The lost year of COVID-19

Election Day is today. I hope that it will be a turning point for the country, so it seems like a good time to also look back.

I try to write every day, whether it’s here on this blog or in my journal using Day One. Posts about family or personal stories usually stay private, because there are plenty of other topics to write about here. Today I want to collect together a few things that have happened this year, events that I might jot down in my journal but which haven’t made it into the blog.

Back in March, when the kids were home for spring break and the seriousness of the coronavirus was just starting to become real, we wrote down some rules on giant sticky notes and stuck them on the fridge. Like the rest of the country, we were trying to figure out what to do, and it helped get everyone mostly on the same page.

Sticky notes.

There was still a lot of confusion about what was safe. Texas was about to go into lockdown. The NBA was about to postpone games. SXSW was about to be cancelled. It felt like everything was just on the verge of changing. I thought if we could only stay safe for a few weeks, we’d make sure that our family didn’t get sick when hospitals would be overrun.

We made masks. I didn’t do much of the sewing, but our home-made masks turned out great. It was fun to do something a little creative, especially early on.

Making masks.

We ordered more masks later, including my new go-to mask with a Mickey Mouse pattern. We fell into a routine of ordering groceries online. I rarely went inside stores. I wore my mask whenever I was picking up take-out dinner or running other errands. I washed my hands all the time. The few weeks of quarantine had turned into months of isolation.

Later in June we went to the beach for a couple days, to get away. I was worried, because the Houston and Galveston area were getting hit hard by COVID, but we were barely 30 feet from anyone else. It felt great to be near the water, eat outside on the deck with a cool breeze, and escape the normal stress of the quarantine. We had a house on Airbnb to ourselves, cooked most of our meals there, and I picked up pizza one night in town.

Walking to the beach.

A few days later we were up in Dallas. That weekend I wasn’t feeling great. I figured it was a cold or allergies. No fever, no shortness of breath. Because I had been with family, out of caution I decided to get tested for COVID-19. I talked to a nurse for advice and also called a nearby drive-thru clinic that did testing.

While waiting in line to get tested, I convinced myself that I had overreacted. I was wasting everyone’s time, while people with much more serious symptoms needed help. But I got tested anyway, felt better the next day, and went on with my work week, releasing a major upgrade to to support plug-ins that week.

A doctor called me with the results about 4 days after I had gotten tested. It was positive.

My symptoms were extremely mild. I’m still not sure the test wasn’t a fluke. I had planned to follow up with an antibody test to confirm it, but I never did. Even so, going through that process of getting tested had highlighted for me what Texas and other states were going through back in June and July, and now again as winter looms.

This year has been long, and disappointing, but there was hope. We flattened the curve. We were well on our way to putting the coronavirus behind us and looking toward school restarting. But we opened too quickly without the right guidance. We lost control of the virus. We were almost there, and we blew it.

Fast forward several months when I’m writing this. We flattened the curve a little, again, only to see the progress slip away. The setbacks have been frustrating, watching so many people flout the guidelines. 2020 could have gone much differently — much better — but there were good moments too, with family and work, watching the community grow.

We can’t get 2020 back. There’s a lot to catch up on. Let’s make 2021 count.

Manton Reece @manton