This morning, as I was in my usual place on the couch getting some work done, I heard a sound as familiar as it was unexpected: the ice cream truck, slowly jingling its way through the neighborhood.
My first thought was that business couldn’t be very good. My second thought, though, was that maybe the ice cream man knows something about human nature that I don’t.
Here we are two months into lockdown, and the state is preparing for the inevitable relaunch of parts of the economy starting this Wednesday. All the data we have suggests that Connecticut hit its peak in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths sometime in mid-April, and we’ve been slowly working our way down the back slope since.
But that doesn’t mean the danger’s gone. COVID-19 is still out there. There are still thousands and thousands of new cases every day in this country.
The federal government was supposed to use this time to implement strong and centralized testing, contact tracing, and quarantine procedures, but they haven’t. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that failure, though the lion’s share falls to an inept president who has shown no capacity for empathy, no leadership skills to speak of, and no management ability. The United States has seen over 1.5 million cases and 90,000 deaths in ten short weeks. That’s 37% of the total cases and 28% of the total deaths worldwide, despite the United States having only about 4% of the world’s population.
It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know what’s become of us, or how we’ll be after this is all over.
But not everything is perfect. Prisons, nursing homes, and cities are still feeling a lot of pain. Plus, the firing of the commissioner of the Department of Public Health and worries from legislators about opening too quickly means there’s a lot of uncertainty about how this is all going to play out.
In other words, we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet. But, somehow, life has to go on.
Because this country is neither kind nor foresightful enough to provide income for its people through the crisis, or to disentangle health care from employment, stores, restaurants, and offices are about to open back up. There are plenty of rules about wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, and more that need to be followed. These are supposed to help keep us nonessential workers safe as we begin to reemerge from our homes and life starts going back to some kind of normal.
It won’t be as safe as staying home. I suppose we’re going to have to get used to the idea that safety is something that’s impossible to have.
That’s what coexisting alongside this disease is going to be like for the foreseeable future. We’re all going to weigh dozens of risks every single day. Is it worth eating in the office break room? Should I wear a mask at home to protect my family? Should I go to the grocery store or order online? Do I report in or stay home? Should I get a haircut? Is it worth it? Should I get tested? On and on and on.
Some people, however, seem to be throwing caution to the winds. There was a party at a house on my street today. A dozen or more people were there, all arriving in different cars. Nobody wore a mask. Nobody even seemed to be aware that there could be some kind of risk.
And maybe that’s what the ice cream man knew as he was driving by. Some people will weigh the risks and try to stay safe. But others just want some ice cream, and they’re going to get it no matter what.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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