I was eating Li’l Debbie Pecan Spinwheels for breakfast the other day, because only God can judge me, when I couldn’t find any more. I asked my husband if we had any more in the car, and he went digging, only to return empty-handed. I went to protein bars. “You know, one day, I’ll be able to say, hey, we’re out of Spinwheels, and you’ll say, hey, I’ll go get some,” I told him, sort of sagging when I did. “Yeah,” he said, just as sadly. “Yeah, I will just be able to like, leave.” This stupid exchange, the smallness of it all: this is life in a COVID-19 hotspot.
Because we can’t “just leave.”
Over the weekend my state, South Carolina, saw the highest diagnosed number of COVID-19 cases so far: 1,599. Governors from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have said that visitors coming from here must quarantine themselves for two weeks. And it’s not the number of people being tested that means increased numbers that makes us a COVID-19 hotspot. The percent positive rate has gone from 13% to 18% in the last ten days, says ABC. And because our governor refuses to enforce another stay-at-home order, force people to wear masks in public, or close beaches, indoor dining, theme parks, bowling alleys, salons, and gyms, it’s basically up to South Carolinians to do for themselves.
Dr. Joan Duvwe, Director of Public Health for the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control, who must feel like fucking Cassandra at this point, says, “There are only individual actions that help us take care of one another.”
No Really, We Can’t Leave
Living in a COVID-19 hotspot, we cannot go anywhere.
The chances of encountering the virus at the grocery store, the gas station, or anywhere else are so high that my husband and I have become close to agoraphobic (I’m probably well on my way to becoming actually agoraphobic, but let’s just not touch that one right now on top of the rest of the pandemic woes, okay?). We used to occasionally take the kids to a state park, where the sparse number of people, the sun and moving air, plus our masks, allayed any fears we had. Now I’m too scared even to let the kids do that.
We know of some very, very secluded state parks we could go to in different parts of the state. It’s unlikely anyone would be there at all. But in a COVID-19 hotspot, you see those numbers and your brain begins churning. What if the car breaks down? We’re going to need gas eventually. We’d have to carry all our food and drinks for the whole trip. It’s too terrifying. And last time we went to a state park, we saw a total of about six people. One of those six people wanted to tell me about an alligator. She wasn’t wearing a mask. She kept coming at me like a zombie until, from eight feet away, I yelled, “Don’t get any closer!”
She glared at me like I was the world’s biggest bitch.
I have nightmares about her.
So we stay at home.
That Means, In A COVID-19 Hotspot, Someone Else Has To Go Out For Us
Since we live in a COVID-19 hotspot, we’re dependent on other people risking their health to bring us things. We’re dependent on the delivery people: the mail, the Amazon delivery people, the Whole Foods delivery service. They risk themselves, and we know they risk themselves, but we can leave thank-you notes and always, always, always tip very well. This isn’t Disney World. They’re going out into dangerous territory and should be adequately compensated for working in a COVID-19 hotspot.
We’re dependent on not just the delivery folks, but a whole chain of people we will never know and never see who are risking their health and the health of their families to make sure that my husband and I never have to leave. We’re dependent on the postal service people who go in every single day to sort the mail. We’re dependent on the people who sort and pack and address our Amazon goods. We need not only the person who makes the delivery, but the shopper who pulls the goods from the shelves, the person who restocks the shelves, and everyone who keeps the grocery store running. They’re going to work in a COVID-19 hotspot so I don’t have to go anywhere.
Living like this in a COVID-19 hotspot means guilt. Our privilege keeps us safe.
A COVID-19 Hotspot Means Cooking
Though the CDC says that the risk from take-out and delivery is very low, right now, it’s not a risk that we want to take in a COVID-19 hotspot. There are too many variables. We seldom were people who got pizza delivery anyway — we usually just heated up the frozen stuff — so most of the things we want are pick-up rather than take-out, and we’re not comfortable leaving the house to interact with someone for take-out or drive-thru. Hell, we’re scared of the drive-thru pharmacy.
So in a COVID-19 hotspot, every single meal has to be cooked, and only with the ingredients on hand, because we can’t run out for more of something we’re missing. We have to be mindful of what we have and what needs eaten before it goes bad. We don’t want to waste food when getting more is such an ordeal.
Living in a COVID-19 hotspot means amusing your kids at home, with what you have on hand. It means they watch a lot more TV than they normally would, and you’re scared of your neighbors — where you’d normally walk around the block without worry, because you can easily move out of the way, you wear a face mask now. Our world has shrunk more than ever. Before my husband at least went out for groceries. Now he doesn’t even do that. Our pharmacy delivers. Soon we’ll only have to leave once a month to pick up the one prescription that pharmacy doesn’t carry.
Basically? Life in a COVID-19 hotspot is closed-in. It’s lonely. The walls are pressing in. And you’re scared of what’s outside.