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  • Writer's pictureJoe

Some observations about the spread of Coronavirus (early days)

When coronavirus began to spread in the United States, predominantly in the Northwest, I was in Chicago for a conference. While I kept up with the news and usually do whether I am traveling or not, I wasn't tracking how dire the situation was. For me, it was a relatively normal few days spent with colleagues working on collaborative work.

My colleagues and I would work in the morning hours, break for lunch, do a little more work in the afternoon, and take in some tourist attractions during the later afternoon. We had few things to care about other than the work we were doing and where we were going to visit in the afternoon. We got a remarkable amount of tasks accomplished, especially pertaining to the two books upon which we were working. One was in pedagogy, tentatively entitled The Socratic Classroom, and the other is an edited anthology entitled Virtue, Narrative, and Self: Autobiography and the Philosophy of Mind and Action.

On Tuesday afternoon, my colleague and I finished our work around 11.00AM and walked over to the Art Institute of Chicago. That was when it struck me that the pandemic was not going to be something that didn't affect each and everyone of us. First, my partner texted me on the way over, warning me to be careful and wash my hands religiously. She said that several people in Washington had died from the coronavirus. Since little was known of how it was transmitted, she recommended that I be more cautious than less. She instructed me not to touch anything unless I knew with a degree of certainty the object's history---fat chance in the Art Institute. Second, when we arrived at the Art Institute, I noticed that several patrons and people working the information desk had dawned latex gloves. And they weren't handling the art work; they were handling patron's bags.

I departed Chicago on the morning of 1 March and sat next to an MIT professor of public health who had just finished up with meeting her peers to discuss the rising pandemic. She was meticulous about her seat. She, quite literally, cleaned her seat, using a dozen or so alcohol wipes on the seat, the armrest, the traytable, and anything else she though she would touch on the flight. I believed she was acting obsessively. Boy, was I wrong! When she told me a little about herself, I began mimicking her---cleaning my area as best I could. When I asked her what I should do since I hadn't cleaned my seat, with a chuckle she recommended I burn my clothes once I got home. Seriously, though, she did suggest that I remove and then wash my clothes once I got to my destination. That's exactly what I did!

These three events are the earliest memories I have of COVID-19. It's difficult to believe that that was merely four-ish weeks ago. But that's how far we have come and---highly likely---at least how far we have to go.

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