I saw an old friend in the grocery store last week. We tried out some new dance steps in the canned goods aisle. I moved to one side and he moved to the other, and then we backed up from each other like cars thrown into reverse.
This is the latest dance craze — the corona shuffle. It requires two masked people trying to have a conversation while social distancing. We’ve all learned the steps in the last few months, or we should have, anyway. We have to measure distances and angles the way we did in geometry class. We have to become carpenters, measuring yards and feet.
We have to plan our every move.
Our country has waltzed around and around the issue of this virus for months. We’ve wasted time asking foolish questions: Is it real? Is it serious? Is it worth wearing a hot and scratchy face covering if you’re just going to dash in and out of a store? Yes. Yes. Yes.
I went to the dry cleaners the other day to pick up something I’d left there for months. A pandemic has a way of making us forget things that are not urgent. To their credit, this business allows only a few customers in at a time and masks are required. That’s the law in Alabama.
The woman behind the counter gave me my clothes and said, from behind her mask, that the virus would go away after the November election, as though it would just stop infecting people, wait for us to go to the polls and vote, then move on to some other country to do its evil work.
I didn’t say what I was thinking: The virus doesn’t belong to a political party. The virus doesn’t care if we do, either, or what our views are on healthcare or immigration or building that wall. The virus has a dance to do, too, a dirty dance that gets more lewd all the time.
We can’t dance past the facts: Wearing masks reduces the spread of the virus. So does staying apart. Washing hands is a habit most of us have anyway; we just need to do it more often. Now that the president had the virus and did a victory dance after being released from the hospital, his message is that we shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19. Mr. President, I’m still afraid.
If I get it as an older person with mild asthma, I can’t be sure if my case will be mild or harsh. I’ve known six older adults who’ve been infected, but only one was hospitalized. Two others have lingering effects, however, and are waiting to feel the way they did pre-infection. One keeps hoping the fatigue will go away. Another says she feels mentally muddled.
While we’re trying to figure all this out, former chief justice Judge Roy Moore, right on time, trots his horse onto the dance floor to sue our governor and our state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, for exceeding their authority when they mandated social distancing and the wearing of masks.
As I write this, there are 160,000 cases of the virus in the state of Alabama. It seems prudent that we should wear a mask whenever we’re close to people, whether we’re on a walking trail in the neighborhood or a rose garden outside of the White House.
Governor Kay Ivey has just extended the mask order for the third time. She is a 75 year old woman who is learning new steps as she goes along. If she can do the dance, so can we.