SYDNEY, Australia – We are purchasing rapid antigen tests for immediate delivery. We leave all food at the front door and keep masks in every room. I even revived my indoor exercise regimen after 14 days of work Australia’s remote quarantine camp.
Covid, the lurker of the virus, has finally found us. My 11-year-old daughter tested positive last Friday, the very day she got her second Covid vaccine. Our family of four is currently one of many stuck at home in Sydney because of an outbreak that has moved through the city’s secondary schools. Once again, we are seeing a daily increase of tens of thousands of cases.
Is anyone to blame? How big of a deal is it? When oh when Will this pandemic end?
These are a few of the questions that arise as we sit around, again, the four of us, like we were transported back to April 2020 – except this time, we’re the experts. isolation. What an odd feeling, the familiarity of being stuck in the family. We shouldn’t get used to being in the things we wore to bed the night before. Is it really 2pm? It’s been a week since some of us put on our shoes. Obviously, we all get along better when we have more space or just less time to live together over longer distances.
But this is our normal now, or at least a version of it. The stop of everyday life, canceled plans for the present, and tentative plans made for the future – that’s the 2020s. Whatever the buzz the 20s did in the future. the last century has become a sigh around this time. Time can only exhale and stagnate. Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting in a warm bath, trying to decide whether to go outside or just add some hot water. My wife and I used to think our life was only two years long. Now it’s like 14 days.
I’m not as angry as I used to be. During the previous lockdowns, I got even more angry, because of my own lack of control and policy mistakes. Now, however, I feel like Australia has done what it can to keep Covid at bay. The mortality rate from the virus here is about a thirteenth of what they are in the United States. Most of the people of Oz are vaccinated and healthy. When I flew into Queensland for work recently, everyone in the airport and on the plane followed the regulations that required us to wear masks.
It’s just a virus, well, it’s still what it has always been. Infectious. Uncomfortable. Was there, somewhere. And after two months of rain that kept us all inside Sydney, the small protein spike came back with a brutal tear.
This time, with the severity of Omicron reduced and even milder with the vaccine, it is less scary. Australians have gone from being petrified with Covid to mostly seeing it in stride.
The WhatsApp messages sent back and forth, from the school group to the school group, mainly relay mild symptoms and wish a speedy recovery. (If there’s anything you want to get out of for a week, now is definitely the time to claim Covid and hide.)
In our house we are learning how to plant and prune our boredom. I created math problems for my two kids to scream at me (“Dad, you’re so annoying!”). We play Wordle. We watch “Survivor” or the news and see our emotions go up and down with the prognosis for democracy and for Ukraine. We live vicariously, through our windows and screens, and hope that our week of forced isolation is not prolonged by another positive test.
And I guess it’s not so bad, not really. My daughter is not seriously ill. She cleaned her room today, which is good, and the rest of us are still testing negative for every swab we put in our noses. The other night I made two perfectly dirty martinis.
Sure, we’re living on pause, but at least we’re living, very VERY, together. And if this is how it’s supposed to be for the next few years, so be it. Covid, especially in what feels like its contagious middle age, is a filial patience builder. It thickens our minds, softens our ambitions, narrows our visions, and I also hate it for what it has taken away – in life and in the irreplaceable moments. So – I also know that most of us will survive. Not too long from now, we can even recall those odd moments of fitness with a little fondness.
“What is possible,” Virgil once wrote, “all luck is conquered by persistence.”
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