On any given weekend, one of my go-to activities is urban hiking. During normal times, I’ll head out for a long walk with a dining destination in mind. With a petite Sony RX100 camera in hand, I try to capture glimpses of Seattle’s mood on that particular day.
This covid weekend, camera in hand, I headed out for a walk under the strongest stay-at-home advisory to date. Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan closed all of our parks:
“… after consulting with a range of departments and looking at what was happening, I decided to close our 15 largest parks and beaches for this weekend…”
Unfortunately, in weeks past, too many folks understood the shelter-in-place orders as a signal to make it an Instagram moment and gathered in force on area trails, parks, and beaches. From what I can tell, it’s uncertain to what extent we are bending the curve. With a dearth of testing, it’s impossible to really know how well we are doing.
Quoted in The Guardian, Seattle & King County’s Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, a close cycling buddy, advises a long-term perspective:
“We are constantly reassessing this strategy and trying to understand if and when it is advisable to change our strategy, to relax some of these measures if possible in a way that would allow our healthcare system to continue to treat all those who need healthcare and not overwhelm that system and allow us to get back to our usual lives as soon as possible,” he said. “But I don’t see that in the next month.”
Out on the streets of Seattle, it’s apparent folks are adhering to the the stay-at-home order. There is almost no traffic, and very few people out and about.
Fewer people out and about exposes the tragic reality of our homeless population. They shelter in place where they always do, on the streets. During normal times, with traffic and noise and hustle and bustle, the homeless seem invisible at best, and akin to unsightly rubbish we refuse to acknowledge. Maybe we are to them as well. Now, it seems like the roles are reversed and the only folks who are visible are the homeless, and they are impossible to ignore.
For whatever reason, despite the un-empathic vibes I feel I give off, homeless folks tend to initiate interactions with me. Not necessarily asking for handouts, just to interact:
“Hey man, you have nice smile!”
“Keep it positive, brother!”
Walking up the Pike Stairs from Alaskan Way, I passed a young woman sitting on the wall vaping and drinking a tall can of Bud Ice.
“Is he making America Great Again?” she asked.
“I’m not seeing it” I replied.
“That’s right! You’re not seeing it! That motherfucker acts like it’s reality TV show! He doesn’t give a shit about us!”
True that, sister. Has there ever been another leader who wastes time talking about his “ratings” during disaster briefings?
Another cold truth of the pandemic is that it’s exposing the holes and fault lines in our economic, social, and health systems. I’m not the only one to notice that every time “capitalism” fails, (mostly corporate) “socialism” is called to the rescue. In a modern country health care should be a human right, not a business that profits from disease.
If there ever was a teachable moment for humanity, this is it.
The viruses are trying to teach us something.
Are we listening?