As all of humanity continues down a path where every move is dictated by COVID-19, it’s impossible not to hear, see and learn things that can only be called surreal.

One of those things is certainly the comprehensive, worldwide emergence of this previously unknown coronavirus.

For the record, COVID-19 is a simplistic acronym that has been adopted as the disease’s official name. “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” for “virus” and “D” for disease. The “19” represents 2019, the year it first came into the world picture thanks to occurrences in Wuhan, China, the nature of which might always be debatable. 

There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses, but COVID-19 falls into the “novel” category, indicating it’s an entirely new version. 

With the outbreak have come a variety of new terms used to describe situations never before considered by most people, let alone familiar.

Like the all-too-common “shelter in place” and “social distancing.”

Only a matter of weeks ago, neither of those word combinations had ever been used to an extent that even a fraction of people would know what they referred to. Who knew that in such a short time they would become two of the most familiar phrases in the English language and would be known to people of virtually all ages in virtually all cultures.

And how about PPE? I’m sure the abbreviation for “personal protection equipment” has long been well known to folks in the emergency response community, but not so much amongst the rest of the people. But now, shortages of PPE or hopeful acquisition of PPE are in the forefront of a lot of media presentations and therefore in the same regions area of many folks’ minds.

I heard a phrase on a TV report the other day that honestly made my stomach turn a bit: “Enforceable quarantine.” The segment said some authorities – including President Donald Trump – were pondering the possibility of needing to enforce shelter in place orders if this thing worsens to an extent that was also being pondered.

Similar pondering is happening everywhere you turn. That’s because we have no template to work off of. There’s no “last time” to compare with and everyone is going for a ride without a known destination or time of arrival.

Here in Texas County, Mo., we’ve been a bit sheltered from the whole ordeal (no pun intended), and our lives haven’t yet become quite as dominated by restrictions and hardships as the lives of people in countless other locations on Earth. I have, however, had my temperature taken when entering the Texas County Justice Center for job-related purposes, and that has been an experience that’s hard to describe and has caused a unique set of strange feelings to come upon me.

And then there’s Florida. In case you haven’t seen it, do an online search for a photo taken last Saturday on the beach south of Jacksonville. In Duvall County, the beaches were closed and the only people visible are a couple of police officers on ATVs. But the beaches just to the south in adjacent St. John County (home to St. Augustine) are open, and there are hundreds of people visible, including a bunch occupying sand right along the county line.

Beach nonsense

On Saturday, March 28, 2020, people crowd a beach in St. John County, Fla., while two police offices on ATVs watch from a closed beach in Duvall County.

I don’t pretend to know how to run a county beach, but that is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.

And then there’s Sweden. Even though Sweden’s closest neighbors – Norway and Denmark – have followed suit with what’s happening all over the globe by shutting down all but essential businesses and services, the Swedes have oddly been allowed to remain all but free and are almost living as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on. The only wide-ranging closure in Sweden has been high schools, while other schools are still open. And while the streets of Stockholm are quieter than they might normally be, it’s more or less business as usual in restaurants, bars, shops and ski resorts all over the country.

Obviously, that raises the question of whether the Swedes are dangerously gambling with public health or is everyone else overreacting?

I don’t know, but then “I don’t know” is the only answer I can come up with for numerous questions being asked these days. Same with most other people (including those in positions of authority), because without previous knowledge of COVID-19 and its effects, there’s no way we could.

Anyway, life is all about COVID-19 right now.  Hopefully, that reality is temporary, but how long it will last we just don’t know.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.


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