There are only five people who work every day in the building where my office is located. There are four people in the office next door and I’m the only person who’s in our real estate office every business day. Of the five people who work in the building, I’m the only one who hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19 at some point.
Because of changes in how we all work, our broker and agents rarely come into the office these days. I run operations for the company, though, so someone has to manage daily business in the quiet office. That’s me.
Several of our agents have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last few months. At least one of the tenants whose rentals I manage has had it. Another customer who came into the office told us a few days later that she had it. If I expand the circle to friends and family of people I know well, there are quite a few more. Some just disappear — and keep it quiet — for a few weeks so as not to alarm others.
A close friend told me that five men in her father’s Sunday school class have died from it over the last year.
I’m not an alarmist. I never sit around and worry about what I can’t control. But I’m finally starting to feel some fear for my personal safety. And after a year, I wonder how much longer this can go on without serious damage to our mental health.
I could tell you quite a few stories about people I know who’ve dealt with this new coronavirus, but most of the stories are pretty mundane when taken individually. It’s just the sheer number of cases that’s gotten to me lately — cases that have affected those who I personally know.
When it was still a fairly new danger, I listened to stories from nurse and doctor friends who work in hospitals. Their work load was exhausting — and it still is — and they were seeing far more death than was normal even for them. Their stories were overwhelming.
But I could compartmentalize what they were going through, because they were part of the industry which had to deal directly with the worst cases. Today, a tiny bit of the horrors they were dealing with has started bleeding into my life.
I can think of 18 people who I personally know who have had this disease. Nobody I know has died yet, but some have been hospitalized. At least one was near death, but survived.
I have always looked at such dangers around me in a rational and statistical way. I know that some tiny fraction of people who drive a car every day will have an accident. A smaller fraction will experience serious injury. A few will be maimed or killed. I can know that without being terrified to drive.
I’ve looked at the pandemic danger in the same way. I’ve thought that people who were panicking were overreacting compared to the likelihood of it affecting them or their loved ones. I’ve also been puzzled by those who pretended the issue was “fake” or unimportant. The truth was between the two.
I still like my statistical chances. If 400,000 Americans have died, that leaves about 320 million of us who haven’t. Those odds are pretty good.
But I can’t ignore the stories of those I know. I can’t quit thinking about the fact that I’m the only person who works in my building who hasn’t yet been hit by this.
My rational side still understands all the statistics. I understand that I have a decent chance of never contracting this and an even better chance of not being killed by it. But for the first time in the year since this started, I’ve felt some fear this week. And that is very unusual for me.
I have no interest in getting into the politics of the pandemic or the social issues. I’m not angry at anybody who takes any particular position on these matters, even though they’re angry and shouting at one another. All of that seems counterproductive to me.
But I worry about the few people who I really care about. If someone disappears for awhile, I worry what could be wrong. I’m concerned about a lot of unknowns.
Anybody who knows me understands that I’m not a worrier. I understand that life is full of dangers and we can’t do much about them.
But for the first time that I recall, I’m feeling a bit scared — and a bit helpless — about an invisible bug which could kill me or kill someone I love. And what I’m going through isn’t good for my mental health. Or for yours.
I pray that we can make it through this safely. And I pray that the long-term economic and mental health consequences don’t kill us even if we survive this nasty killer bug.