Foss: How long will we have to live like this under coronavirus?

The author's son does a little social distancing.
The author's son does a little social distancing.

Categories: News, Opinion

I miss the way things were. 

I miss taking my son to the playground. I miss dropping him off at daycare. I think he misses these things, too.

The other day, we heard him reciting the names of other kids in his daycare class – something he’s never done before. The woman who teaches his music class has been posting short videos, and we watch them on the computer together. 

But it’s just not the same. 

He wants to see people. I want to see people. We get outside every day, but our activity is solitary. When we do see people, it’s usually from afar. 

We’re social distancing – staying home, limiting our activity and trying to help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

And we’re not alone. 

There are a lot of people doing what we’re doing, in the hope that needless suffering, sickness and death might be prevented. 

One question that’s emerging, as the hunkering down extends into its second week, is how long we’ll be asked to do this. 

Shutting down society comes with huge economic costs. People are losing their jobs. Businesses have closed and might never re-open. A recession seems inevitable. 

Social distancing also comes with an emotional toll.

I’m already missing friends and family. 

Whenever I glance at the calendar, I feel sad – so many gatherings and events have been canceled already, and the list is almost certain to grow. Reminders of what’s been lost are omnipresent. Every once in a while I get the urge to turn on an NBA game, only to remember that the season has been suspended.

I’m ready to stop social distancing.

But it looks like we’re going to be asked to do it for while. 

The idea is that if we can reduce the rate of new infections and ramp up testing – a big if, given the shortage of COVID-19 tests in the U.S. –  the extreme measures we’re taking now to limit contact won’t be necessary, at least not on the epic scale we’re seeing now. 

Testing will enable us to figure out who has coronavirus, which communities have been exposed and isolate those at risk of spreading the disease.

We’ll be better able to establish containment zones and get outbreaks under control more quickly. While some social distancing might be necessary, we might not need the broad, open-ended restrictions we’re seeing right now.

As Josh Barro put it in New York Magazine: “The better we get at interventions to identify and isolate specific people with the virus, the less we should need to rely on interventions that isolate the entire population. That’s a reason the ramp-up of widely available testing remains such an important goal for the U.S.: More testing should, in time, allow for more normal living.” 

I certainly hope so.  

Because normal living is what I want at the moment. 

I don’t crave excitement, or new experiences. 

I crave a return to life as it was, in all its boring, unexceptional glory. 

I want to have friends over for dinner and visit my family. I want to drop my son off at daycare and head into the office. I want to eat at restaurants and go to the movies and hear live music.

With time, I’m sure I’ll get to do all of these things again. 

The question is: How much time?

Right now, it’s a question without an answer. 

And that’s unfortunate. 

I hope we get one soon.

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