Monday, June 08, 2020

Why I Stay Home During The Coronavirus

Despite the fact that as of June 8th, we're right around 109,000 deaths and nearly 2 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States, many parts of the country are reopening and seemingly close to returning to normal. This post isn't to say whether this is right or wrong. This post is just about me and what I'm doing.

I live in Fairfax County, Virginia not far from Washington DC. The greater Washington area has been one of the harder hit areas in the country (though nowhere near New York City and New Jersey) and was even labelled as a COVID-19 hotspot last month. Virginia was one of the first places in the country to close schools for the academic year, and the stay-at-home order for Northern Virginia was only lifted on May 29th. As I'm typing this, much of Virginia is now in "Phase 2" while we're in "Phase 1." Basically, there are still too many new cases each day to move us to Phase 2. Fairfax County publishes the number of new cases daily with additional data on cases by age, race, and zip code. I started tracking the specific number of cases in my zip code on May 25th. In the two weeks since then, we're up 51 cases. In case you're wondering, that's 605 cases per 100,000 people. Again, while other parts of the country may have no new cases, that's not the situation here.  

I am fortunate that I have a job and am able to work from home. I know that there are millions of other people throughout the country who aren't in this position. The work at home part is important because of my commute. In normal times, I take the bus to the Metro to get to work, and then the Metro to the bus to get home. My bus route hasn't operated in two months and Metro has significantly reduced service (and now my station is closed for the summer for construction). 

Now the big factor. My kids. Six year old Pedro Tulo had several "dizzy spells" a few years ago. He was too young at the time to really couldn't explain what was happening. I personally never saw him have these episodes, but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to why or when they occurred. After going to several different doctors, it turned out that these dizzy spells were actually seizures. That's a scary diagnosis for a parent! He's taken anti-seizure medicine for the last year and a half, and fortunately, he's been seizure free since then. 

The few things I read online seem to show that seizures do not make someone immunocompromised. In addition, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, "the early information from countries where outbreaks have occurred suggests that the risk of worsening seizures with COVID-19 seems low for more people with epilepsy." Still, it doesn't seem like there have been comprehensive studies on this. I should probably mention that Pedro Tulo touches everything and regularly puts his fingers in his mouth. He's the last person I want to take to a highway rest stop, a sit-in restaurant, or anywhere with crowds.

Which brings me to travel and the summer in general. The kids' camps are closed and who knows what will happen with schools this fall. Daycare for two year old Luigi is a question mark too this fall. If his school opens, I assume Luigi will go back. Still, there's no way that the kids can be socially distant from each other. I can't imagine that the kids will keep masks on.  And if one kid in a class gets sick, there's a good chance others will get sick too. In January or February, Luigi stayed home for a week because of RSV (a common respiratory virus for kids) which resulted in a fever that he couldn't shake. Most of the class got RSV. But school and daycare are more than two months away. I'll worry about that then.

For now, I know that my family has been good at keeping socially distant, but my worry is about going outside our bubble. Others aren't being as vigilant. I've seen videos from beaches in Texas, the Ozarks in Missouri and during some of the protests and talked with a friend in beach-town in Florida where you would never know that there was a pandemic going on. This worries me about traveling anywhere. This article from The Washington Post didn't make me feel better:

But a briefing document prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and distributed Thursday to senior federal officials captured the scale of the challenges remaining. FEMA tracks how many days in a row a state records a decline in new daily coronavirus cases. Thirteen states — Arizona, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin — had not shown a sustained daily decrease as of Tuesday, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Here's the bottom line. Until my office reopens, the bus route returns, and there are no new cases in my zip code, why would I feel comfortable resuming life as normal? (And I'm counting wearing a mask as normal.)  And when I see videos of people not being socially distant, why would I want to go anywhere or be near crowds with people who still think this is a hoax? Look, I'm not a fearful person even though it certainly sounds like it after reading this post. I'm just taking the summer off. I'm going to spend more time with my kids than I would normally, and we'll do that from home getting plenty of time outside. I know that we miss seeing family and friends in person, but maybe because of their ages, the kids seem happy which is the most important thing.

Feel free to disagree and do your own thing. This is just what I'm doing.

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