Three years ago today is when the Centers for Disease Control declared COVID to be a pandemic. I was on Spring Break and the big question was whether the university was going to shut its doors and deliver its classes online. The CDC hadn’t declared shelter in place yet, but other universities had closed. It took two more days for our university to follow the others. An extra week of break for the students and for faculty to put together online classes, and then the new class format to get used to.
I spent a lot of that first couple of weeks frightened when I was not sitting at my computer frantically moving classes online. Luckily, one of my classes was online; another — the internship was a mess with students not being able to finish it. Some creative grading got them through and closer to graduation. The fear was widespread; after I had a meltdown in the middle of the kitchen, I called my psychiatrist and got through to his nurse. She reassured me that what I was going through was normal.
Richard worked on library tasks at home; I spent a lot of time on the computer supervising my online classes. I also spent a lot of that time baking bread. I fed three sourdough starters, one of which I captured myself. The experiments made me feel more grounded, and we had the best bread in town. I also wrote a lot when the initial shock dissipated. The longer-lasting feeling was isolation as I sat on the porch swing, seeing nobody outside.
Eventually, the restaurants and less necessary stores opened up with precautions of distancing and masks. By some miracle — or more likely masking — Richard and I missed getting COVID (until a month ago, and the vaccine made it bearable). Activities like concerts and vacations were still on the forbidden list, and we missed Christmas with my family that year.
Finally, we came back to a new normal, one with the remnants of distancing signs on grocery store floors, masks at the hospital, wariness about crowds, and memories of a disruption of life unknown since World War II. One million dead in the US made those disruptions necessary until we had the vaccines in place.
Our memories fade. We take for granted our freedom to move, to go places, to shop, to congregate with friends. It wasn’t that long ago that we lost all those, if only for a while. And it could happen again. A mutation of COVID into a harsher bug could send us back into isolation. There are other organisms that we haven’t seen in humans before that could be the next COVID or worse. We have to remember how COVID made us adapt and survive.