The New Year 2020 was supposed to be a benchmark year for all good reasons. The beginning of a new decade with its own promises and hopes, the year of Presidential election and continued improvement of economy, and more. But all that changed in an instant when a novel coronavirus, Covid-19, came from Wuhan, China, to visit us and life has not been the same ever since. This diabolical virus has kept our country under its grip and has certainly upended our peaceful life with no end in sight!
Welcome to the ‘Life in the time of Corona.’ To say that the virus has changed our day-to-day life would be an understatement. In fact, our daily life is in topsy – turvy now. For a while, we suffered through the lock-down and other indignities. It’s still not a whole lot better even though the virus has been with us now for more than seven months!
While watching the U.S. Open tennis a few weeks ago, I thought something was amiss here. The best players are in action but where are the fans, I asked myself. The stadium was literally empty, with no applause after long rallies or great shots. Except for the players on the court, a few masked officials, linesmen, and ball boys the entire arena looked deserted. So, this is the pandemic edition of the famous tournament? What a disappointment for the tennis fans! Sadly, many other sports programs are in the same boat.
A trip to Wal-Mart the other day for my grocery was an adventure within itself. I didn’t want to go inside the store and risk being in close proximity with people. So I decided to order everything online. That was a bit tiresome since I had to spend so much time on the computer; then I found out some items are not available for online purchasing. Finally, I completed my orders and waited. After a couple of days, the message came, “Your order is ready to pick up.” Thank God, that should be easy, so I jumped into the car and reached there in a jiffy, only to find I had to join a long line of cars, all waiting at the pick-up line.
The school closings have created many problems for working parents. Since the kids cannot spend that time in school, the parents have to scramble to find ways to take care of them while they are working. “This pandemic is wreaking havoc on our routines. Both children are stuck at home and we are having a difficult time getting babysitters who also can supervise their virtual classes. And our expenses are going through the roof,” said a young hardworking couple. I hear the same story again and again.
So many changes in a few short months! Wearing masks when you step out of the house, keeping social distancing all the time, avoiding crowds especially during indoor gatherings, attention to personal hygiene…well, we have to live with so many restrictions now. Instead of a bottle of water, I carry a bottle of sanitizer now. Before you enter any office, hospital, or even the temple, your temperature will be taken with a special gun – a touchless thermometer, pointed at your forehead – the litmus test to detect infection? Greeting people now is through folded hands, Namaste, or with elbow bumps. Requiem for the handshake? All major functions like weddings, video – conferences, seminars, etc. are done through zoom meetings! And I am developing zoom fatigue.
Another wrinkle. The pandemic is putting many careers on hold. One aspiring medical student who finished his BS and was admitted to medical school said: “I postponed going to med school; will do my MBA next 2 years. Those hospital floors are full of Covid cases, why risk my life?” More heartbreaking is the situation of those who have completed their courses in Law, Engineering, Social Work, etc. but their licensing exams have been postponed because of the pandemic, so now they have to wait before they can get their license and start working.
The economy has taken a downturn and many small businesses have closed. This has wreaked havoc on middle-class households. The travel industry has taken a big hit too. “Working from home,” has become the common refrain. “That’s truly depressing, I miss the interaction with my colleagues,” said one office worker. And after the lock-down, there is an obesity crisis nationwide!
Looks like office medical practices have come to an end as well. It’s all Tele-medicine now, no in-person follow-ups for the most part. Sad to see the reassuring face-to-face meeting with the patients and the therapeutic healing touch slowly disappearing. Life has changed for sure; ‘how long for,’ nobody knows. And with the arrival of winter, the second surge of the corona is here along with seasonal influenza. Somehow we have to avoid another mandatory lockdown while adhering to all preventive measures. This is indeed a tight rope to walk but is there any alternative? Experts think this virus is going to be with us for a while.
It is said “Change is the only constant in life,” but who expected this much radical change after a pesky virus came to visit us! Unfortunately, “It’s not possible to stop the virus,” said Emmanuel André, a leading virologist in Belgium. “It’s about maintaining equilibrium. And we only have a few tools available to do that.”
So, let us learn to live with the virus for a while. The Japanese, a very sensible bunch, have already started doing that. We are resilient and with solidarity, we will overcome this pandemic eventually and life will back to normal.