If back in March I was struggling with accepting the reality of a pandemic, I am now struggling with accepting that the pandemic is still very much happening.

I mean, to be clear, I understand that it IS, and that there has been no magical erase-the-virus development, and that cases are on the rise in, what, 21 states now?, and here in my local county which has had relatively few cases there have been 3 recently (a child under 10, a teenager, and someone in their 30s, so that’s … worrying), and everywhere I’ve been since restrictions were lifted shows that at least half the city is unwilling to wear masks (especially at Cabela’s, predictably), so it seems like it stands to reason that things remain pretty Not Great, Bob.

Still, our local reopening (phase 2, which Oregon will be in for a long time assuming we don’t go backwards — phase 3 seems to be specific to “after there’s a vaccine”) really normalized things in many ways. Yes, every store now sports a confusing maze of arrows and signage and warnings, and yes a fair number of people are now masked, but otherwise it kind of feels like…life goes on?

I read this story about a woman who got sick and 15 of her friends tested positive after they all went to a bar together, and the part that stood out to me (aside from the 15 friends) (I’m socially crippled so maybe that only sounds like a lot to me?) (15, though! That’s like…an entourage) is how she said,

“The state opens back up and said everybody was fine, so we took advantage of that. (…) It was too soon to open everything back up.”

This was in Florida so maybe that’s how things were communicated from the state, I don’t know, but here in Oregon there’s definitely not been any Official Word that everybody is FINE if they go out. It seems pretty clear to me that the reopenings come with risk, and if you go to a bar with fifteen unmasked friends…well.

However, I can sort of understand the point of view that reopening implies a sort of safety endorsement, even with the ongoing recommendations to limit outings. Like, how bad can things be if TJ Maxx is open, right? This is where my brain gets complacent and I find myself much less vigilant than I was a couple months ago.

I don’t agree that it was too soon to open things back up. Or more accurately, maybe, it doesn’t really matter what I think or even what health experts think — everyone being in strict quarantine simply wasn’t sustainable. Aside from the real issues of economic and social damage, people just weren’t going to do it forever.

So here we all are in a world of choices and nobody wants to live in a state of paranoia and we’re all pretty tired of being worried about whether that grocery store outing is going to kill us (or the lady next to us in line) but the virus is still every bit as real as it was in March.

It seems like this stage is even harder in some ways than being in lockdown. This is where we have to take personal responsibility, decide for ourselves each day what seems acceptable, and stay committed to handwashing/masks/distancing.

I’ve been getting lax, for sure. Most of the time I like to know that I’m not alone in my ill-advised fumblings, but in this case it’s not particularly reassuring.


23 Responses to “Somewhere between fear and IDGAF”

  1. Pete Haidinyak on June 17th, 2020 10:45 am

    Same in Southern California. Lots of people without their masks. All I can do is wear mine but since a mask is mostly to protect others from you it doesn’t leave a warm and fuzzy feeling.

  2. Mariya on June 17th, 2020 10:48 am

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely identify! My husband went back into work a couple weeks ago and I’m still home with the kids pushing them to “finish strong” in regards to the school year but also wanting to make sure they’re mentally and emotionally doing ok. My poor Kindergartner is a social butterfly and this has been driving her, and by extension me, stir crazy. My executive function is all out of wack and my ability to concentrate is shot. I can’t wait to get “out” but at the same time feel I’m fighting off decision fatigue – there are so many dang variables to consider! On top of all of this, I have MS so I go into an infusion center every 5 weeks for my medication where the bulk of the patients are in there for chemo treatment and I’ll be damned if I’m that jerk who unknowingly introduces COVID to them or the nurses caring for them. It has definitely felt like some twisted labyrinth that no matter which way you choose, you feel like you end up right back in the same spot you were before.

    I guess what I’m saying is, this sucks and I completely empathize.

  3. Carol on June 17th, 2020 11:35 am

    Thank you for articulating so well the confusing feelings about all this. I recently commented to my husband that I don’t even know what my own personal rules are anymore because I literally don’t know where my own comfort zone is anymore.

  4. JennB33 on June 17th, 2020 11:51 am

    I can’t believe people aren’t wearing masks. In the 802 we have a ton of folks coming from Mass, NH, Connecticut and the tri-state area coming to their fancy-schmancy “country Vermont homes” and not wearing their masks. I’m like DUDE I’M TRAPPED HERE ALL SUMMER PLEASE FFS WEAR A MASK. We have the lowest count in the country (also tiny population) and everyone comes here because it’s so twee and old fashioned and it’s really quite stunning and beautiful. Let’s keep it that way and wear the stupid masks, mmmkay? It’s a hell of a lot better than a respirator, or so I’ve been told….. I’m doing it to protect you from me. Just do it. I don’t care if you look stupid. I haven’t had a haircut in over a year. Look stupid with me. Vermont is not known for fashion. Crocs and flannel, anyone?

  5. JennB33 on June 17th, 2020 11:53 am

    Also, you won’t catch me in a mall, a movie theatre, eating at a restaurant indoors, at a concert, or at any place with a ton of people in it for a long while. I already have an aversion to crowds; this has made it incrementally worse. Even getting pick-up gives me the willies. “I’m not going into that resto yet; there are all of three people waiting for their orders!!” was a serious thought I had one night. Fuggetaboutit.

  6. Carla Hinkle on June 17th, 2020 12:39 pm

    It’s so much harder now that things are somewhat open. I’m in San Diego and we are better than many other counties in Southern California but there is a lot of COVID out there. Plus now there are decisions to be made (just because it’s open doesn’t mean I’ll do it, but should I do it or NOT do it?). I’m just mentally tired and the thing is, I think it’s going to be this way for the next year which is an EXHAUSTING feeling.

  7. Katy on June 17th, 2020 12:50 pm

    I live in (face to palm) South Carolina, where the natural beauty of our geography is eclipsed by the truly militant sense of self-definition our natives (and transplants) seem to tout. Personal liberty here is king. Not Jesus, as you may have expected.

    I’m immune-compromised and it’s my responsibility to do the best I can to protect myself and my family. I’m not going to bars or restaurants. I had a brief stint in an empty shoe store because I have an 11 year old boy and, dang, those feet. My own choices to say home are one thing, but no one’s sense of personal liberty supersedes my ability to safely buy groceries. I won’t bring my risk-category self to your bar, and you don’t bring your uncovered face to my market. Deal?

  8. Reece on June 17th, 2020 12:58 pm

    I don’t know…..in central iowa we’re on a big testing kick and are finding out more people have had the covid and recovered than they were expecting. 80% of the deaths in the state are in LTC facilities–that’s from the IDPH website. It’s starting to feel like a lot of over-predicted doom to many of us here and very few people are wearing masks anymore. I am absolutely fatigued from experts and politicians yelling that we’re all gonna die stay home or you’ll kill grandma and then switching bipolar quick to okay go ahead and protest 5,000 strong that’s no problem and then switching back to unless you’re protesting the shutdown then you’re a bad person and you’ll kill grandma. Utterly exhausted with the lecturing and hypocrisy.

  9. Linda on June 17th, 2020 1:37 pm

    Reece, I’m with you in being frustrated by all the different messaging. This protest is okay but that one isn’t, protests in general are okay but rallies aren’t, etc. Just got to keep our heads and tune out the noise in favor of science-backed decisions, right?

  10. Shawna on June 17th, 2020 2:45 pm

    Just because we can do something does NOT mean it’s safe to do something. I do not wear a mask when alone or with my family in my car, or when outside and at least 6 ft from someone except for maybe some intermittent passing on the sidewalk, because the odds of transmission in these circumstances are incredibly low. But I wear a mask in any enclosed space where I’m with anyone but my immediate family. It’s a social contract: I protect you from my potential germs, and you should do the reciprocal. If you don’t, and don’t have a legit medical reason you can’t wear a mask, you are breaking that social contract with me. If epidemiologists aren’t going to sit on a restaurant patio yet, you can bet your ass I’m not either. The government has to consider lots of factors beyond health and death of the population, but I only have to consider my own circumstances and I’m still able to earn a living and stay the heck away from people, so that’s what I’m doing. No haircuts, no nails, no patios (and no bars or restaurants when they open here, which they haven’t yet), no dentists or eye doctors unless an emergency comes up, no browsing in stores. Just get in, get what I need, get out, sanitize my hands. I socialize either by phone/video, or across a hefty gap on the driveway outside with one family at a time, max. When cases in my area drop to zero for an extended period of time, that’s when I’ll relax my restrictions, and not before.

  11. Jill on June 17th, 2020 2:50 pm

    This is exactly how I feel too, but you articulate it much better than I ever could

  12. Kristin on June 17th, 2020 8:46 pm

    Just… yes to all of that. I am struggling to balance the physical what-if risk with the actual, current, real impact on my and everyone’s mental and financial well being. There is no right answer.

  13. Shes on June 18th, 2020 5:04 am

    Appreciate your thoughts. Kind of in the same place. No one is sick here and many are not wearing masks any more, and can it really be that bad? At the same time, I’ll be darned if I’m the one to bring it to my self quarantining parents with underlying issues (as I drop off supplies and goodies). So many choices, and none seem always right. I know I am having a very different experience in bodunk, OH, than my sister is having working in a hospital in NY.

  14. Wendy on June 18th, 2020 6:44 am

    Yes to everything you said! I find it alarming that so many people are visiting with family (based on what I see on FB). Like your family members (not ones you actually live with) can’t get you sick?!

    On a related note, I have SUCH a dilemma. I’d be curious to hear what others would do. My daughter and her fiance were getting married next year. (They have twins, born Jan. 1 this year. This is not the first marriage for either of them.) They have both had and recovered from covid; they work in a prison and are exposed to the virus on a daily basis.

    They just moved the wedding up to THIS October, mid-month, mainly for financial reasons.

    My 64 yr old husband is on daily chemo and is immunocompromised, although feeling well and strong right now. We’ve been laying low even though our state of Michigan is opening up rapidly now.

    She’s been very understanding of her stepdad’s health; we haven’t seen them since March 1. (They live 1-1/2 hours away, in Indiana. I miss my grandkids!) She’d be pretty understanding if we couldn’t go. I’m truly bummed that she moved the wedding up because I wasn’t at her first wedding (spur of the moment city hall thing) and would love to be at this one.

    It’s inside, in the fall when the dreaded second wave could be hitting again, and her guests will certainly include coworkers–people who’ve definitely been exposed to the virus. Do we go?! I’m thinking not, but am I being too cautious?

    I thought maybe just I would go, but my husband pointed out that if I get infected, I’m just bringing it home to him. UGH. I’m going to ask his oncologist tomorrow what he thinks. (I’m so sorry to hijack the comments with this long post, it’s just been weighing on me.)

  15. Mary Clare on June 18th, 2020 1:15 pm

    We’re all living in an uncomfortable gray zone for now. Our family has largely stayed home since mid-March other than errands and some medical appointments. My household includes a 70 year old with cancer. But clearly this is going to go on for months to years and we have to take some calculated risks. Things I’m currently debating – a road trip to see my elderly parents (who are pretty much isolated), martial arts classes for my otherwise inactive kid (the only thing she really loves; no masks and lots of heavy breathing… so maybe not?), and in-person counseling for other my kid who’s really struggling. My husband would prefer that we only stay home. Let’s just say we’ve had some spirited debates about this.

  16. Shawna on June 19th, 2020 1:30 pm

    Wendy, it’s hard to assess the risk so far in advance, but you can probably ask your daughter if she’s going to ask attendees to wear masks if the virus is prevalent in the area at the time of the wedding.

    And it sucks to go so far and not do the whole thing, but if the virus level is relatively under control but you want to be extra cautious because of your husband’s condition, maybe just you could go, wearing a full-on n95 mask or face shield, stay only for the ceremony and skip the reception, then strip and shower when you get home? Maybe you could work in a short visit with just your daughter and her immediate family either before the ceremony or on another day? It’s not unreasonable to want to be present for your daughter’s wedding, even during a pandemic, but surely she will understand why you have to be extra-cautious and might not be able to be there for each and every part of the day?

    Of course, it might end up not happening if things go poorly before then. Where I live we’re doing relatively well, but people have still cancelled their weddings that were supposed to happen around now.

  17. Heather on June 20th, 2020 2:10 pm

    New Yorker here…pretty much Ground Zero for all things crappy that happen to the US!

    We’ve been totally locked down for a long time (and city dwellers don’t have backyards — literally INDOORS for months).

    We are in Phase 2 and things are starting to open and I definitely have PTSD about it. When it is black and white, there is some sense of relief in that. Making my own decisions is scary.

    But my therapist gave me something good to think about…

    You can do scary things, but you shouldn’t do dangerous things. So that’s my evaluation for now.

  18. Mackenna on June 20th, 2020 2:47 pm

    I’m resigned to living in a world where some people are in major denial or simply don’t care about others. For this reason, I keep doing what the health authorities say: wear the mask when in public, wash my hands, wash my hands, wash my hands, avoid touching my face and maintain social distance in all circumstances. Even when a vaccine is developed, there will be wackos who “don’t believe in” vaccines. But hopefully most of us aren’t those people, and most of us care about others as much as we do ourselves.

  19. Farrell on June 21st, 2020 8:19 pm


  20. sooboo on June 21st, 2020 9:04 pm

    Shawna up thread and I are basically cut from the same cloth. I’m still laying super low and not loving it but living with it.

    Wendy, can you go to the wedding and then quarantine for 2 weeks in a separate part of your house (if you have two bathrooms) or a friend’s guesthouse or an Air Bnb? Not a fun option but seems like the safest bet aside from not attending.

  21. Lisa Ann on June 22nd, 2020 11:38 am

    NYC here; after all we’ve been through still VERY surprised to see so many NON mask wearing people. I get it, it’s hot, uncomfortable, blah, blah blah. SUCK IT UP PEOPLE. And it’s not just the (stupid) teenagers, it’s the seniors. Can’t tell you how mad it makes me.

  22. becky on June 24th, 2020 2:06 pm

    This stage is way worse, I agree.

    (Note: everything I am about to say is about what I see in my area, not about what you said you are or are not doing. <3)

    I'm continuing to be vigilant and extra cautious, but it feels absolutely useless. In my state, it was "throw the doors wide open!"–there was no phased reopening, thanks to our partisan state Supreme Court. And so, after a grace period which people used as "proof" that masks and distancing weren't needed, cases are rising. Sharply.

    And I'm mad, to be honest. No, we can't all stay in our houses forever, but there's so much that can be done between the two extremes. Now, this will be more dangerous in fall, when kids are supposedly going back to school. The risks are higher than they were in March (our school went remote when there were 17 cases in the state?) but nobody is going to admit that hey, we made a mistake, we need to be more careful. So we wait, and watch, as people go out and crowd in the bars, have big parties, and go to church, all without any masks or distancing. And we cross our fingers that they get lucky–because right now all we have is luck.

    So my mental health isn't bad because I'm getting out less. It's because I'm about the only one doing it. I'm losing friends because I post too much on Facebook (I don't post much commentary, just articles and facts) about it. I'm doing my part, despite it making me an outlier.

  23. LizP on June 26th, 2020 9:25 am

    “15 of her friends tested positive after they all went to a bar together”

    Which is what happened here in EUG … people went to a bar then went to a house party for like 6 hours … all unmasked and no social distancing.

    My husband met some co-workers at the Overtime bar on Bertelsen. He was the only one in the bar who wore a mask (he was protecting me <3 because I am immunocompromised). We went to Ray's Market out in Veneta a couple of weekends ago … the checkers, one other guy, and us … the only ones wearing masks. We drove by the masked guy in the parking lot and thanked him for wearing a mask!

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