After four thousand miles, twenty-eight days and five states we are finally home. There have been many larger trips but this one was by far the most anxious undertaken. It began with the simple thought that while it would be horrible to get sick on the road, it was actually much more Covid-safe out there than it was here. Here was over seven thousand people who never recovered from Covid (with more than half that number coming from our county). There were places with less than a thousand total cases and maybe a handful of deaths. They could maybe afford a bit of Covid carelessness.
Turns out that pretty much everywhere we visited is now Covid worse. One example is Uinitah County in Utah where we spent two pleasant days in Vernal. They now have twice as many Covid cases as they did before our visit (62 versus 31). While there we noted that all the big chains required employees to wear masks but not their customers. Some sort of traveling circus had also reportedly just left town and the 4th of July parade was going on as planned. Fortunately, no one in that county has yet to pass away from Covid but then death is a lagging indicator; we will not know the true Covid toil there for some time. It will also be another week or so before we know for sure whether or not we contracted Covid in Vernal or any of the other places we carefully visited.
One-month later Chicago feels different. In my quiet northwest bubble, I see lots of children riding bikes together. They hang out together like kids everywhere have always done and it feels reassuring and terrifying at the same time. Stores are reopened but with size limits fully enforced. Just like before our trip, nobody within these places are mask less. Midweek the stores are more crowded than they were before our trip but still feel eerily empty.
Someday there will be a vaccine. Or someday the virus will sufficiently burn its way through the population making subsequent flare ups less deadly. Either way there is a lot of living to be had until then and we all need to strike a balance between reckless carelessness and paralyzing fear. For us this means wearing masks inside, visiting friends and family outdoors and avoiding crowds as much as possible. This simple way of life, rooted in the present and hopefully soon to be a relic, is just another of many lagging indicators.