Last week I participated in the American Planning Association National Planning Conference. Originally planned for Houston, it became a virtual event. There were 5,000 people registered – the capacity of the technology and only a few thousand people short of the typical in person audience. In part because the registration fee dropped from astronomical to attainable and there was no travel expense (and more ability to continue meeting needs at home). While the conference typically has a dozen concurrent sessions, there was only a single-track for the online conference. As you can imagine, many had a COVID-19 theme or at least mention. One of the sessions was about the changes we have all been making to public meetings and public hearings. A presenter made a comment that even when we re-open not everyone is going to be comfortable in public, and that got me thinking. Not just about dual-track (in-person and online) meetings, but about how *I* feel about re-entry. Pair that with Thursday (April 30) announcement that Indianapolis would remain on stay-at-home through May 15 and the May 1 announcement from the Governor that Indiana would begin to re-open on May 4 with a 5-stage plan and I was really thinking about it.
I have been “snoozing” people on Facebook and “muting” them on Twitter for the past 7 weeks when their behavior doesn’t meet my expectations. These are the same expectations I hold myself to, understanding I have the privilege of Amazon Prime and another person in the house to go get groceries (wearing appropriate safety equipment). I only leave the house to run and bike. After a long duathlon the other week I did go into a donut shop to get a coffee and I was pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation.
I had previously been to a clinic for a doctor appointment and did ok with that even though it was very awkward to have someone take my temperature at the door and wear a mask for my appointment. I am not sure how I am going to feel about people taking my temperature outside of a clinic setting.
- All this leads me to questions for myself (and I don’t have answers yet):
- Am I going to be ok going back to my office when I am expected to return to work? How will I feel about interacting with security and my co-workers or the other women on our floor in the restroom?
- Will I be ready to take the bus to work or will I bike commute or drive and pay to park?
- How will I feel about board meetings that might resume before we are back in the office? We have an important deadline that means we have a lot of board meetings right now and the virtual is cumbersome for voting with a large board…but those meetings are upward of 50 people in a room.
- Will I return to run club as soon as it resumes or will I hang back a few weeks? Many of the people who normally come on Saturday haven’t been “offenders” but there are Tuesday people who have. And will those spaces been too crowded for me to be comfortable (the trail and the park) since I have been avoiding those places?
- When will I feel ok about going to a restaurant and dining in? I miss Indian buffet like nobody’s business, but I am not sure if I am going to be ok actually there.
- What about shopping? I generally hate stores to begin with (hence the Amazon Prime membership) but will I go back to my small businesses immediately?
- Do I get my hair cut and eyebrows done? I want to support the salon and have done what I can to help them emotionally and financially, but will I really be ok there?
- Will I be ok going back to church, especially in my leadership role where I can’t freak out and leave?
My list goes on. I had mentioned in an early COVID-19 update that I was afraid I was developing agoraphobia. Putting the above concerns in writing makes that seem like it might be the case, but I am not sure. Further complicating my concerns, while I am a generally healthy endurance athlete I have the underlying conditions of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, which makes me somewhat more cautious than a typical 43 year old might be in this situation. Finally, I hate things touching my face so I will probably avoid putting myself in situations where I would use a mask to protect others and somewhat minimize my risk. That’s the low item on my list, but it is still a question.
In reality, I won’t know the answers to any of these questions until they happen. But, I can’t imagine that I’m the only one that has them, but the way re-entry is talked about from some politicians and news outlets doesn’t make it seem like these concerns are being prioritized. Nevertheless, I am hopeful, but cautious, and I will do everything I can to protect myself and those around me.