I got my first hint that the world would soon change beyond recognition earlier this month when a man I was interviewing gave me an elbow bump instead of the traditional handshake at the end of the interview.
I had no idea at the time that the COVID-19 crisis, as it is now called, would begin to dominate all aspects of my life, and everyone else’s for that matter, in such a short time.
It’s pretty much all we’ve been talking about in the newsroom for the past two weeks, and almost everything that we’ve written in that time is COVID-19 related.
No one seems to really care that much anymore about budgets and bylaws, sports and entertainment, or anything else that we newspaper people usually write about when there’s a seemingly unstoppable virus making the rounds that is deadly for some people.
We’ve had other scares of sickness and plagues over the years, including MERS and SARS, but nothing like this, which is beginning to resemble a Hollywood movie with the eerily abandoned streets and closed stores in the middle of the day.
(Anybody stuck at home might want to watch the miniseries The Stand, based on an old Stephen King novel, on Netflix.)
My brother and sister-in-law just returned from a Caribbean cruise (luckily), and have to remain quarantined for two weeks in their house.
That may seem like a dream for many who wouldn’t mind a stay-cation of the most extreme kind, but it’s torture for my brother and his wife because they have four children and a number of grandchildren that usually visit them frequently and now must stay away.
I visited their house after I got home from work earlier this week and found both of them standing in the front window watching passersby and waving at anybody they knew.
They are typically a pretty adventurous couple, but they looked bored and listless in their imposed isolation. My conversation with them through the window glass made me think of visiting someone in prison when the only contact you can have with them is through means like this.
I told them that they had two days behind them and just needed to face 12 more before they could get back to their regular lives. The lost and lonely look on their faces made it clear what they thought about that snippet of information.
But that’s the new normal in this new world of COVID-19. I expect there won’t be any return to our regular lives for a long time, if at all.
B.C.’s government decided last week to follow the examples of all the other provinces across the country and close the schools indefinitely until the crisis passes, however long that will be.
While, apparently, the kids won’t have to worry about graduating or moving on to the next grade as a result, it still leaves many parents scrambling to figure out what to do to keep them busy during the weeks and possibly months ahead as the virus takes its course.
As for the economy, with so many businesses shutting down, it’s hard to say what will happen as there has been no precedent for this that I can recall.
Hang on and brace yourself, people. I think this ride is just beginning.