At the end of the last school year, I stopped using the Coronavirus Chronicles subtitle—back today for a guest appearance—on my blog posts. I’d originally intended to retire it when the kids went back to full-time, in-person school at the beginning of that school year. I thought that milestone would make life feel normal, and it certainly made it feel more normal, but at the same time everything felt very precarious, like we could go back to remote school at any point. Ithaca had a week of online classes in January and the public schools here probably should have done the same around the same time as school was just a hot mess for a while there, with so many teachers out sick that a lot of North’s classes became unchaperoned study halls, and the school buses just didn’t come as often as not. I can’t remember how long this went on, but it feels like it was most of the month.
This year feels different, as friends of mine who teaches middle school recently commented. It seems to have taken a whole year back in the classroom for everyone, teachers and kids and parents, to regain their footing. That was why I stopped using the subtitle. I expect the kids will stay in school and I’m used to Beth working at home most days, so it didn’t feel as if covid was relevant to every post anymore.
But of course, covid isn’t over, people are still contracting it and dying of it every day. The Post stopped including the graphs with the covid case numbers and death toll on a daily basis sometime last spring. It’s weekly now, on Sundays. The death toll hit one million in May and as of last Sunday, it stood at 1,046,656. I heard on a science podcast this week that more than 400 Americans die of covid a day. That’s still a lot of people.
And I think more people I know have had it in the past year than the year and a half before that, though thankfully, they have mostly been mild cases. My mother had it in June. A lot of you have had it. Since we’ve hit the two-and-a-half-year mark of the pandemic, (a quarter of a decade!) I thought I’d look back at how covid has affected us since I last did a covid round up six months ago. But instead of chronologically, I’m going to do it thematically this time.
Mom Gets Covid
The only close family members who’ve had covid are my mother, Beth’s brother, and her sister-in-law—John and Abby had it early on. (A lot of my friends and members of my extended family have had it at one time or another.)
While we were gone, my mom called and left a message letting us know she had covid. She only found out because she was over at my sister’s house helping her pack for my sister’s family’s upcoming move and she casually mentioned that she wasn’t tasting things as well as usual and my sister immediately fetched a covid test she had on hand and sure enough it was positive.
My mom says she felt fine, but was isolating when we spoke. She just got back from a trip to Morocco and she’s not sure if she got it there or at home, but she had to test to get on the plane home and that test was negative. Maybe she got it on the flight or she had it before she flew but it was too soon to show up on the test. I’m glad her vaccines and booster did their job and kept her safe from serious illness, even though she caught it.
Covid Creates a Job Opportunity
Mike was filming a documentary and they were in a church recording someone giving a speech about climate change. Noah was filling in for a member of the crew who had covid.
I found it kind of strange Noah didn’t have to take a covid test to get on an international flight, since my mom did to fly to and from Morocco and North had to take one to go to camp, but requirements do vary quite a bit.
North came down with some kind of virus the middle of the second week and missed four days of school—the last two days of the third quarter and the first two days of the fourth quarter. They took a rapid covid test at home the first day they felt sick and it was negative. The next day we all went to the Silver Spring Civic Center for PCR tests. Beth’s and North’s came back negative and mine must have fallen through the cracks because I never heard back. I wasn’t particularly worried once we got North’s negative results, though, because they’re the one who comes into contact with the most people, so I didn’t pursue it. I’d had a sore throat and some congestion around the time North got sick but it never got more serious than that and Beth wasn’t sick at all.
She dropped North’s required covid test for sleepaway camp in the mail, and then she picked up the kids at the movies and me at the house and drove us to dinner at a make-your-own-bowl place out on the highway, and drove us all plus my mom to Sweet Frog for frozen yogurt and then home.
We’re vaccinated and double boosted as of April. We are going to get the bivalent booster soon.
Two days after we were tested Beth and I got our second booster shots.
This is the one that comes up the most often, even though it can seem trivial. We still wear masks at stores and on public transportation and North wears one at school and on the school bus. I still notice when people are wearing them or not and I’m often thinking about whether I need one in spaces that are outside but crowded, or semi-enclosed.
Noah going back to school after spring break: Later that morning Beth and I took Noah back to the same parking lot where we’d picked him up eight days earlier. He went into the mall to get some baked ziti for lunch, but he didn’t have time to eat it before the bus came and he’s very strict about not taking his mask off on the bus so I have no idea when he ate it, maybe at a stop along the way.
Leaving for our Midwestern road trip: Back to our travels: we hit the road around 10:30 and immediately turned around because a block or two from the house North and I realized we had not packed any masks. We were the only people wearing masks when we stopped at The Blue Goose Fruit Market and Bakery for treats and I was one of two masked customers when I went into Taco Bell to pick up our lunch order.
Watching Noah’s band concert online: I was actually thinking as I watched it was good the three masked percussionists were in the back row because they were behind, rather than in front of all those wind and brass instruments blowing air out toward the audience. (Audience members were asked to mask even though Ithaca’s been mask-optional since March, possibly for this reason.)
While berry picking: We’ve been to Butler’s to pick berries a couple times during the pandemic, but this was the first time they were running the wagons instead of having people drive out to the fields. We deliberated about masks. The wagons are open-sided and we generally don’t mask outside, but the benches can get crowded. Three out of four family opted to mask on the wagons and we were in the minority of riders, but not alone. North wore theirs in the field, too, but I think they may have just forgotten to take it off. (They’re so used to wearing one at school they sometimes leave it on for a while after they get off the bus.)
Looking back at the school year: They were sick several times in the winter and spring, once, in April, very sick with a high fever. That last time was probably due to the school going mask-optional in March.
A message from the director of North’s outdoor drama camp: In an email Tuesday night she said in case of rain they’d work under the gazebo, perhaps focusing on making costumes and props, and in case of severe weather, they’d retreat to her porch or go inside her house (with masks).
In Hershey Park: We got to Chocolate World a little before ten. I expected we’d be in a very small minority of people masking indoors and we were, but it was even fewer people than I would have guessed, almost no one, even in crowded spaces where you stand near the same people for a long time (for instance in the line for the factory ride).
When North went back to school in August: They say only about a quarter of kids are still masking and when I asked if that was enough for them not to feel self-conscious, they said yes.
A text from Noah, commenting on mask usage in Australia: Masks required on the domestic flight, lots of masks at the airport (about 50%) but very few at the mall
At Wolf Trap concert hall: The seats were near the back in a sparsely populated section and the pavilion is open on the sides we didn’t feel the need to put on our masks.
Covid as a Marker of Time
We are still experiencing first-time since covid events, as recently as this month.
First Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin: The petals were perfect, puffy and white to pale pink. It was crowded, but not mobbed. We hadn’t been as a family since 2018 because three years ago Noah had too much homework and North had some injury– I packed a lunch and went alone that year—and then covid kept us away for two years—we went to the more spacious National Arboretum instead those years.
First Easter Care Package: I decided to send Noah a planned care package of Easter candy a little early, in hopes that a chocolate-hazelnut bunny, peanut butter eggs, mini eggs, and jelly beans would be cheering. I did not mail it in an Easter basket, for reasons of space, but I did pack the box with Easter grass. Noah was home last Easter and the one before because of covid so this was his first Easter-in-a-box from me.
First Pride: If North hadn’t had a birthday party to attend it might have been nice to go from the rally to the Pride parade and meet up with them there. Pride was cancelled the past two years because of covid, but the two years before that we went to the festival and I thought the parade would have been a nice change of pace.
First Back to School Night: On Thursday we went to Back to School Night at North’s school. It was the first year since before covid that this event was in person.
First Folk Festival: Sunday we attended the first Takoma Park Folk Festival to be held since before covid.
Finally, I boarded my first airplane since before covid this morning to go visit my mom in Oregon. She had a knee replaced a couple weeks ago and her recovery has been difficult. My aunt and sister have both stayed with her already and I’m taking my turn. More on this visit in a future post…
Meanwhile, some traditions have not returned:
Drama camp cast party: Pre-covid, there was often a cast party at our local pizzeria, but we hadn’t hear anything about it until the middle of the rehearsal when North texted me about whether I wanted to go and I said yes and then almost immediately afterward, North texted back to say it wasn’t happening, so I packed a picnic, which is what Gretchen had suggested in an email to all the parents and what has happened the past couple years, but it turned out I was the only one to bring food.
Fingers crossed, I won’t add another covid post until March, when it’s been three years. Until then we’ll go on with our lives, vaccinated and occasionally masked, but mostly normal.