Thursday, March 4, 2021
The Pandemic Anniversary! We’re almost there. Can you feel it? I can, because my chronicle, at least this phase of it, is almost at an end. One year ago, on Wednesday, March 4, we took off for Portugal. I had been following the coronavirus story in the news for weeks, wondering whether a pandemic was coming and how it would change our lives.
Travel was already beginning to evolve. The three airports we experienced — LAX, Newark, and Lisbon — were sparsely populated. Very few people wore masks. I told my traveling companions about a piece I had recently seen on Yahoo/Lifestyle showing Kate Hudson posting a selfie with a mask captioned “Travel, 2020.” The article portrayed this as silly and misguided. It wasn’t even an N95 mask, they carped: “But despite both the low-level of spreading outside of China and the extremely high likelihood of a full recovery, an increasing number of Americans have begun to purchase and wear masks like Hudson,” A few weeks the media spread the word that almost any mask would do. A perfect DIY project! Now the ASTM has set a nonregulatory mask standard. Standardization! The beginning of the end?
Only a year ago. I took notes on everything that was new or unexpected. The two flights we took had empty seats. Cancellations, I thought. Upon arrival, the tour director had us each sign a declaration stating that we had not travelled to China, including Macau and Hong Kong, or to South Korea in the last three weeks. In Portugal, popular tourist destinations, even Fatima, were deserted. My cell phone showed headlines about cruise ships being quarantined. A Business Insider story ominously announced, “Coronavirus: Italy lockdown plan leaked, thousands try to flee.”
We returned on March 13, 2020, to a changed America. For the past year I’ve taken pictures and written about anything that was different: empty shelves at the supermarket, signs saying to wear masks, headlines about cancelled fireworks on the Fourth of July, lines of people waiting six feet apart at the DMV. I’ve heard the nightly news report on shortages of PPE, testing kits, vaccinations, and toilet paper, while showing the same footage of hospital hallways crowded with gurneys, lab techs endlessly dispensing fluids from 8-channel pipettes, people with swabs up their nose, people with needles in their arms, and endless rows of purple-topped vials moving along conveyer belts. I can’t watch them anymore. And, you know what? It doesn’t even look different any more. I’ve lost my perspective.
I subscribed to pandemic newsletters and read them every day. Anything to do with the pandemic–Johns Hopkins, CIDRAP, Science News, Nature Briefing, the MMWR, you name it. Now I’m seriously behind. The news stories that interested me this morning had more to do with cleaning out my file drawers and opening up Yosemite than with virus variants. It’s not just me. We’re in a transitional phase. Even amidst concerns about the spread of new variants, a more open future is coming into view. Vaccine production and distribution are ramping up and we see positive news about schools reopening, travel, sports, and concerts.
Some pandemics have clearly marked beginnings and ends. Remember the H1N1 pandemic, aka “swine flu” back in 2009? WHO declared a pandemic on June 11, 2009. There were 12,469 deaths in the U.S. Vaccinations began in October. WHO declared the pandemic over on August 10, 2010. “However,” reports the CDC, ” (H1N1)pdm09 virus continues to circulate as a seasonal flu virus and cause illness, hospitalization, and deaths worldwide every year.”
COVID-19 has had a much greater impact and it’s too early to write its epitaph. But the pandemic phase will come to an end. It too will linger, now and then surprising everyone with an outbreak. While it’s too early to take an historical perspective, it’s not to soon to consider the immediate impact on our lives and our families. Already the headlines are full of “one year into the pandemic” stories.
So I will continue to follow the pandemic’s impact upon our world weekly in this blog in consideration of its historical perspective. In the meantime, I plan to write my story of the ongoing pandemic while it’s still fresh in my mind.
Today’s Panda-versary Headlines:
“A pandemic year,” Washington Post, March 4, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/interactive/2021/coronavirus-anniversary/
“Remember when? Timeline marks key events in California’s year-long pandemic grind,” CalMattters, March 4, 2021. https://calmatters.org/health/coronavirus/2021/03/timeline-california-pandemic-year-key-points/
“One year into the pandemic, America is still down nearly 10 million jobs,” CNN Business, March 4, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/04/economy/february-jobs-report-unemployment-benefits/index.html
Also referred to:
“Kate Hudson joins social media trend sharing face mask selfie,” Yahoo.com, Feb. 25, 2020. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/kate-hudson-selfie-mask-coronavirus-015647717.html
“Thousands of people in Italy panicked and tried to flee its 16-million-person coronavirus quarantine after the plan leaked,” Business Insider, March 9, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-italy-lockdown-plan-leaked-thousands-tried-to-flee-2020-3
“Nonregulatory Face Mask Standard Approved by ASTM,” EHS Daily Advisor, Feb. 19, 2021. https://ehsdailyadvisor.blr.com/2021/02/nonregulatory-face-mask-standard-approved-by-astm/
“2009 H1N1 Pandemic (H1N1pdm09 virus),” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-h1n1-pandemic.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. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.