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COVID-19 and Me, Part 2

July 4, 2020

Hi, friends. I wrote a long blog article a few weeks back about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected me and my neighborhood. If you haven’t already read it, I invite you to go check it out.

It’s now late June, and things feel a little more normal now. But, as before, there have been a few things I wanted to jot down for posterity. I hope the day will come that we mostly forget what it was like in the early days of the pandemic, so maybe all this will help jog my memory. I don’t know whether people like to read these longer format posts or would prefer more shorter posts. But I’ve got a lot on my mind to share with you.

First, let’s talk about masks. I had no idea it would be like this, but wearing of face coverings has become something of a controversial issue, even political. Over the course of the pandemic so far, we’ve had a weird and confusing mix of orders from government leaders. President Trump said we should all be wearing masks, but then he has refused to do so personally. Governor Polis has been ardently pro-mask, but has left most specific rules up to local governments around the state, to account for the fact that things in small rural towns are very different than things in the center of Denver. Lastly, Mayor Hancock has been pro-mask and has issued the most restrictive orders about wearing them.

We’ve had a mix of directives from the state and city level, sometimes contradicting each other, and changing over time. But right now, here in Denver, it’s the law to wear a face covering inside a business or in line to get into a business, and also at bus stops and on buses. Of people out and about, walking around the city, some wear face coverings and some don’t. Thanks to people mostly wearing masks earlier in the pandemic, the wave of hospitalizations was suppressed, as intended. We avoided overloading hospitals, which was the whole goal of social distancing and face coverings. So I think some people have gotten lazy and stopped wearing face coverings as much on the streets. And maybe that’s not a big deal, since it seems more health professionals are saying the chances of infection are much lower outdoors and in cases where you just pass by someone momentarily.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Brooke and I went down to the town of Elizabeth. Her parents lived there a few years as her mother was dying, and she is now buried in the town cemetery there. So we took the opportunity to get out of town and go see her grave site. It was like stepping into another world, even though Elizabeth is only a 45 minute drive from Denver. Of all the people I saw in town, at the restaurant where we got food, and at the adjacent supermarket, I only saw a single person wearing a face covering other than us. It was the cook at the restaurant. Even though they had a sign asking people to wear masks, the woman taking orders and handling the cash register wasn’t wearing one. But I was even more surprised that not a single person going into or coming out of the supermarket had any kind of face covering. This was during the period where the state orders were that everyone had to wear masks in supermarkets. But many localities refused to enforce that rule, and so people didn’t follow it. It seemed foolish to me, especially on a holiday weekend when there were tourists coming to town (like us).

One precaution that went into effect early on was that face coverings became required in common areas of my condo building. There are signs at every entrance, in very plain language. Masks or face coverings are mandatory in this building. Residents, construction workers, delivery workers, etc. have all complied, which is nice. Also, since the elevators are only about 6′ wide, it’s almost impossible to maintain 6′ distance from other people in the elevator car. So people stopped sharing the elevator with others they don’t live with. A couple weeks later, the management company put up signs to that effect, which is good. It hasn’t been a hassle, and has encouraged me to use the stairs more, which is good.

Another impact of the pandemic is that my gaming group has gone virtual. Early on, before social distancing was mandatory, I asked people what they thought we should do – continue to meet in person or try to play online. About a third of the group said we should continue to meet in person; ironically, the one player who works in the health care field voted for this. About a third said we should switch to online. And a third were on the fence. I’m the ringleader of this gaming group, and I was torn. But then I thought through the implications of meeting in person. One of the gamers has an 82-year-old mother whom he sees weekly, and it would be really dumb if one of us gave her son the virus and then he gave it to Mom, and she died just because we didn’t want to use Zoom for our games. That’s when I decided we’re going virtual. I learned how to use a couple virtual table top (VTT) tools, and moved my own game onto one called Roll20; we use Discord for voice and text chat. Another game uses Fantasy Grounds. But now that we’ve been doing it a couple months, the technical kinks are mostly worked out.

I would still much prefer us to meet in person, since the online experience just isn’t as fun. It’s not as immersive, and doesn’t feel as social. There’s something special about sitting around a big table with other players, sharing munchies or supper, and playing a game in person. But until it’s safe to do that again, virtual games are just the way it is.

I already mentioned the first protest of the Spring 2020 protest series, when people who were fed up with the pandemic restrictions executed “Operation Gridlock” to drive around the state capitol and block traffic on April 19. We later learned that the protest was part of a multi-state political action, and that many of the people supposedly protesting Colorado’s anti-virus policies flew and drove in from surrounding states.

But that protest quickly faded from the limelight as restrictions started being lifted and much bigger issues took over. The protests most will remember from 2020 were the ones centered on the Capitol Building triggered by the police killing of George Floyd. There were protests around the world, but the Denver ones were a nightly occurrence starting May 28. Participation escalated over the first few nights, and it soon became clear that there were two groups of people involved – the protesters and the rioters. I’m particularly proud of the local political leaders and press for recognizing that the bulk of the protests – conducted partially as a Black Lives Matter action – were totally peaceful. The second group – the rioters – took over after the main protests dispersed each night. They’re the ones who broke windows and lit dumpsters and buildings on fire.

That Saturday, the Denver Police Department made the strange decision to “push” the crowd off Colfax down into the residential area to the south, which is where I live. Brooke and I were at my place watching a movie, when we heard a big commotion outside. The protesters/rioters/whatever came down the street behind my building, chanting and shouting. Lots of people came out to their windows and cheered them on, as they passed by. They then stopped at the Governor’s Mansion and shouted there a while before moving on. The governor doesn’t actually live there. He could, but he doesn’t. This governor has his own mansion somewhere near Boulder, and he lives there with his family. No need to relocate from Boulder Denver for 4 years, I guess, especially when you’ve got school aged kids.

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