Changing Plans with COVID-19

I look at the toiletries that I keep separate in a liquids bag, for ease when travelling as I do with only carry-on. I open it and pour it into the main bag. I suspect I will not be on a plane for a while.

It is Friday the 13th, and I am repacking my bag. Today, I was supposed to travel to Seattle.

The e-mails rolling in on Friday the 13th

The e-mails keep rolling in. My April trip to Costa Rica has been cancelled. Later in the day, so is my summer Arctic and Greenland expedition. The organizer of the gathering in Germany that I had planned to attend in late May gives a heads-up that it could be either postponed or canceled.

The last week was a roller coaster. At the end of February, a trip to Seattle on the ferry seemed like a great mini-vacation. A friend would fly and meet me there and we would explore the city together. There were a few cases of COVID-19 in the area, and the one US death was in a nursing home. A week later, though, the news worsened. There were cases that could not be traced to travel. Lack of testing raised the possibility that there were many cases in the community that just hadn’t been caught yet.

On Sunday, I first thought of changing plans. But friends in Seattle said life was pretty normal there; restaurants and attractions were open, although there were less tourists and less traffic, which could make it a good time to visit. My friend from Ohio had bought a plane ticket that couldn’t be refunded. I’d prepaid ferry and hotel. On Monday I decided not to cancel.

On Wednesday, I realized I still had a cough from the cold that had been hanging on for weeks. Did that count as a pre-existing condition that would put me more at risk? My daughter was worried when she heard where I was going. I was abashed to realize that my age was a factor. I told my friend I was canceling, and I would phone the ferry office in the morning as soon as they opened.

I thought a lot over the week about the balance between staying safe and missing out on life, on letting fear of the unknown or possible keep you from doing anything new, till your world gets smaller and smaller.

On Thursday morning I told my friend the trip was definitely on. Final answer! And then on Thursday afternoon, British Columbia, the province I live in, brought in a requirement for 14 days of self-isolation for anyone coming from a list of countries- which included the United States.

Parksville, Canada

So this weekend, instead of being in Seattle, I am in Parksville, two hours from my home, watching the sun rise over the beach I love so much. As events play out the decision seems like the obvious one, but that is the clarity of hindsight.

I think about how my mental journey parallels that of so many with this pandemic. A sense of disbelief, first manifested in minimizing the worry, then growing worry, then trying to have life go on as normal, then concern about the cost of changes. Finally, acceptance of the adjustments that need to happen.

Flatten the curve. Stay safe, everyone.

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