CANARY IN THE COAL MINE
Definition: Something or someone who, due to sensitivity to his, her, or its surroundings, acts as an indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger. Refers to the former practice of taking caged canaries into coal mines. OR, in the current situation, someone who is willing and able to put themselves out there in the pandemic to see if it gets worse.
I understand the urge people have to get back to their jobs and normal lives. If you have not been one of the folks immediately impacted with COVID-19, getting it yourself or having family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers get sick or even die from the disease, is difficult to take it seriously. You see the numbers, but they are in those other states, counties, or cities. My own county, El Dorado County, CA, is rural and has had very few cases identified and only a couple of deaths (of course that is more concerning if you are one of them). Some of that may be due to limited testing and mild or asymptomatic cases.
Sometimes getting back to your job is urgent; unemployment hasn’t kicked in, the “check” coming from the federal government is delayed, and the bills still keep coming due.
It is even more of a dilemma in those states who have decided to suspend some of the restrictions. In those areas there are people telling you to get back to work and denying you unemployment benefits if you don’t go (after all, that salon, bar, or gym is open). BUT, medical experts and even the Federal Government is telling you that it may be dangerous. Your kids may be still out of school with no daycare. You may have high-risk family members in your household. What the hell are you supposed to do? What safety measures are being put in place (if any), what if you don’t feel safe going back to work?
I am pretty lucky. I am retired and I live in the middle of nowhere. I can social isolate ‘til the cows come home. I can wait while all those people in other states swarm to the beaches, staff the meat packing plants, get their hair cut, and throw down a few brews with their homies. I can wait to go out for another month easily. I shop on Amazon and Costco.com. I pick my groceries up in the parking lot at Safeway and at the local farm stand on Thursday afternoons. I don’t need to go to the doctor, or dentist, or movies. I don’t have to go to work. I can just wait and see what happens after a month while all those other people are out there “testing the waters.”
Sadly, I don’t want any of those other people to get sick and maybe die, even if they don’t think it’s an issue. I want us all to be as safe as we can.
A local physician posed a question about whether social distancing could count on people doing what they are supposed to do without having “laws” that make them do it. It is a legitimate question, but it does not have a clear cut answer. Even with the guidelines and requirements in place, on those few occasions when I venture out to the store, pharmacy, or post office, a pretty impressive number of folks are not wearing masks or gloves. They seem to have a problem with understanding the concept of “6 feet apart.”
My brother lives in a residential area near a beach in California. On the nice weekends the water, beach, and streets are full of tourists who have driven from the other side of the hill to get a little break from the shutdown. While they are there, they go into the grocery stores, use the gas pumps, and generally assure that they leave their mark. They feel it is their right (the beaches are public, right?) but my brother and his neighbors feel disrespected and at risk.
I don’t know what the answers are, and honestly, I don’t think anyone else does either. I do know that on the morning of 9/11 I thought “the world will never be the same” and that is what I think now, as well.
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CANARY IN THE COAL MINE