Isolation: Day 4

A week ago today, Thursday the 12th of March, is the day I felt everything change.

I’d been following news regarding the coronavirus since January. I knew it had the potential to be bad for everybody – not just the people of Wuhan – when I saw the measures the Chinese government took to contain it.

A virus that shuts down a whole region within days of its leap to humanity – that’s a virus to be reckoned with.

And a virus with access to people who step onto airplanes – that’s a virus with the potential to affect the world.

At first, I simply read and listened and prayed. My concern was mild; my prayers were directed outward, for the benefit of those far away across the world.

But as the coronavirus began to leap China’s borders and spread to new continents, my concern became more acute. This thing could become personal.

In mid-February I stocked up our freezer and pantry. I bought paper goods. I thought about what I’d need to keep our household running for a month without opportunities to replenish.

I didn’t tell anyone I did it. I couldn’t tell whether I was being responsible or lavish. I was worried, but I’m a news junkie – I’m used to being worried. How relevant would the coronavirus ultimately be to my day-to-day life?

A few weeks later – that Thursday – it dawned on me that I had actually been thinking too small. I’d prepared in order to make myself feel better. I hadn’t expected to need it.

I went to bed on the 11th nervous, anxious, wondering how bad this might get. I felt like we Americans weren’t taking the virus seriously enough and that we wouldn’t begin to do so until President Trump did.

And then I woke up on the 12th to the news that Trump had shifted his tone. His supporters had permission to worry. From then on, everything moved quickly. Texts and emails and rumors were flying. By the end of the day we learned that our kids would be home from school for the next two weeks.

Every day since seems to have contained a month’s worth of news: shortages, telework, cancelation of public Masses, financial markets diving, business closures, changes to public transport, emergency actions taken by officials at all levels of government.

In a week we’ve gone from freedom to restriction, from plenty to scarcity, from opportunity to threat. Or at least it feels that way.

Maybe this seems dramatic. But this week has been dramatic. And I think it’s important to say so, for the record. Most of us have never lived through a period of such swift and extreme change. Please Lord, may we never have to again.

(Not much to report here at home today. We stayed inside. I lagged. All our meals were late and I barely kept up with essentials. But we watched Mass together and I talked to some relatives on the phone and the kids were good and helpful and pretty diligent about their homework. They didn’t even fight that much. I’ll take it!)

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