Yesterday, while on my 897th walk of self-isolation, I had the realization that I hadn’t been in my car since last Thursday, when I went to pick up take-out from Very Excellent Chinese Restaurant. (That is not a pseudonym, that is actually the name of the very excellent Chinese restaurant in our town.) My day-to-day routine has been the same for the last three weeks: Teach all morning, go for a walk, make a salad, eat it while watching The Real Housewives of Somewhere, and then head back into the upstairs office to continue work. (The absolute luxury of sitting down to eat a salad while watching trash television cannot be discounted.) Some days, I am able to log out at 3pm and exist, but most weekdays, I log back into the computer a few hours later to teach again, at my second job as an instructor at a virtual charter school. The routine is comforting, but it’s also exhausting in so many ways.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that I am lucky to still have one job, let alone two, and I am grateful for both of them. I love that I am still able to meet live with my students every day, and that I can connect virtually with my colleagues multiple times a week. However, at the end of last week, I felt like my brain was bleeding from all of the screen time. I turned everything on Chrome into forced dark mode: (chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark) and ordered a pair of blue light blocking glasses, which arrived a few days ago. I’m feeling better, brain-bleed wise, but I really miss…going to school? Driving my car? Walking into the store for groceries without feeling like I’m breaking the law? Not seeing random strangers walking around in masks and gloves?
A few nights ago, while half-watching Schitt’s Creek but mostly panic scrolling through the news on my phone, I saw a map posted by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. This map details the current reported cases of COVID-19 in our state. Currently, there have been 415 identified cases in our state. Of those 415, 58 have been hospitalized, 91 have recovered, and four people have died. The most cases have been reported in our most populous cities, Manchester and Nashua, while zero cases have been reported in the northernmost parts of our state. My town is reported here as having 1-4 reported cases (“Novel Coronavirus”).
Of course, this is only official data. We have no way of knowing whether or not Coos County is actually free from COVID-19 or whether they are simply not testing that far north. When news of COVID-19 started breaking, we talked about it in class on a weekly basis, thanks to Kelly Gallagher’s Articles of the Week. Because this was breaking news in California and Washington at first, it felt removed from us. We felt safe. I felt safe. Now that these statistics are a part of my every day life, I feel…uncomfortable. I live in a town of approximately 3,000 year-round residents and we’ve made it onto this map, into this part of history. So I worry. I worry about my family, I worry about my friends. I worry about my postal carrier. I worry about the strangers I’ve never met and the strangers I meet outside these days. I worry about myself, even while convincing myself that I’ll be okay.
“Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).” New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, State of New Hampshire, 1 Apr. 2020, http://www.nh.gov/covid19/index.htm.