Reading the blogosphere with Corona hindsight
I am quite behind in reading the blogs in my feed. I was almost caught up by the end of February but 12 days of solo-parenting at the outbreak of the Corona crisis in Belgium and the following routine of homeschooling while home-working is quite busy so I got behind again. No I'm not bored!
As a result I've recently been reading posts from the first half of March lately and it seems they all date back from a different era. It's so strange to read about the Easter vacation plans, the friend visits, and the first comments on that 'flu virus' with hindsight. I'm sitting here biting my lip "if only you knew" "just wait" or rolling my eyes. And it all changes in just one week.
The first mention on Corona in the blog I read, only comes on March 8th where it was referred to in the context that we should not be afraid of a cold. Quite weird to read right now... in the mean time we know Corona isn't really like a cold although it's been sold to us in February like a type of flu that we shouldn't worry about too much. My awareness to it only changed early March when more news from Italy came back with some frightening witnesses. I had to phone all my team members on March 1st to check who had been abroad where during Spring break and forbid them if necessary to return to work. Anyone with a cough was sent home as of March at work and disinfectant gel was put in all offices.
It seems a bit surprising that the virus wasn't mentioned until March 8 but I didn't blog about it until March 9th either. Nevertheless we were tracking the outbreak already since February with Jan's upcoming travel to see if travel restrictions would prohibit him to leave (or return) as planned. But despite measures being taken and tracked at both our work environment, all our activities continued as planned. I attended my high school reunion on March 6th but I did ask permission to my sister to stay overnight at my mom's place. I was a bit surprised about the huge turnout at the reunion where approx 500-1000 people must have gathered as I had anticipated a lot of cancellations already. It made me feel uneasy but I waved it away. I wanted to take this once in every 5 year opportunity to return and continue with the planned sleep-over for the children at my mom's house. I met up with a friend and attended a fun dance party on Saturday night. The next week I joined with more doubt a theatre piece of my cousin where the rest of our family joined as well without hugs and kisses. I had planned all these things during Jan's absence as I wanted some adult interactions in the long period of solo-parenting. I was too reluctant to cancel any of it, despite considering it.
And so did all the activities continue in the blogosphere: everyone seemed to carry on as always: children started school not knowing they'd stop attending before they'd get used to it, there were birthday parties, vacation plans, ... Some still left on vacation as late as March 11th. Someone mentioned having a cold on March 10, but thankfully no Corona because she'd have cabin fever if she'd have to stay home... If only she knew then. If only those looking forward to a trip in the coming weeks, knew it wasn't going to happen.
March 11th seems a tipping point. A disaster builds up in Italy and is shared on social media. Our national security council gathered for a first time but didn't have the guts yet to do more than some vague advice.
My employer as so many other firms took the lead before the government took a decisive stand. It feeds my conviction that society change (climate, viral, social changes) will only come through big corporations taking a lead in corporate social responsibility rather than politicians not having the guts to make unpopular decisions. (It's no coincidence that Corona has less lead in Washington and California and flattens the curve where big firms like Salesforce, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Cisco, all closed their offices and sent their workers home as early as March 5-6 to set an example, to create awareness and a sense of urgency while these states started off with the same level of infections as New York early on).
On March 11th our firm sent all employees home and closed the office. I came home to prepare multiple weeks of homeworking. Big commercial chains in Belgium closed and local government started cancelling all cultural events on their premises. It's the day my mom came over to go to the theatre play but the next day I sent her home earlier than planned. I felt very uneasy as I told her we'd not see each other for a month to my intuition because maybe one day they'd forbid us to leave our city. I said I hoped they'd not start closing schools. It was my intuition with all the news from Italy, France and Spain coming in but it sounded so unreal that such a thing would truly happen.
Also in the blogs the first pleas to self-isolate appears in an American blog. The first Belgian demands for stricter rules and clarity came loud and clearly on March 12th. That evening the first strict rules were set in Belgium by our national security council (announcing a future closure of schools, pubs and restaurants in the upcoming weekend). The outcry of medical staff and experts about the last parties, made us all finally aware.
As of March 15th, all blogs start talking about self-isolation, anxiety management, home-schooling, tips to entertain children at home, ... We were all part of a new reality now "for 3 weeks" we said. With hindsight it was sort of cute that we first believed we'd be only in this for 3 weeks. But maybe it's good that we adjust step by step and get used to new measures, new ways of communicating, new ways of spending our time. And one day we'll read back these blogposts with much more hindsight.