COVID Diaries Pt. 1

A Global Pandemic

It’s been a bit since I’ve blogged, but in these unprecedented times (man I hate that word now) I decided I needed to get this down for posterity.

Right now, we have been in the midst of a global pandemic for the last four months.  COVID-19 has killed 100,000 people in the US and hundreds of thousands more around the world.  Some countries and individual cities have been hit tremendously hard and the scenes there have been harrowing.

This has led to stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and quarantines around the globe and the US.  We have been under a stay-at-home order in Illinois since March, and I personally hadn’t left my own property for the last two months until just this week.

It’s been mentally draining for everyone.  Many people have lost their jobs, or their small businesses have had to remain closed. The country has unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression.

Then there are all the families whose schools, sports, and graduations were all cancelled.  Kids didn’t get to have that in-person graduation ceremony, didn’t get to contend for a state or national title, star in the spring play or musical, or dance in their Senior recital.

That affected our family too.  At 18, Kali just finished her Associate’s Degree at the local community college, while at 16, Claire was graduating high school (we homeschool) after already completing her first semester at community college as well.

So, no graduations.  Next week is my wife and I’s 25th wedding anniversary.  We had hoped to celebrate in Vegas, but that’s not happening.  My wife has a birthday later this spring, and my 50th birthday is coming up this fall.  I expect to be still in lockdown enough where I’m not going to do anything special there either.

Kali is supposed to transfer to a University to work towards her Bachelor’s in the fall.  There is uncertainty as to if everything will be online or not.  As one of her degrees is going to be in Dance, those classes really can’t happen online.

When it comes to employment, I’ve been lucky to still have a job.  I manage IT systems for a company in the exhibit industry.  We build the booths for the large trade shows.  Since there aren’t going to be large gatherings in the foreseeable future, that’s a problem.  We’ve furloughed or terminated 90% of the company.  People I’ve worked with for 16 years, people I’ve hired, all gone. And running the IT Infrastructure like I do, my team and I have had to remove access to every system for every one of those people.  It takes a toll mentally.  And I know that it’s even worse for those getting let go.

So that has led to survivor’s guilt.  Feeling both horrible and thankful that you of all people still have a job when so many have lost theirs.  I’ve had some pretty dark days.  I still have the anxiety of whether things will get bad enough that I too will lose my job.  I look at our finances and know that we could barely squeak by for a month, maybe two, before all hell would break loose.  And at that point I would lose health insurance which during a pandemic is a nightmare for everyone dealing with the disease.

If there is anything at all we learn from this, I surely hope people realize that tying insurance to employment is the wrong approach.

I’m an overweight, middle-aged guy with asthma.  I’ve had bad pneumonia that I’ve had to be hospitalized for before.  I’m a target demographic for this virus.  If I get it, there’s a chance I die.

But what if I just get hospitalized for it?  The amount of money it will cost will be staggering.   I went to the emergency room and spent less than 24 hours in the hospital over two years ago.  It was a vertigo attack that they can’t really do anything for.  I underwent every test and scan, and they could find nothing wrong.  I’m still paying off that bill.

If I contract COVID-19 and have to be hospitalized, I’ll be in the hospital far longer than 24 hours, with more expensive treatment.  If that happens, I currently have insurance because I have a job, and it’s still going to cost me a huge deductible.  If I didn’t have a job, what then?  20% of the entire US workforce face that grim reality right now.

People should not have to worry about bankruptcy when they are sick.  They just shouldn’t.

Right now, everything is starting to boil over as the economic impact is hurting people, the loss of freedom is bringing out the worst in some people, and people are protesting lockdowns.  We have done a decent job so far at flattening the curve of the spread, but more needs to be done, and right now everyone is going the opposite direction.  I fear we will lose the progress we’ve made, and infections will skyrocket.

I hope not.  I hope the images I see of people ignoring medical advice are a minority of people.  I hope that people are safe and don’t get sick.

But hope in one hand and shit in the other.  See which one fills up first.