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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali

The surreal dance continues as we hear announcements of opening up, not opening up, and partially opening up. The take-home message this week is that all openings are partial. For example, Los Angeles County beaches are reopening today, but don’t bring your beach chair and ice chest. As long as you keep moving–surfing, paddleboarding, jogging, walking–you can enjoy the beach. Then at yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting the Los Angeles County Public Health Director announced that the County’s stay-at-home orders are most likely to extend through July.

Since the governor recently announced that some businesses would reopen as of last Friday, there is some confusion about what “stay-at-home” actually means, but judging from what I’ve heard on the radio this morning, clarification is taking place even as I write. Such as that “stay-at-home” means Los Angeles encourages people to continue working from home as much as possible. Wait–was that the city or the county? Don’t look to me for guidance. I’m only here to document what it feels like to live in a 21st-century pandemic.

Three weeks ago, on Day 43, I pointed out that the L. A. Times had erroneously announced that Cal State Fullerton was going to all on-line classes in the fall. Turns out, the Times wasn’t incorrect, just premature.

Today the headlines announced that the 33 campuses of the University of California and California State University plan to take a “hybrid” approach in the fall, offering most classes on line, except for a few classes that need to be hands-on. Again, I checked the college websites and I still didn’t see any definitive announcements. But this time there was no denial either.

We can feel the summer approaching now and we know fall won’t be far behind. We find we still have much to learn about this virus–how long immunity lasts, what it does to children, whether we can begin to contain it by testing and tracing contacts until we have an effective and safe vaccine. It makes sense to step forward carefully and even step back when we must.

And yet it feels surreal. Familiar, yet strange. You feel normal over your morning coffee, then you walk out and see the empty streets and closed playgrounds, and you feel like Geena Davis in “Beetlejuice” when she steps outside her home into a barren desert.

Warren G. Harding, President 1921-23

It’s a time of contradiction. Beaches are open if you don’t sunbathe. Stores are open if you don’t go in and shop. Universities are open if you stay off campus. These days politicians like to use the word normalcy to describe our destination. “Return to normalcy,” Warren G. Harding’s campaign slogan from the 1920s, a comforting word, a nostalgic word.

But we’re not going back. We’re going to go forward, we’re going to adapt, and we’re going to bring some good things of the past along with us.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Los Angeles County beaches reopen in a coronavirus milestone,” Los Angeles Times on Yahoo News, May 13, 2020. https://news.yahoo.com/los-angeles-county-beaches-reopen-144237831.html

“Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home orders are expected to be extended at least through July,” The Week on Yahoo News, May 12, 2020. https://news.yahoo.com/los-angeles-countys-stay-home-194200288.html

“The University of California and California State University systems plan to remain mostly online for fall semester,” Insider on Yahoo News, May 12, 2020. https://news.yahoo.com/university-california-california-state-university-050309169.html

“Somber warnings temper hopes about a fall return to school and normalcy,” CNN, May 13, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/13/politics/coronavirus-schools-education-donald-trump-fauci/index.html?ref=hvper.com

“How Normalcy Went From Misnomer to Safe Word,” Ben Zimmer, The Atlantic,  April 10, 2020 https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/04/how-normalcy-became-a-safe-word/609805/

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

One thought on “Pandemic Day 64: Surreal

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