Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2020/ COVID-19 Part 3: Isolation

COVID-19 Part 3: Isolation

It looks as if this has become a regular feature here on the Internet Landfill, even though as of this writing I have not even published the first entry. That's both okay (these entries are more for me than you) and not okay (I have other things I wanted to write about).

We are in the exponential rise now. I am still irritated at all the engineer types engineersplaining that exponential growth is exponential, but maybe they are right and we will have 2 billion people infected by May 11. As of this writing the Region of Waterloo page reports 69 cases in the region, and something like 6200 in Canada. (I think we were at 2000 last weekend?) Things are not looking good. Of the 69 listed as infected 11 are listed as hospitalized, which seems to me to be the critical number. The fear is that our hospitals will be overwhelmed. If (when) I get sick, I hope I can get better by myself, because I am not willing/wanting to use up a respirator that could be used for somebody else.

All of us who were comparing COVID-19 to the flu look like laughingstocks now, I guess. I continue to maintain that if we tracked the flu as thoroughly as we track COVID-19 then we would freak out about the flu too.

But boy howdy have things changed quickly. Capitalism has ground to a standstill. We have decided that it is okay for businesses to just stop, and governments to promise billions and billions of dollars in relief (but when we wanted those billions of dollars for drug addicts, jail reform, climate change, etc, it was never available). We are all self-isolating in our houses.

My hypochondria took a turn for the worse last week, and I convinced myself that I had a sore throat and might have the coronavirus. Even as I write this I am freaked out (the incubation time can be 14 days, right?) and have convinced myself that I have a tight chest and trouble breathing. I cannot trust my body's signals, so who knows? My educated guess is that this is anxiety, but won't it be rich if I have the coronavirus and have been spreading it to everybody? So rich.

I stopped going to work last week. My hypochondria was too acute. Now I stay in my room much of the time, and it kind of sucks. You would think that self-isolating would be easy for me, since I spend about 20 out of 24 hours each day by myself. But it has not been so easy. Supposedly I am working from home now but it is not going well.

For now I am still going out once a day. I try to stay out of other people's company, but I got groceries yesterday and a slice of pizza the day before that. I don't care so much if I have to stay out of the shops. I care a lot if I don't get to be outside now that the weather is nicer. Somehow we have interpreted social distancing as staying inside. I try to convince myself that cycling in the country does not pose anybody much risk even if I am infected, but I do not know that I believe this.

When I am walking around town I am wearing an old t-shirt over my face as an ad-hoc mask. The official word is that we are not supposed to wear masks if we are healthy, but I have been spending too much time reading @Pinboard and he has convinced me that a better interpretation is: masks may not protect me from the virus, but they may protect others if I have the virus.

I am less convinced by @Pinboard's assertion that we should use the tools of surveillance capitalism to track everybody, so that we can do contact tracing. Once we build that infrastructure it has been justified, which means it will never go away. On the other hand, proper contact tracing might save lives. (We always have to have something, right? Usually it is child pornographers or terrorists. Now it is a virus.) I guess I oppose this because I do not have a cellphone, and am therefore a traitor. But it is only a matter of time before tracking becomes ubiquitous and mandatory, "for public safety". @Pinboard says that we can dismantle the surveillance apparatus later, but I do not see how that will happen.

Another way in which I am a traitor is that I use cash, which is a big no-no in this post-outbreak world. I can forsee a time when debit will become mandatory "for public safety". Then I am in trouble, because I have no self control around money. I want as much friction between me and my purchases as possible.

A lot of things are changing quickly. I am acutely aware that I am being carried away by the tidal waves of the zeitgeist. People tell me what to think, and I think those things. Then a week later I look at what I was thinking, and I shake my head at how stupid I was.

Right now I am thinking that this crisis is showing all of our fault lines. All of a sudden we have decided it is worth putting all the homeless people into self-isolation, so we are miraculously finding shelter spaces (and hotel rooms) for them. This is another example of something that was "too expensive" before, but somehow we have the funds now. Of course, this response is completely inadequate. The real fault line is that we don't have sufficient housing for people, and sufficient supports so that difficult people can stay in that housing. There are many other examples like this.

I am disturbed that we now valorize shut-ins. "Wow! I was socially isolating all this time!" people crow, as if this was a good thing. But online connections are not the same as real-life ones, and I think once the novelty of our new lifestyle has worn off that will become more apparent.

I am feeling the novelty wear off these days. A couple of days ago I was out on my bike and I saw lots of children playing together in a schoolyard. I see other people congregating in parking lots. I am maybe a little less freaked out about the COVID-19 news than I was a few days ago (although my hypochondria remains).

I guess we are in different circumstances now, but I feel that we need human connection. We need conversation. We need touch. (We aren't even allowed to touch our faces any more.) We used to think that people who lacked these things were deprived. Now we think they are heroes.

I have been phenomenally unproductive in my isolation. I have all these tasks to do and books to read and taxes to file in addition to my paid work, but I am getting barely anything done. I am exhausted every single day, though. (Isn't that another symptom?) Getting sucked into COVID19 rabbit holes does not help. I wanted a break from work, and in some sense I got one, and it has not helped at all. Work hangs over my head from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep.

I prefer the catchphrase "flattening the curve" to "out of an abundance of caution".

I wish we had sufficient testing capacity for everybody. Honestly I wish I could get tested.

I wish we had sufficient ventilators (and the staff for them) to handle the cases that are coming. I wish there was a way to expedite this. If we had enough tests (so we could identify asymptomatic cases and isolate them) and enough hospital capacity (so that people could get treated when they have pneumonia) then maybe Boris Johnson's original advice to let this burn through the population would make a lot of sense. But we don't.

I see calls for hackers to help solve the crisis (with an app?) but all they do is make me feel guilty for not stepping up. One project (to get text messages to poor people) stings worse than the others.

I want to go out and help in the garden, but if I am sick (or at risk of being sick) then there is no way I can do this.

I am lucky in that the anxiety is the most difficult thing for me to bear, but the anxiety can be difficult sometimes. I have to end this entry now, because over the course of writing it I made my chest tight, my throat sore, and my brain convinced that I am the Typhoid Mary of this pandemic. (Wouldn't it be rich? So, so rich.)