Volume 3, Issue 1 - The Covid Diaries

What I've been doing during all this

It's been over two months since I was added to the "work from home" list for my job. It appears that working from home is slowly but surely lumbering toward its end. On Friday, Nevada will be moving into "Phase 2" of the reopening plan. In short, that opens up bars, gyms, churches, and some other places. They still have to follow social distancing guidelines (good luck), but they can officially open for business. On June 4, the casinos that have met the opaque guidelines of the Nevada Gaming Commission are expected to be allowed to open. So, we're heading down the road, despite Nevada seeing its largest single day increase in cases on May 22.

I point all that out just to show where we are in the timeline. I'm not here to reflect on the state's plans and whether I agree or disagree with them, but to think about what I've done in this time being home and theoretically not allowed to go and do anything. I still see people talking about their quarantine activities and what they're binge watching or missing out on (don't forget, Tiger King was right at the beginning of this, but it feels like years ago). It's less frequent now, mainly because we are finally settling into a routine and this isn't novel anymore. But it's still out there, and I am still finding new things to spend my time on as a result.


Entertainment

Like, remember at the beginning of this when movie studios announced that they would be relaesing movies directly to on-demand and you could rent, say, Little Women for $19.99? I feel like that lasted less than a week. I think we rented something, but I can't even remember what it was. Now, I'm seeing trailers for movies that simply say "Coming to Theaters" instead of any definitive date that you can actually see the movie.

(Side note: that movie is going to be typically amazing. I laughed when I saw the 'from the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Dunkirk' thing as if.) Maybe that movie is an exception because it was shot in a way that screams "SEE ME IN IMAX," uh, which I will. I hope, anyway. Because I don't see myself going to the movies anytime too soon.

But I have watched some movies. They've mainly been old ones that I could rewatch over and over. This is probably some weird return to a comfort that I wish was there daily, but isn't. I've watched So I Married an Ax Murderer, Commando (why is Bennett wearing chain mail the whole time?), Rogue One, and some others. From the newer pile, we saw Joker finally, and whatever the one was that we rented for $20. I just looked it up. It was The Invisible Man. The new one. It was fine. We also just saw Bombshell, which was far better than I expected after hearing some reviews. But movies have not been that thing that has kept me going.

That thing is TV. Here's a secret: I have been waiting forever to get weekends where I not only don't want to leave the house, but where I am not supposed to leave the house. This has been awesome. Christy and I have to strike this balance where I get some days to do nothing, but have to participate in errands and shopping on others. It's not bad, but it's often more than I want to do. For the past two months, I haven't had to go out because I wasn't supposed to go out. So I've been spending thaty time, along with picking my spots during the week to sneak away for 45 minutes to watch an episode of a TV show. We've kept up with the usual stuff, like trying to understand what is happening on Westworld, or laughing at the awkward pauses (for laughter, ironically) John Oliver had in that first no-audience version of Last Week Tonight. Season two of Dead to Me is a good way to end the night.

The real gift I have been given in this time is the ability to watch episode after episode of one of the shows I always regretted canceling cabnle for about six years ago: Homeland. We watched it in real time as it was realeased for two years. Our recollection was that we started season 3, but canceled cable right near the beginning and never saw it again. I remember thinking it wouldn't be a huge loss because maybe the story got off the rails after season two. In fact, I never heard much more about it, except that earlier this year I heard it was ending its run. It was in season eight. Eight seasons is a heck of a run, so I was intrigued. I started at the beginning, and that first season is as good as I remember it. And after that it holds up, in my opinion. The story complete shifts after season three and still maintains some serious drama. Is it plausible? No. I mean, unless it is, which people like me would never know. There are some tense moments, some downright annoying ones (which I believe are intentional to build on the character of Carrie Mathison, the bipolar CIA officer who never seems to be wrong despite everyone thinking she's crazy).

I am 90 of 96 episodes in, and had to sign up for Showtime to get the last season. I haven't tried today, but I think I might have missed the boat for a while. The season eight episodes all had an expiration of May 26 on them, so I will find out shortly if I have to wait or what to watch the remaining six. I don't want to wait.

I totally almost forgot about books. I have bought two during this time: Nerve, by Eva Holland, and Point B, by Drew Magary. I am about halfway through Nerve, but struggling to read any more than I was a few months ago. Something has shifted in me making it much tougher to sit down and enjoy a book. I blame Twitter.


Activity

Staying fit is one of those things that people have asked me about quite a bit. I was very reticent to even go near a gym once I started hearing stories about the outbreak. Gyms seem like the worst places to be while in danger of contracting a thing like this. They feature a lot of people breathing harder than normal, in an enclosed space, with virtually infinite surfaces to clean, and most of those people couldn't care less about how they leave their station. That's bad. So I stopped going to the gym.

Early on, it was hard to even determine whether it was safe to go for a run outside. I waited a week or so, then finally started hearing that it was fine--just keep your distance and try ot choose routes that aren't crowded. As an example, we took our dog on a hike a couple weeks into this. We went to the West Keystone trailhead, walked over to the Poedunk Trail, and made our way straight up to the Halo Trail. From there, we walked back toward the car. In total it was about a four mile hike. From the Halo, we could see the East Keystone trailhead, where the parking lot and bathroom facilities are. It was packed. We could see six groupls at one time walking or biking up the Keystone Canyon trail. Keep in mind that at this time, we had no idea if that was safe or what. Out goal was to get above where most people would be and avoid as much contact as possible. We did, only seeing two other people the entire time. But it was freaking me out. Now, of course, we know that outdoor activity is a good thing, so long as distance is maintained. We should all do more of it.

For a couple weeks, Emma and I set up stations in the back yard to do some working out. I was in the midst of my endurance workouts due to a scheduled trip to Mount Shasta in mid-May that ultimately got canceled. I had begun quarantine thinking that I wasn't going on that tripo anyway, but as much fitness as I could maintain would be for the best. However, with no climbing trip to worry about staying in shape for, I gave up the weight training to heal a small hip issue I've been having for a few months. So those workouts stopped. The running, however, is probably stronger than ever. Since the last week of April, you could count on my running like clockwork. Four times each week, with right around 20 miles total. It's not a huge increase, but it has kept my fitness level very consistent throughout this whole thing. In fact, I'm faster than when we began, but I have a much harder time with longer runs right now. I don't slow down, particularly, but I feel like I got crushed for worse than I ever did when I was going fewer times with more miles in each run. And speed work is non-existent right now, so I'll feel that pain when it starts again.

My hope is that before the summer ends, there will be opportunities to get out and explore the outdoors a bit before things at work ramp way back up. That time is fast approaching, as campus is beginning to explore the dates when in-person instruction can resume. That will mean my return, since a lot of my job is to be physically present when equipment is being used. So the midday runs will be winding down (especially with the heat) in the near future.


Work

Work has been weird, as you might expect. "Work from home" is tough when your job is largely dependent on physical location. However, I had coincidentally taken over the admin role for the med school's Zoom account that was HIPAA comlpliant. We had doctors beginning to use the platform for patient visits last year. In January, we had five people using it. As of today, we have 244 people using it. It's been a rapid expansion that the doctors and medical and administrative assistants have largely adapted to in a great way. Just about everyone is dialed in and using this regularly. Problems will always be a part of this kind of thing, but my job shifted to writing up user guides, recording screencasts, and managing the limited number of accounts we could issue in order to keep our clinics running smoothly. Overall, it has been pretty smooth.

Christy, on the other hand, has been slammed. Doing communications for a med school with a citywide clinical practice is not something that gets easier in the midst of a global pandemic. For the first few weeks there were daily calls just to update everyone on the status of things like PPE, protocols in the clinics, and since this is America, the legal ramifications of requiring patients and employees to do anything. Then, once those things are determined, there has to be communication about them. She was working form 8:00 until easily 6:30 with barely a break to eat. Sometimes she went as late as 8:00 at night, and that's with the efficiency of working at home. In my experience, working from home is the most efficient I have ever been. No interruptions and in the case of meeting, no time required in between to get from one place to the next. It was incredibly hard. It has calmed to some degree. At the very least, the education piece is mostly unnecessary now, but other things still need to get out there.


Well, that should be enough for mow. Thanks for reading this far. As always, if you think this is interesting or soothing or just something someone else should read, pass it along. Take care and keep wearing your masks.

-Ryan

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