Life

The Quarantine Things We Don’t Have to Do This Time Around

As we all go back into our homes, it feels like March all over again. But we know a lot more this time.

A robin's egg blue house perched on a ledge, where it is definitely not supposed to be.
Yikes. Cindy Tang/Unsplash

COVID-19 cases are higher than ever. Health experts are advising us to limit a large number of activities, including to canceling the holidays as we normally have them. It’s scary, and depressing. It feels like it’s March again, but worse, in terms of lives lost and sheer exhaustion.

But it’s not March. It’s November, a full eight months from March. And in the intervening time, we’ve learned a lot. Doctors have gotten a little better at treating COVID-19, which means that landing in the hospital is incrementally less risky. Scientists have also learned more about how the virus spreads, meaning we know more about what protects us, and what doesn’t. We also know ourselves better than before—we’ve done quarantine before, after all!

With input from my colleagues, here’s what we are looking forward to skipping this time around:

We don’t feel compelled to say yes to endless Zooms, to tour art museums virtually, or have a good time participating in “virtual fun” at all really. (With the exception of Yoga With Adriene.*)

We don’t have to worry about transmission in schools that are taking precautions, like masks and ventilation. (Unfortunately we do have to worry about schools closing anyway.)

We’ve mostly stopped beating ourselves up when our kids zonk out in front of YouTube videos for three (or more) hours at a time, since it means we can finally answer some emails.

Scientists settling on the airborne aspect of the virus was in many ways a relief, because we don’t have to quarantine our mail, wipe down our dogs’ paws, or Clorox our produce. It’s now clear that surface transmission isn’t a big risk.

We do still have to wash our hands consistently, but at this point, we all should be versed in keeping them nice and moisturized, too.

We’ve figured out how to see our doctors and therapists over video.

We’re able to watch Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso and listen to Taylor Swift’s Folklore.

We don’t have to stock up on water, which to be fair, we didn’t have to do in March, either.

We’re no longer drinking every night like we’re on some kind of vacation. It’s clear that this isn’t some temporary situation to get through with booze.

But we’re also not going to beat ourselves up when we do drink like we’re on some kind of vacation.

We don’t have to settle for homemade masks or surgical masks. We have nice masks! We have so many nice masks. We also do not have to spend time or mental energy waffling on whether to wear a mask.

We are done paying $75 for an 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

We are also done canceling international travel, because we have no international travel to cancel! And if we must go somewhere far away, we are feeling a lot better about the prospect of getting on a plane.

We don’t fear going outside for a midday sanity walk, or the presence of other people exercising at a distance.

We no longer think that things will be fixed if only testing would ramp up. Nor do we trust small studies—or small-minded presidents—heralding a miracle treatment. These things sound like bummers, but having a clearer sense of the trickiness of this disease makes it a little easier to bear.

We also, finally, have a slightly—if not very definitive!—sense of when this will end.

Correction, Nov. 19, 2020: This post originally misspelled the name of Adriene from Yoga With Adriene.