By Greg Price
‘Forgive me if I don’t shake hands’ – Doc Holiday in Tombstone.
Doc Holliday’s famous line is something everyone is now trying to practice with Coronavirus cases totalling 720,217 across the world and nearly 34,000 deaths at the moment this column is being written, originating from Agent Zero back in China.
As cases have grown exponentially since that day in China, where a mild concern has turned into a near nationwide shutdown, the pandemic for me is not having me worried just for my health or the health of other people I care about in this life, but I have found it’s been a battle for my mental health as well. That’s the thing no one really tells you about COVID-19. Sure, we know about the common high fever, sore throat, dry cough and trouble breathing that is commonly associated with the Coronavirus, but no one tells you how it weighs on your mind.
I did not travel anywhere, nor was I knowingly exposed to someone who had traveled in the time frame as outlined by Health Link 8-1-1, but I nevertheless felt a head cold coming on and in the process self-isolated myself for far past the recommended days, now being nearly four weeks out since the first symptoms, and now feeling perfectly fine. That’s the thing about COVID-19, the pandemic is hitting right when peak cold/flu season is here and how do you tell the difference? I phoned day after day after day to Health Link 8-1-1, at different times of the day, only to be pushed out of the system by a recording and told to take the online test. Given no fever, trouble breathing, persistent coughing, sore throat or body aches, the test told me not to worry with the odd sniffle, runny nose and some minor chest congestion that made me sound like I had a frog in my throat. But still it made me think…what if? Every little body feeling I had that was even slightly off the norm had me wondering ‘do I have it’ to the point I had a panic attack.
A trip to visit my parents on the west coast earlier this month was cancelled as has travel been for many people across the globe. I’ve been hand washing like Rain Man with OCD to the point my soft milky hands I’m jokingly known for around Taber, are now worse for wear. Fresh air has been to a minimum where the few times I have ventured out, it’s like a scene out of I Am Legend where you’ll see me walking down the middle of the street to practice social distancing where I can. Anytime I found myself walking near the golf course or elsewhere and people would be approaching me, I’d cross the street and walk on the other side — no side-by-side walk bys. Trips to the grocery store have been to a bare minimum, work shifts have been split in work hours so that there’s only one reporter in the office at the time when there are times we can’t work from home to do interviews or page layout etc., as media is considered an essential service. We are feeling the full economic brunt as well, trying to do just as much work in fewer hours.
And I have to admit for a time there, my self isolation and work uncertainty had taken me to some dark places where frustration mounted in the few times I have gone outside and seen people doing a very poor job of self isolating. I saw idiots on social media doing TikTok Coronavirus Challenges by licking toilet seats to gain followers. Others thought it would be funny to film themselves coughing or licking groceries. As our paths were about to cross at a bottleneck at the skateboard park, a small group of kids laughed at me as I tried to distance myself from them by crossing the street to keep a safe distance. I’ve seen people in lifted trucks literally parked tight together with their windows rolled down talking to each other. Snowbirds parked outside grocery stores obviously not listening to their 14-day quarantines, or people right outside of entrances of grocery stores catching up on old times RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. Big groups of people who didn’t look related going for walks together, or once again, not bothering to move when other people were crossing their path. I’ve seen people spread unsubstantiated rumours on social media about where the COVID-19 virus has been located, further fanning the flames of panic with coffee-row gossip.
All these stressors of trying to keep things together when it looked like others were not had me breaking down crying in the shower one day and punching the wall. That thought entered my mind of ‘if no one else cares, why should I?’ After that brief embarrassing moment, I turned the taps off and recomposed myself.
Negativity was not going to change the behaviour of others I had no control over. All I could do was self isolate as best as I could, knowing I could do even better than I currently have, with stumbles along the way where I could just as much be pointing the finger at myself.
Negativity was not going to inspire. That day I promised to thank the people on the frontlines the few times I have ventured out, be they nurses or teachers I know on social media, grocery store clerks or pharmacists. There are the takeout restaurants who have never seen their places so clean while trying to keep distancing as much as possible while giving us nutritious food need a tip of the hat as well. I’ve had people that I would say are more work acquaintances than friends reach out to me asking if I’d like to FaceTime with them to feel some sort of connection. Friends and family have started social media communication links. There was positivity out there, it just might be harder to find with the constant loop of fear we see around us with the latest updates.
Instead of concentrating on the negative, I started concentrating on the positive, and in these last few days, the result has been I’ve been feeling the best I have in a month. It goes to show some of my symptoms were mental just as much as they were physical from that minor head cold that seems now eons ago.
But while still trying to stay as positive as I can, there is still the stark reality that ‘the curve’ of growing cases in the country and province will not flatten until we try our best to self isolate. There are numerous tips all over the Internet on how to best isolate. I don’t care what your religion is, who you voted for, your gender, the colour of your skin, your sexual orientation or how big your paycheque is — we are all in this together working towards the same goal — to return to the normalcy we had prior to that first case of COVID-19 in China.
These upcoming weeks/months will define a generation of how well we can work together despite all our differences. The time for pettiness and ego are over.
The very world is watching, let’s do our part, from the large urban centres to the small, sleepy rural towns. This moment in time in the history books will have all our names etched in them in fighting against the rising tide of COVID-19.
How do you want to be remembered?