Politics and the coronavirus are doing the tango. Nothing grabs control of our emotions like a renewed threat of mortality (it is always there). For a while, the raging political scene fueled by America’s primary season was subsumed by Covid19. Inevitably, they are now entangled. Who will calm our fears? There are many of our fellow planetary citizens for whom science has supposedly taken a backseat to denial. Current leaders are aiming to control the outcomes of an unknown and unpredictable entity. As that is not yet possible, they are at least aiming to control public opinion and the economies that are being manipulated by fear. Reality will win this contest as it always does. Some countries have done better than others to react in a practical and timely manner. A strong urge towards denial may or may not be shattered as factual evidence of people you personally know are affected.
Oberlin College has just declared it is going to remote teaching as have a number of other schools. Kendal has Oberlin students volunteering here- getting partial scholarships in return for their support in various areas. This action from the college will have an immediate impact on the whole town of Oberlin as many people are employed there. Except for overseas students, the rest of the student body will return home, which will create different family dynamics. I think of seniors graduating, final concerts canceled at the Conservatory, friendships disrupted, and teachers adjusting to an entirely different way of preparation and teaching. I am not clear whether this is for the rest of the spring term or not, but it sounds as if it is.
I have both friends and family already impacted in terms of their current and future travel decisions for work and play. Because I live in a densely populated senior retirement facility, we are all aware of what might happen should the virus migrate to us from the three cases found in the neighboring county of northeast Ohio. Kendal has protocols already in place to prevent importation of the disease via staff, residents and visitors. We are in close contact with the state and local county health systems and hospitals. Kendal even has a (single) negative pressure room where the air does not circulate throughout the facility for quarantine purposes. I am told there was a bad flu season at Kendal a few years ago. It was also a rigorous handwashing, no touching, staff face mask/glove wearing, quarantine time for many residents, especially for those who were living in the Care Center as I now do. Most of this population already has compromised immune systems and it houses the most elderly among us.
Am I fearful of this virus? Well, I am less concerned for my family because they are young and basically healthy, though my friends and I are all in the same vulnerable age bracket. Max, my three-month old grandson, recently had a random fever for a few days. His parents were planning a trip to Texas which they would have abandoned if necessary. His fever was gone in time, and in fact, his immune system is stronger than ever with brand new antibodies. They flew to Austin to visit family and close friends. After hearing about the near proximity of the virus in Ohio, they are now concerned about me and thinking of what it would be like for me to live at Kendal in an emergency situation.
May it not come to that. May an early and continuing warmer than usual spring season help to slow down the progress of the viral transmission everywhere. Death and life are forever tango partners. For myself, I see that I am always dancing with death though my deliberate emphasis is on the living well side. I could envision scenarios of “what if” but do not spend much energy dwelling on them. I am slowly learning that I am able to focus my attention on loving what is right in front of me. Sometimes I remind myself when I am hard at work daydreaming, that I need to be here, wherever Here is at that moment. I am using the word “need” to focus. I need to not fall, to pay attention to what someone else is saying, to slow down and chew my food, to read the book more carefully- whatever I am doing needs me to pay attention. If I am not truly needed, perhaps I might better turn my attention to something else.
I do not know how I might react to a dire circumstance because fortunately, I am not yet facing one. Dancing with life and death needs me to be here because this is where I am.