Today is Day 227 of my working from my home in self-isolation for my university library system. I am nearing the end of a three-month period where I have been frantically working days, evenings, and weekends to meet several project deadlines, and I can almost see the finish line of November 1st, 2020. I am cranky, utterly exhausted, and most definitely not in a Hallowe’en trick-or-treater mood.
Here are the latest provincial stats, and they are not encouraging. Pandemic fatigue has settled in, people are getting sloppy, and COVID-19 infections are rising sharply:
While these numbers may appear small compared to the absolute clusterfuck-dumpster-fires taking place just south of the border in North and South Dakota, for a province of only 1.3 million inhabitants (mostly in and around the Winnipeg area), this is not good news. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that our hospital system is bring pushed to the brink:
Record high hospitalizations are ringing alarm bells for health care professionals. With outbreaks in three units at St. Boniface Hospital and two units at Victoria General Hospital, physicians and nurses are worried about the rising strain on the health care system.
In a Facebook post Saturday, a medical microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital wrote that, “Without a turnaround, we are within days of being at the limit of ICU capacity.”
“Resources are getting strained. ICUs are full. We are on the brink. This is what happens when we let our guard down, have too many contacts, relax and go out with too many people,” Dr. Phillipe Lagacé-Wiens wrote.
Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, noted health care professionals have been warning of a rapidly approaching crisis point for a while.
“Not only are we seeing increases in case numbers, we’re seeing increases in hospitalizations, we’re seeing increases in people being admitted to intensive care units, we’re seeing increased fatalities,” he said Sunday.
Today, the first death from COVID-19 was reported at Victoria Hospital, a stone’s throw from where I live, in an outbreak of 19 staff and 19 patients at the facility,
Parkview Place personal care home in downtown Winnipeg (where my grandmother and grandfather lived) has 29 staff and 92 residents who have become infected with COVID-19. Seventeen residents have died, and angry families are demanding answers. I can only thank God that my grandfather and beloved grandmother died in the 2000’s, well before this outbreak.
On Monday, I went to my local pharmacy to get my flu shot. It was the first time since March 16th that I have been part of a large group of people (mostly seniors, all masked, and all trying to keep 2 metres apart, an increasingly impossible task as people kept arriving).
A hastily-assembled makeshift flu clinic had been set up in the electronics department, but it was clear the pharmacists and assistants were overwhelmed with the demand. Shouting matches broke out between a few of the people waiting for flu shots and the staff, when it was announced that those who had booked appointments earlier in the day would be processed before the “first come, first served” crowd who had gathered. “If you don’t like it, LEAVE!” shouted one stressed-out pharmacist at a particularly angry and accusative old woman, who had not stopped complaining from the moment she arrived.
It was a unsettling, dispiriting, and dehumanizing experience, being treated like an assembly on some machine line, perched on a chair for 30 seconds for a jab in the upper arm, with the chair then being thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant and ready for the next person (I believe the proper term for this is “hygiene theatre“).
As I walked out the pharmacy, I saw my best friend John, masked and standing in a long line of sombre people, all approximately 2 metres apart. The lineup started at the entrance and snaked back and forth between the cars in the pharmacy parking lot. I told him that there were probably 60 or 70 people ahead of him, and that he would probably be waiting at least an hour for his flu shot, if not longer. It was a shitshow.
After I came home, I carefully removed and threw out my N95 mask, washed my hands and my glasses thoroughly, popped three Lorazepam and lay down for a long nap to try and forget the whole unpleasant experience. If this is what getting the flu shot is going to be like, what it is going to be like when there’s an actual COVID-19 vaccine that has to be distributed?
I have one final lecture to deliver tomorrow for my class—delivered remotely and online via Cisco Webex—and then I am going to collapse, after three months working non-stop overtime. I have been sleeping 10, 12, even 14 hours at a stretch lately, and I am still exhausted.
My apartment is a Red Cross disaster area, with dust bunnies, dirty dishes, and canned goods and Clorox wipes piled high in the corners of my apartment. The office chair I had to bring in from work has worn a big hole in the carpeting in front of my home computer workstation, where I sit and work most of the day. (So much for my damage deposit.)
I have had exactly one person touch me in SEVEN. FUCKING. MONTHS, and when it happened (my best friend John touched my arm to make a point in conversation over a summertime dinner on an outdoor restaurant patio), I almost leaped out of my skin. I can’t even remember the last time somebody hugged me.
This pandemic is beating the absolute shit out of me, and the end is still nowhere near in sight. I’m trying to find a positive note to end this blogpost on, and you know what? I can’t. Not today.