Lives Are on the Line

We seem to be holding at around 3 new Covid-19 cases / day in Oak Park right now. (This week. It may go up next week. No promises.)

[Editing to note, per comments elsewhere, that that’s probably underreported, so may well be more like 15-30 new cases / day.]

Oak Park is a town of 52,000, roughly, which means that when I think about risk assessment, it seems like oh, it’s really not that likely that I’m going to catch coronavirus if I go and have coffee with a friend outdoors. I’ve actually just made my first outside restaurant coffee date in 6 months, for next Monday, and I’m kind of stupid excited about it. (Please wear masks when not actively eating / drinking in restaurants, esp. if your server is coming by — try to help reduce the risk to servers.)

And yet at the same time, the only reason we have that low a rate, is because mostly, we have high mask usage, and lots of people sheltering-in-place quite a bit more than IL requires right now. We’re surfing the coronavirus wave, trying to maintain balance, and it’s such a strange process of attempting even equilibrium.

Of course, it would be even better if we could crush the wave completely, but we’re balancing that against the serious damage to the economy, to people keeping their sanity, their jobs, their kids’ schooling and childcare intact. Kev and I are in a fortunate position compared to many.

Our community FB groups are seeing more and more heartbreaking admissions from people that they can’t feed their families and don’t know how they’re going to make rent. (Locals — please look at Oak Park Mutual Aid, Beyond Hunger, and Housing Forward if this applies to you. Don’t let embarrassment hold you back — you didn’t ask for a global disaster. We have to help each other.)

Our kids have friends whose parents are sending them back to school, not wanting to, but because they don’t know how they’d possibly manage childcare otherwise. We thought about whether we could offer to take on some of that childcare, but the idea of trying to manage supervising younger kids on our porch with social distancing and mask wearing just seemed beyond our capabilities — esp. since Kevin and I are actually still working full-time or more, even if from home.

And essential workers are still walking into fire, and now teachers are too, and I honestly don’t know where to draw these lines, how much is the right amount to do to try to flatten that wave, or crush it entirely.

As much as I can bear, is mostly what we’ve been doing so far. How can I deliberately increase the risk, knowing that I have so many friends who are immune-compromised or otherwise at high risk?

But there’s a point where I start asking if particular efforts are actually of much utility — my avoiding having a coffee with a friend outdoors, for example. What does it do, exactly, if we have 3 new cases / day, with 52,000 people in my town? Are those cases clustered anywhere? Without serious contact-tracing and massive testing, it’s so hard to know if any individual effort is effective / worthwhile.

That’s what’s making me most frustrated right now. We have so much guesswork here, because our government isn’t allocating the resources necessary to do this right, and all of us are being crushed under that wave as a result.

No answers, just a lot of frustration.

Please, please, please vote in November. Look at which states have done well with this (Illinois, where I live, has done very well, comparatively). Look at what various governors have done, listen to what candidates are saying about how they plan to handle things going forward, how they’d spend the states’ money, your money.

Now is the time to start paying attention to your local elections, where people are getting ready to become candidates for school board, city council, townships and park districts. All of these structures have parts to play in fighting the pandemic.

Budgets are moral documents. Lives are on the line.

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