One of my parents was recently found to be riddled with cancer. The oncologist declined even doing a biopsy, as no treatment regime would extend life and any treatment would either accelerate death and/or incur unnecessary pain.
As a result, many members of my family gathered in Utah for our final time with this parent. Happily, each member of the family has individually been cautious, though not always for the same ideological reasons. Our parent was declared uninfected by COVID as part of the hospital visit that determined symptoms were partially attributable to widespread cancer. 1
Road Trip versus Air Travel: We chose to primarily travel via roads, though we sent two folks home early via air.
When traveling via air, it appears masks are required and efforts are made to distance family groups as much as possible. You clearly have no control over the status of other passengers (regarding those who might be infected but are not yet obviously infected). I can imagine that people might pull off their masks when attendants aren’t watching, much as people used to use their electronic devices when attendants weren’t watching. As folks become more willing to travel via airplane, flights are beginning to fill up. This is great for the economics of airline companies. But this means you can’t count on having any significant distance between yourself and unknown parties of unknown status.
When traveling thousands of miles via roads, it is at least necessary to stop for gas. Credit cards and gloves can minimize any need to interact with unknown individuals or touch surfaces that could be contaminated. One member of our party was particularly concerned about avoiding contamination based on a loved one at home with compromised health, so this individual minimized use of public bathrooms.
On the way to Utah, we had enough drivers to avoid any need to stop to rest. On our return, we stopped in motels, booking in advance. We were informed several budget motels we hoped to stay in were sold out. The hoteliers said there was no specific event – just that people started traveling in droves around June 20.
Church: While we were in Utah, Church meetings resumed. They were limited to a short opportunity to partake of the sacrament, and the opportunities to show up were split to ensure no congregation was larger than 50 persons (masks required, family groups separated by 6+ feet, procedures for administering the sacrament to minimize any possibility of people touching surfaces that could be contaminated). I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to add my visiting self to their load. The first meeting extended family attended reportedly included only 15 individuals. I think the second meeting that day included 38 individuals. It works out so each individual would effectively be able to partake of the sacrament once a month with the new protocols. Under these practices, it would be unlikely for an individual would get COVID at Church meetings in Utah (speaking only for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
To Mask or Not to Mask: My immediate family had a cache of comfortable, home-made masks. I further made masks as gifts for a couple of birthdays that occurred while we were in Utah. On the other hand, some members of the extended family refused to wear masks and cited believed dangers (oxygen deprivation, carbon-monoxide poisoning). 2 While traveling, we saw signs claiming masks were required, but no one appeared to be enforcing these signs. We saw numerous instances where masks were worn in a manner that did nothing to cover nose or mouth. When we were interacting with persons outside our family, we wore masks. But we didn’t wear our masks inside our car while driving.
Quarantine: Once returning home, we are observing various levels of quarantine. The individual concerned about their vulnerable child showered immediately upon returning home and wore masks for days. But when the vulnerable child drank from their cup in an unguarded moment, this individual decided to end extreme measures. For the rest of us in a different household, we have resumed our pre-trip practices, mostly remaining at home, and wearing masks when venturing out. For myself, we have only just entered “Phase I” of returning to work, and they are only allowing a maximum of 20% of individuals to return to our shared office spaces. So continuing to telework is still acceptable and even encouraged.
Where to find truth: During out trip I learned about the 91-divoc website. This website allows you to sift through a couple of different data sets (JHU (US and entire world) and the Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project (US only)) and view the data in a number of different ways. One of the interesting visualizations is the one showing your “community” as a grouping of 1000 persons. Depending on what state you live in, it appears there may be only a handful of individuals with COVID in that group of 1000 (presuming a majority of those with symptoms have been tested).
Even when discussing the same data, some obviously feel the vast majority are perfectly healthy and all these precautions are silly. Others may liken this to a cup of cooked rice with only ~20 maggots, making care with individual instances worth the bother.
As to Truth, we who believe in an omniscient God can presume that God knows Truth. If you believe in a final judgment, you might imagine that God will share at least that portion of Truth that affected (and was affected by) your life. I hope none of us will be found to have force-fed the equivalent of maggots to our fellows. I similarly hope none of us will be found to have limited others without sufficient cause.