This was going to be a fun weekend. That was the plan, anyway. I’ve got a longtime friend from Colorado who’s probably forgotten more about backpacking then I’ve ever learned, and over the winter he invited me to join him and a group of college kids who were going to do a four-day trip into the backcountry of Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park. He was teaching a university course on the subject, and the trip was a way to practice what they’d learned.
Needless to say, the trip isn’t happening. Not after all this virus stuff. And I get it. Aside from the contagion risk of meeting up with a group of people from all over the place, and potentially getting or transmitting the bug to people we’d meet in the towns leading to the park, it’s not a good idea. I think you could still get away with a close-by solo camping or backpacking trip, but even then, it’s not a great bet.
Again, this is a small problem in an ever-growing sea of much bigger ones. And some of those have hit home.
Last week, 3.3 million people applied for unemployment assistance as the first big wave of layoffs hit following nationwide orders that “non-essential” businesses close until the COVID-19 outbreak is subdued. That was a record, some four or five times more than the previous mark. This week, that astounding number was dwarfed by the 6.6 million who applied. Those are jaw-dropping statistics, and frankly, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be looking for a new job in these conditions. What we see unfolding now might make the Great Recession look mild, and we all know how painful that was.
Personally, I knew the other shoe was going to drop sometime. Working in the news business, we’re heavily dependent on two sources of revenues: subscriptions and advertising. The good news is that subscriptions and online readership are up. The bad news is that advertising is way down, and seeing that advertising is a huge part of how my employer makes money, the pain is sharp. What that means is everyone in the company is going to have to eat two weeks of furloughs — unpaid leave — over the next three months. That’s a bunch of money we won’t be getting, but I still consider myself lucky that I’m employed. Being laid off is far worse. I’ll weather it and hope that things calm down soon. But I’m not counting on it.
As for other things going on: My neighbor, the older fella who got sick with the virus, is on the mend. Great news, because we were worried about him.
But I’ve got another friend who is in the middle of his own coronavirus odyssey. He’s a doctor who, a couple of weeks ago, was in front of a suburban city council urging them to enact stricter stay-at-home measures to stop the spread of the virus. A week later, he came down with the virus himself.
He texted me the news a little less than a week ago, telling me he thinks he caught it while treating patients at a hospital north of Tulsa. The availability of personal protection equipment — N95 masks, face shields, etc. — is limited, and at that hospital it was only given to staff who were treating people with confirmed cases. In his case, he was seeing patients who were thought to be potential cases based on their symptoms, thus he didn’t have the gear given to him that others got. And hence, the infection.
You can read more about what he had to say about it here. The weekend and early part of this week was rough, so I’m hoping things get better for him soon. I can’t express the worry I feel for those in health care right now.
On a lighter subject, I’m still learning new ways to stay active. I might not be backpacking, but I’ve found ways to use backpacks for fitness. Nothing like loading up a backpack and doing walking lunges up the hill. I think that loaded pack might find other uses, too, and I’m still looking for other ways to challenge myself physically. I don’t see my gym opening up for another couple of months, so I gotta make do.
And for now, we’re still allowed to go outside to walk, run or bike as long as we keep our distance. I do hill repeats on the bike. I go run. The other day, I decided to run one of my downtown routes, mostly just to see how things look with so much locked down.
It’s quiet. Parking garages are empty. No one is going into restaurants. Car traffic is light. If I wanted, I could probably run across most downtown intersections without even bothering to look for traffic. Construction is ongoing at two high-rises, but other than that the only “activity” I saw was a guy walking into an eatery with a box full of supplies. I’m assuming the restaurant is still doing takeout and delivery. But I worry about the Tulsa Arts District and all the businesses that are there. Restaurants, bars, taprooms and concert venues are all closed. The baseball park is empty and will stay that way.
This Friday would be the First Friday Arts Walk, which usually brings hundreds of people there to tour the museums. A park there usually hosts free outdoor concerts. If there was a baseball game scheduled, thousands more would come. Add a show or two and hundreds or thousands would be added to their numbers, and the Arts District would be hopping. This weekend? It’ll be a dead zone.
And for good reason. Coronavirus infections are spiking, hospitalizations are surging, and deaths are beginning to mount.
It’s hard for everyone, even if you’re not sick. We’re losing income. Jobs. Missing friends. Unable to see family. And all those travel plans are toast. All of it’s been replaced by boredom at home, worries about money and the overhanging dread of the question: “What if I get sick?”
And I think that’s why I’ve been adamant about exercising. I haven’t missed a workout yet. I’m still running. Yeah, none of this is as epic as the lifts at the gym or as fun as those group runs and races we’re missing now. And it’s OK to grieve that. But you have to find something to cope with it.
So that’s my goal for next week, and every week going forward until life gets back to some sort of normal. I hope you can do the same. Find that things to help you deal.