there in 2020: resignation. "It's never going to end," is a phrase I've heard a lot. "I don't think the State could do another lockdown," is another. The emotional undertone from small business owners feels like, "I won't survive another round of this." Teachers and healthcare workers seem like they hit a wall a year ago and would very much like to stop pushing against it.
As it pertains to our household, we don't want to catch Omicron, but we are far less afraid of Covid than at any point in the pandemic. We're grateful to all be up on our shots, with the exception of Julia, who's low-risk. We expect we will catch Omicron sometime between tomorrow and a few weeks from now. We expect it will manifest asymptomatically, as a cold, or as a bad case of the flu that keeps us in bed a few days. We believe that our risk of hospitalization or death is trivial. We're not trying to figure out who will take the kids if Rachel and I are both hospitalized. We're not meeting a lawyer to update our will. That's a welcome contrast from where we were in March of 2020.
That said, the situation is accelerating, we have some low risk Christmas plans that we'd like to keep, and I could be wrong about everything – so we are engaging in some risk reduction. I'm holding off on jiu jitsu until the New Year (aggressively snuggling with strangers is always the first thing to go....) We're keeping Emma home from school the rest of the week – there's just three school days until winter break so it doesn't cost us much to buy a couple weeks.
As I wrap this one up, It feels worth acknowledging that, of all the newsletters i've sent over the last month, this one feels the riskiest (lot's of talk about risk in this one!). Everyone's beliefs and behaviors around Covid are so deeply rooted in the multivariate experiences they've uniquely endured over the last two years. Relaying a story from a neighbor about his friends' "head cold" risks invalidating folks who had a traumatic encounter with Covid earlier in the pandemic. Talking about how our household isn't at great danger risks coming across as insensitive to someone who's immunocompromised, or someone who's suiting up again in full PPE to see patients.
I was quite tempted to just send a photo and go back to playing the new Minecraft update, but sending an email today and not talking about Omicron felt cowardly. Talking about this stuff with friends –working through the problem together – has been one of the bright parts of the pandemic. Thank you again for letting me send these emails to your inbox.
How are you feeling? What precautions are you taking, or not taking? Where do you think this is headed?
Also, if you're wondering, here's the photo I would have sent.