“We can’t keep fighting the virus from our living room,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), clearly over it, said Wednesday.
“There is a pent-up demand” to resume normal life, said President Trump, also over it, in the Rose Garden on Tuesday. “And you’re going to see it more and more.”
“I think everybody is kind of over it, you know what I mean?” says a Realtor named Toni Mock, on the phone from Jacksonville, Fla.
Her 2019 was better than any of her 25 years in the business. She wants that roaring Trump economy back. One thing that helped her get over it was the “boaters for Trump” flotilla May 16. She hopped in a friend’s 40-foot sportfishing boat with some chicken wings and Corona beers (lol) and joined a fleet of vessels in the Intracoastal Waterway. The sun, the breeze, the “Trump 2020” and “Stop the Bulls—” flags, the kayaks and Jet Skis, the boats dubbed with carefree puns like “Knot to Worry” — it was “almost biblical,” according to Mock.
“It’s all a part of getting out there and letting everybody know we’re not going to die from this.”
And what if the coronavirus surges back, because we’re all over it and having a summer, and we do die from this?
“I have God in my heart, so God could take me out any day,” Mock says. “He can take me out in any way he wants to. And if it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. I don’t think anyone I know is personally concerned. None of us are afraid, because we have God in our souls and God in our hearts. And we don’t watch CNN.”
Boaters around Jacksonville are hoping to do another flotilla June 14, in honor of President Trump’s 74th birthday, and why not? Duval County is populous but has only 44 confirmed covid-19 deaths; that’s 0.005 percent of the population.
If you render a pandemic in hyperlocal statistics, it can look like nothing. It can look like it’s time to get over it.
If you meet a pandemic head-on in a hospital, it can look like everything. It can look like we won’t be over it for a while. A few weeks ago, at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., a nurse named Marlena Pellegrino donned her protective gear to check on a 100-year-old covid-19 patient, who had been alone in a room for too long because of a staffing shortage.
“I’m blue,” the old woman, who had dementia, told Pellegrino.
At first, Pellegrino thought she was being literal. Blue? Her lips? Skin? A lack of oxygen? Just cold? The woman clarified that she was lonely.
“That was like a knife in my heart,” Pellegrino says. Even in her fog and confusion, the woman was communicating the hard truth of the pandemic: that many people are suffering, and dying, alone. And just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean we should beover it.
“People out in these states at water parks and beaches and boardwalks without masks on, gathering 200 people in a pool — to nurses, that’s like, ‘What do these people not understand?’ ” says Pellegrino, walking in a park Thursday in Worcester, Mass., before her 3-to-midnight shift at St. Vincent. “This is about protecting community, protecting society. People are just discarding what is still a major health-care crisis. A pandemic means we need to be safeguarding one another. We’re going to be needing to protect ourselves for months — if not years — to come.”
The District is over it — the lockdown, anyway. The citywide stay-at-home order lifts today. Over your scraggly bangs? You can get your hair cut by appointment, but you can’t get it waxed or zapped off. Over eating every meal at home? You can order food and drink outside at a restaurant, but your party cannot exceed six people. Gyms, though, remain closed. This makes sense — for now — to Melody Feldman, owner of D.C.’s CrossFit MPH, whose 135 members are working out together virtually, on Zoom. But she very much hopes to be open by July.
“I was literally on Zoom calls for seven hours yesterday,” Feldman says. “I felt like I had so much anxiety and irritation at the end that, no, I can’t do that forever. That’s not healthy or natural. And I think that a lot of people are feeling a similar way. We’re willing to stay here for a while for the greater good, but it’s definitely taking a toll on everyone emotionally, socially. It’s not a place we can live forever.”
Protesters in state capitols have been over it for a while. Last weekend a woman in Sacramento was so over it that she held a sign conveying her yearning for movie-theater popcorn. A man in Lansing was so over it that he held a sign May 14 that said, “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” Now the rest of the country is beginning to grant their wishes. Disney World is hoping to begin a phased reopening July 11. In Las Vegas, the Bellagio and MGM Grand will reopen Thursday.
Debra Jeffries, a cocktail server at a Las Vegas casino, has a routine these days at her home in Henderson, Nev.: morning coffee, then two hours trying — and failing — to get ahold of someone at the unemployment office, then doing work for her union to advocate for safety standards. She’ll be over this whole thing when she’s satisfied that casinos are reopening responsibly.
“To tell you the truth, I’m scared,” says Jeffries, 65. “I wait on people from all over the world. And the smoking bothers me in a casino. That’s an aerosol, when they’re blowing out smoke, and that’s penetrating a mask.” She has been a cocktail server for 40 years, and suspects that the remainder of her career will not be the same.
Rising college senior Eric Mendoza knows his career won’t be the same, even though his career hasn’t even begun. He was elected student-body president at Texas A&M University three weeks before the pandemic locked down the country. This summer he was supposed to work in Dallas for a consulting firm, but instead he’s home in Houston with his parents and sister. Three months in, he’s over it, but he also realizes that “it” is actually a step forward.
“Because everything has changed, everything will change,” Mendoza says. “I have friends that planned out their life for the next few years, and now they have to do a whole new thing. I think a lot of students, myself included, are trying to release ourselves from expectations of what might have been, and grapple with reality.”
Reality means grappling with the idea that the coronavirus might stalk us for years, even if scientists come up with a vaccine. Reality means wondering how much more we can take. Who wouldn’t want to be over it? Beats being under it.
The percentage of American adults experiencing depressed moods has doubled during the pandemic, according to an emergency weekly survey conducted in April by the Census Bureau. Nearly half of adults in Mississippi reported symptoms of anxiety or depression; no state had a higher percentage.
This makes sense to Michael W. Preston, a marriage and family therapist in Jackson, Miss.: The lower your socioeconomic class, the higher your anxiety and susceptibility to mental illness. Preston, whose sessions are exclusively online for now, finds that his patients are frustrated either because others are not taking the pandemic seriously enough, or because they’re taking it too seriously. Over the past three months he has seen the balm of togetherness replaced by the irritant of politics, made worse by the fact that there’s nothing to do but sit in it.
“There’s been a spike not necessarily in anxiety related to covid, but related to being stuck,” Preston says. “People are just at the end of their wits. ‘Michael, I cannot stay home for another day.’ They will and they do, but I think most people are talking about being stuck.”
Preston advocates grace. Show yourself grace. Show your spouse or your family grace. Permit and excuse each other’s shortened fuses and little conniptions. We may not be able to control time, but we can control space. And we should give each other that.
“Sometime on Monday, around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I thought, “If I hear one more whining tone, I’m going to go bananas,” says Preston, a father of three children under 7. “And it’s not that my kids were being especially whiny; it’s just that I have’t gotten a break from it, like I normally would, in weeks.”
So he excused himself, shut the door to his bedroom, and sat for a few minutes until he was over it.