When I applied to go to the US aged 19, the Visa Authority had me send home to Middlesbrough General Hospital to make available to them the xrays of my lungs, before and after. I have lesions on both lungs though I never developed TB.
I got my Green Card. I don’t want Covid-19.
So I shouted for joy at a provincial doctor whom I saw twice on TV on Friday who said, clearly and unapologetically “ Don’t get it. If you get it, we can’t cure you. We can keep you alive till you’re better but there is no cure.” Because while there is information slopping about like spoilt soup, few clear facts have emerged and even these are coloured by individual experience.
To mask or not to mask ?
You’d have thought if you feel better masked, mask. Apparently not so. You may not put the mask on properly. It may be made of material that doesn’t filter reliably. You may put on your mask in such a way that you re-ingest soiled air. And then gloves ? You need gloves if you are in any direct corona contact but that doesn’t mean developing galloping paranoia over what you can’t see. There is all sorts of bacteria your body will deal with perfectly well if you wash your hands as if you mean it. Gloves underline the two extremes of response to Covid-19: one is panic and obsession, while the other is denial. There is a great lack of middle ground.
I have had no symptoms, nor been in touch with anybody who has and I have no underlying medical condition. I wash my hands often and usually dry them on disposable kitchen paper. Any towels in this house are only used by me and washed often. I haven’t worn a mask or gloves. I live alone, I keep several feet of distance and I was made very aware of this recently when I met a neighbour who usually works with a team of seven. They are now all working from home but she says she is constantly on the phone keeping things up to scratch and is demoralised by being stuck within her four walls.
There are several of us, women alone (I’m not ignoring men, rather speaking whereof I know) who have managed well for years with company and jobs and pastimes and outings, all of which is now curtailed. This is already beginning to undermine people’s mood. Some people take enthusiastically to technology, more to do with personality than generation. What I privately call The Old People – meaning of a former time rather than age – don’t. It’s not the same and we know it.
And the numbers that are thrown around – 4,000 beds with 16,000 staff and 100,000 tests – frighten rather than reassure. As in the case of my friend Dora (not her real name) tall, bright, sharing a flat with her brother, a good friend and a wonderful cook, with lungs of tissue. She was already at home with a cold when the pandemic hit and there she must stay for 3 months whence she wrote ”I have very little exciting to report , except if one more person or governmental organisation calls me up to inform me that I am vulnerable, I shall scream. Nothing I say to them seems to make them understand that while my lungs may not be in perfect working order, I do not need the help they appear to be insistent on giving me and would they please direct it at somebody who needs it. The latest is that they refuse to believe that I am not in need of free food parcels or a befriending service. “ (She had called to volunteer as a befriender.)… “In the last three days I have received 54 bananas, 2.5 kg of cornflakes and 16 tins of tomato soup… “ She sent pictures. She is in work, she can manage money, she is not alone and nobody is listening. And of course I laughed. And then you think of all the people out of work, with children or other dependents, who need help and food. Though, I must say, I find 54 bananas a bit challenging.