One Year Later, Still Disinfecting

It was exactly one year ago today that I first photographed and posted this image of a prettily packaged gift basket full of cleaning supplies. The pandemic was just gearing up on this side of the country, certain supplies suddenly disappeared from grocery store shelves, and an upscale market near me was selling gift baskets with big bows — filled with hard-to-find hand sanitizers and disinfectants.

That doesn’t seem nearly as weird now as it did then.

That was the last week of in-person school for my son, who graduated high school a few months later without having set foot in the school again. That was the last week of running out to the store without stopping to ask yourself if it was safe to do so. Many people started working from home that week. Mask mandates didn’t come in until later in the spring. At the time, masks were in short supply; we were told it was more important for health-care workers to have the ones that were available.

Who knew that a year later, so many of us would still be working or studying from home, attending Zoom meetings, and ordering takeout instead of eating in restaurants? I’m not criticizing the restrictions. If anything, I think there should be tighter restrictions, more rigorously enforced.

But it’s depressing to think of an entire year that feels, well, lost. Like we’ve been treading water since last March, instead of swimming toward a goal. And half a million people have died in the U.S., with 2.6 million dead worldwide. It makes me sad, but it also fills me with rage at the mismanagement of the greatest public health crisis to hit this country in a century.

But there’s hope now. The antichrist is no longer president. Congress has passed another relief bill to help people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic. After a year, schools are — slowly — starting up in person again, at least to an extent (I guess that’s a good thing, if the right safety precautions are in place). And we have a vaccine; a tenth of the adult population has received both doses. By sometime this summer, the rest of us might be there, too.

In the meantime, wear a mask. And wash your hands. I know a place where you can still pick up a sweet gift basket of cleaning supplies!

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