Saturday, October 10, 2020

“If you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

Have you ever noticed how counting to something is more fun than counting from something? Anticipation builds as the time gets closer for a homecoming, a wedding, a holiday. We know it’s 76 days until Christmas and 83 days to New Year’s Eve. But how do you count the days until something will end? Like any countdown, it’s more about expectation than about certainty. In the interest of looking forward, I’ve decided to define some expectations for the end of the pandemic.

Here is my new countdown app. I set two pandemic milestones–one at one year from March 11, 2020, and one at eighteen months. I defined some realistic expectations for each. Then I added in the holidays and two road trips I’m excited about.

Right now I’m looking forward to:

  • Thanksgiving: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be virtual this year, but I always watched it on television anyway. See: https://www.macys.com/social/parade/ . We may go to a small family gathering or roast a turkey and have a small gathering of our own. We’re spending the following weekend in Yosemite!
  • Christmas: We’re going to put up lights and decorate the tree in expectation of St. Nick as well as my oldest son and his four children (who are home schooling this year). Games, movies, and gingerbread houses are on the program. It looks like the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., has some beautiful services planned during the Christmas season. Check it out on: https://cathedral.org/christmas/
  • New Year’s Eve: Our traditional NYE dinner with the grandchildren (they stay all week) followed by the Countdown in Times Square. See https://www.timessquarenyc.org/times-square-new-years-eve ! They promise it will be “Virtually enhanced, visually compelling, and very different!” Good-by 2020!

Now, here’s where you need to get creative:

  • Pandemic Anniversary (March 11, 2021): The beginning of the end. One year after WHO declared the Pandemic, I expect that we will have one or more vaccines with distribution well underway. We will have had six months of testing and experience to establish their efficacy and safety. We will have a tool kit of known therapeutics with tested protocols on their dosage, use, and timing. We will understand more about “long COVID” and how to treat or even prevent it. All of these projects are currently underway.
  • End of Pandemic (October 12, 2021): We may not even notice the eighteen-month milestone, because changes will have phased in all year long. Travel, concerts, family celebrations, shopping, sports, and education will be part of our lives again. There may be new safety protocols, like there were after 9-11, but they will be gradually incorporated into the experience and hardly noticeable.

Forty years ago, in 1979, Walter Cronkite decided to sign off the nightly news by announcing how many days American hostages had been held in Tehran. That crisis lasted 444 days. That too was an election year. Take a deep breath, define your expectations, and look forward.

We can say, “That’s the way it is, Saturday, October 10, 2020, day 214 of the pandemic.”

Or just maybe, “That’s the way it is, Saturday, October 10, 2020, 152 days to the beginning of the pandemic’s end.”

Notable Headlines:

“Upcoming New Year’s Eve in Times Square Will Be ‘Virtually Enhanced Celebration,’ ” NBC New York, Sept. 24, 2020. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/upcoming-new-years-eve-in-times-square-will-be-virtually-enhanced-celebration/2632483/

“U.S. Covid-Testing Plan Aims to Open New York-London Travel by Holidays,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 10, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-covid-testing-plan-aims-to-open-new-york-london-travel-by-holidays-11602337721

“Is it safe to travel for the holidays this year?” CNN, Oct. 10, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/holiday-travel-safety-2020-pandemic/index.html

“4 ways shopping for the holidays is going to be different this year,” CNBC, Oct. 9, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/09/4-ways-shopping-for-the-holidays-is-going-to-be-different-this-year.html

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 pandemic experience 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.

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