Loosening the restrictions

Today is the first day pandemic restrictions are eased in Indiana (except in three counties where conditions don’t warrant it yet). Stage 1 was the full stay-at-home order. We’re now in Stage 2, which allows all retail stores to open at half capacity, allows social gatherings to resume at no more than 25 people (with distancing and face masks), and lifts travel restrictions. Religious services can resume this weekend, with distancing. Next Monday, hair and nail salons can reopen by appointment only and with staff wearing masks, and restaurants can open at half capacity. Distancing and masks remain encouraged. People aged 65 and over and anyone with a high-risk medical condition are encouraged to stay home.

West Park Christian Church (crop)
Empty pews at church

I find myself wanting to remain more conservative than the state is allowing. I don’t think the curve was flattened enough here. I worry that we are going to cause a spike in cases. I don’t envision eating in a restaurant or visiting my stylist (oh, how unwieldy my hair is becoming!). You won’t see me shopping except for food and necessities. I’m not going to church.

However, I’m finding it more and more difficult, emotionally, to not see family. Also, I think our children who still live with us are deeply craving contact with friends and family too. Yesterday we decided it was time to take some calculated risks. We had one of our sons over, one who lives alone and has deeply missed us. We allowed another son to have his girlfriend over. There has been some on-the-sly contact between them anyway, and we think that otherwise our family and theirs have honored the stay-at-home order. It was so nice to have everybody here. I think this is going to be our new normal for a while.

We aren’t alone, it seems. NPR reports that the number of Americans who stay home every day has declined steadily in the three weeks since Easter, based on mobile-phone location data. This suggests that social distancing may on the decline. It’s possible, I suppose, that people are practicing good social distancing wherever they’re going.

We’re eager to see Margaret’s dad and my mom, but they’ll have to wait a little longer. They’re both north of age 65 and one has a high-risk health condition. This is where we’re drawing the line for now.

Assuming the indicators state officials are watching stay within tolerances, we will move to Stage 3 on May 24. which loosens restrictions even further. There will be Stages 4 and 5 as well, currently timed for June 14 and July 4. Even at Stage 5, we will still need to socially distance in public.

We’re not going to return fully to normal for some time yet.

One additional pandemic report today, from Christopher May.


Report from the pandemic

I’m going to blog from time to time about my family’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d love to hear about your experiences, too. Blogging gives us all an opportunity to share this experience of isolation, so we can feel less isolated. If you have a blog, please consider doing this too. Or start a blog for it. If you do this, let me know and I’ll link to you in my future pandemic reports.

I’m in my second week of working from home now. It’s not too bad, I think because my wife, Margaret, and three of our (adult) kids are here and so it doesn’t get lonely. I remember about six years ago I was a snowstorm stranded me at home for a week, all alone, and I was stir crazy by the end of it. I’m mighty introverted and adore being alone, but I do need some human interaction. That week didn’t meet my minimum requirements.

Our kids all had lives that saw them seldom home. They’re all home a lot now, except for the oldest who’s an apprentice plumber and is still working during the day. The younger two worked in restaurants and are now unemployed. They’re fortunate as their lack of income isn’t a crisis for them thanks to our roof and our food. We have shared more family meals, and more time just hanging out together, and it’s been lovely.

Indiana issued a stay-at-home order this week, to run through at least April 6. Since Margaret’s workplace was considered nonessential, it closed. Generously, they’re paying her until that date, but there are no guarantees beyond that. She can do some of her job from here and will as needed, but mostly she’s going to work on personal projects. Good for her; she’s not had much time for them in many years.

Margaret and I reflected the other day on how privileged we are right now. Our lives are different but not actually worse. We both know people who are now out of work and are scrambling to pay the rent and feed their families.

Our situation will change if this time of isolation lasts more than a couple weeks. Because of the nature of what Margaret’s employer does, I feel sure they will have to start laying off or furloughing staff if the stay at home order continues. Like I said last week, we’ll tighten our belts and be okay.

Leadership at my company is thankfully being mostly transparent about our financial situation. We’re okay now and will be for “some time.” But we’re eliminating nonessential spending and cutting some budgets to give us a longer cash runway. It’s prudent, and I’m glad. We are also exploring what we can change about our service offering, and what we can build into our product, to meet changing demand and find opportunity in this adversity.

Tension is high at work. We all feel some level of worry and we all feel real urgency to deliver fast on our initiatives.

Even though they haven’t said it plainly, it’s clear from context that after some while of revenue not meeting projections, hard choices will have to be made.

It’s always there, in the back of my head: the worry about being unemployed for the third time in five years. I worry that if it happens, economic conditions will make it incredibly difficult to find another job at all, let alone near my current salary or in my field.

I try to deflect that worry, or if I can’t, leave it on low simmer on the very back burner. I can’t control whether it happens. The best I can do is focus on my work, which is aimed at bringing in additional and new revenue in these changed times, and deliver it as well and as fast as I can.

I do most of the family shopping. I’m a meal planner, and go to the store with a solid list, and make each day the dinner I planned for that day. That’s all changed: we go to the store and buy what is available and figure out what meals we will make out of it. For example, I’ve never prepared pork ribs in my life, but they were one of the few available meats when I last shopped and so I brought some home. I’m going to make them today. Thank heavens for the Internet, which has instructions for everything.

There may be a blessing hidden in this: that I might become more flexible and fluid. That’d be nice.

I’m trying to get out for a walk every day. I don’t always succeed — work has been unusually demanding and time consuming. But I try very hard to do it. I usually take a camera along. I’m also shooting stuff around the house more. It really does take the edge off my stress to fire a few frames. I’m still shooting film and I’m focusing on black-and-white so I can develop it myself and save a lot over sending it to a lab. Here’s a photo I made at home just the other day. Just my car in the driveway, but I like how the plane of my car intersects with the plane of the houses across the street.

My vee dub

Sort of speaking of which, for my fellow photographers, a fellow in the UK named Andrew Sanderson has started a blog called Stuck At Home Photography which you can see here. He wrote a lovely book many years ago called Home Photography that extolled the virtues of, and gave many practical tips for, finding great photo subjects all over your home and property.