What Have We Learned?

Pandemic Diary #87

Tunnel to Nowhere — photo by author

May 3, 2021

Traveling through the US as it slowly opens up in the Spring of 2021 felt more challenging than when I took a trip in the fall of 2020. This trip was another through the National Parks, and it was a whirlwind of seven parks in the Southeast and 3721 miles.

The citizens of each state reacted a little differently, but on the whole, it was a look into an uncomfortable truth of how many people still do not take this whole horrible disease and its infectiousness seriously.

Businesses, for the most part required a mask to enter, many were adamant that you cover both mouth and nose. However, I entered a mini-mart at a gas station in West Virginia and the woman said, we don’t wear masks in here.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, many restaurants were closed, and a few that were open were strict in their social distancing. In Columbia, South Carolina, every restaurant and bar looked like a college campus after their football team had won the Rose Bowl.

Room service varied between hotels as well. I stayed in several Hiltons with signs that explained that for “your convenience” room service would not be provided. This resulted in guest after guest traipsing to the front desk for fresh towels, more shampoo and coffee. In Eureka Springs Arkansas, the Crescent Hotel seemed to have done things right. You were asked if you minded if people came into your room to clean, putting the decision into your hands.

As science has shown that we still need to mask and wash our hands it has also shown that surface transference is very low. Considering that room service is there to clean, the concept that their presence would be harmful is a non-starter.

In November, seeking out Hilton’s for their cleaning policies made sense. The decision by Hilton to continue to offer no room service, and make you pay full price and be your own housekeeper was maddening. And yet, it may become a new standard. That would be a mistake. I do not need the sheets changed on a daily basis, but wet towels that never dry in humid weather are not why I stay in a high end hotel. Walking down the hall of a major hotel with bags and bags of garbage outside of rooms because there is no service, is not a look that begs me to return.

The hotels have eliminated their lowest paid staff while boosting the stock prices at the expense of their visitors.

In Arkansas restaurants were struggling, often not because of COVID, but due to lack of staff. I asked a restaurateur and a server about this situation and was told that many were happy receiving unemployment supplemented with COVID relief monies, and chose not to return. There are many problems with that comment. If unemployment bolstered with extra monies from COVID relief is equal to, or more than, your salary, then salaries are out of whack. These supplemented wages are still not a living wage. It also speaks of our health care system. Who wants to go back to work for low wages when they have no health care to fall back on should they get COVID. Our system is broken.

There are so many things that should stay around after COVID is in the rearview mirror, but the excessive use of plastic cups, plastic silverware and everything wrapped in “protective plastic” is not one of them.

On American Airlines I was handed a bag of peanuts and a bottle of water in a Ziploc bag. Why? There were no fewer people handling these items, someone put them in the bag. The amount of plastic, if this is done on every flight, is horrifying.

I am all for restaurants that do takeout in the future to be able to also continue the cocktail takeout as well, but there has got to be a better solution than millions upon millions of plastic cups with plastic lids. Restaurants have gone to the QR Code system for menus, I think that is brilliant. It is so ridiculous to watch servers take your menu from you and then tear it up and throw it away. If they are that conscientious about saving trees, why be so glutinous in the use of plastic?

When COVID first hit we all had a learning curve. Do I touch the groceries once they have been delivered? Do I sterilize the boxes UPS dropped off before bringing them in the house? These were legitimate fears. Science has been busy, not just coming up with vaccines, but in helping us understand what is and isn’t necessary to reduce transmission. Many have listened to scientists and have stood in line for a vaccine, worn masks and diligently washed hands, we need to take science into account as we emerge from this pandemic. We do not need to top off our land-fills with plastic when we have a better understanding of surface transference.

I am not sure that the world will ever go back to “the way it was”, and an intelligent march into the future is always better, but let us do it with what we have learned, not with what worked before.

To my readers: I first want to say thank you for being here for me month after month, there are not words enough to thank you as deeply as I can, and to express how much your comments and your encouragement have meant to me. I began this Pandemic Diary on March 25th of 2020. I did it as a way to let off steam and intellectually work out what was happening to the world. I began with a daily post, as the pandemic wore on I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew, so I switched to once a week. This has been my salvation, I have kept my sanity by researching and writing, and it has been a wonderful experience. Most importantly, I found my voice. I now must take this to the next level. I love writing on Medium, and I will continue to do so from time to time. Because I value what I do and what I have to say, I am moving to a new platform. It is a paid platform, although the cost is nominal. Unfortunately the internet has robbed artists of their value by making everything free. If you believe my work is worth a small subscription fee you can find me on Substack by clicking here. Thank you each and everyone of you for stopping by.

Trivial Things

San Francisco weather: 65 degrees and sunny

NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +10323

COVID cases in the US: 33,181,393

Deaths from COVID in the US: 591,063

Vaccines administered in the US: 245,591,469

OED word of the day: perk tree — A long pole; spec. a pole or rod, set up horizontally, from which to hang cloth or clothes

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 420

Reading: Should America Pay? Reparations by Raymond A.Winbush PhD

My Black and White Picture of the Day

Something Silly From the Internet:

My travel blog www.PassportandBaggage.com and my www.ArtandArchitecture-sf.com blog are quiet due to the Pandemic. I need to write, so here I go.