I’ve basically stopped writing about Covid the last couple of months because I guess I was hoping that not mentioning it would make it go away. Well, that didn’t quite work. While most everyone is under the mistaken notion that things are returning to “normal,’ the truth is that “normal” has changed by definition. Everything we knew as “normal” pre pandemic is non-existent now.
I’ve been back to the office since April of last year, and the rest of the enterprise that was meant to return came back at the end of March 2022. I was profuse with my expression of joy at seeing more people in the office for a change, but we are nowhere near pre pandemic levels. Certain jobs were designated as fully remote, and those who returned mostly got designated hybrid, meaning they did not come back all 5 days of the week. There are still certain jobs that were denominated as “in Office,” meaning they were required to be in all 5 days. I’m hybrid.
We dropped the mandatory masking on the premises a few weeks back, but the increase in the incidence of infections and hospitalizations in New York have caused me to wear the mask in most public spaces, even if masking is optional. Fortunately, most New Yorkers tend to prefer to err on the side of caution, as the memories of the start of Covid in 2020 and the ravages we suffered have caused us to be vigilant against the virus. Sure, more people are walking the streets unmasked, but there are also a significant number who keep their face coverings on.
I had set aside some masks I had cut up and marked to sew — which, I guess, I should get going on assembling in the next couple of weeks. The prediction is that the incidence of infection will continue to rise, and I have been fortunate not to have ever contracted it ever this whole time. (Knock on wood!) I only played hermit the first four months, and had braved venturing into the city soon as the lockdown was called off in July 2020. Like I said, by April 2021, I was back in the office 2-3x a week. I have religiously put on my mask, sanitized and washed my hands as required and more, and I’ve gotten vaccinated and once boosted.
Speaking of, I think I’m sticking with one booster for now. I don’t think my preexisting conditions merit a second booster jab at this point.
I take off my mask the minute I’m in my building where the high ceilings and air quality is much better than what I walk through as I cross the Grand concourse of Grand Central. Once in my space, I immediately either grab some hand sanitizer or wash my hands directly before I get there. I still carry my mask in my hand or in my pocket when I step out. And again, although I am met by a sea of people half of whom are unmasked, I am grateful for those who, like myself, are being careful and wearing one. When I enter an establishment that recommends but does not require masks, I put my mask on for as long as I can bear wearing it.
There are still one or two who wear gloves, afraid of touching something infected. Personally, I’m more afraid of actually inhaling infectious particles that might cause the virus to enter my body. So masking and generally avoiding prolonged exposure to air in enclosed spaces has been my rule of thumb. Will the rising incidence of infections and hospitalizations stop me from enjoying a concert or a play in the coming weeks? No. I’ve learned to take precautions and be cognizant of the symptoms. More importantly, I’ve learned not to let the threat of COVID stop me from doing what I want to do even if it means taking my chances swimming through a crowd.
More than the exposure, I think what counts is how we protect ourselves and practice personal precautions. There is a way to get ahead of the threat if we are careful.
So yes, I go out to restaurants and unmask at my table. I will watch that play and that concert. I ride the bus wearing my mask even if there are some passengers who actually board the bus without one, even if every bus flashes “MASK REQUIRED”. And while I do take it off occasionally to get a whiff of cool air during the ride, more so in the mornings when it can get warmer, I try to keep it on as long as I could.
I get all sorts of compliments for my “fashion-forward” masks — so I guess it’s time to make more. I usually try to match my outfit for the day, because masking is now part of my daily wear. I do a three layer mask of tightly woven cotton, usually cotton sateen to boot, and use a pattern that lets it land smug on my not so high of a bridge on my nose — but not too snug that I cannot breathe.
Meanwhile, I’m hoping the surge doesn’t get any worse. At least for the most part, it seems the vaccines and boosters and precautions are working, as people who have gotten afflicted have had much milder bouts of COVID. You hardly hear anyone getting intubated although there are instances when it is still necessary, so unlike the start when we were afraid we would run out of ventilators. We hope we will never go back to that kind of a desperate situation. We are, after all, continuing to learn to live with it and hopefully overtake it one day soon.
So I guess my Covid diary isn’t quite done yet.