I was going to write this week about what the world should take away from Melbourne’s resurgent outbreak and Stage 4 lockdown, but then I thought: Maybe we need an escape?
The pandemic’s grinding repetition is enough to make anyone feel like Sisyphus. We wash our hands only to dirty them again, stand too close together then remember to step apart, open up our businesses and social lives only to be told, no, sorry, wear a mask or go back to isolation.
But as a group, we’re not just screaming. Here are three of life’s (and Australia’s) great joys that are flourishing alongside the virus.
Diving Into Nature
There are more surfers and swimmers in the cold winter waters these days — and spearfishers too. I recently had a chance to write about spearfishing’s surging popularity in a Dispatch that brought me lobstering with the Gamay Rangers in La Perouse, and spearing off the coast of Manly.
Michaela Skovranova, a talented Sydney photographer, joined me. That image above? That’s me, thanks to Michaela. Looks peaceful, right?
Dive shops report record interest in spearfishing since the coronavirus emerged as people are won over by the meditative aspect of freediving and the sense of control that comes with sustainable fishing — selecting what you shoot, not just casting a line into the deep.
National parks in New South Wales are also reporting up to a 60 percent rise in visitors. Nature, it seems, is what many of us turn to in times of trouble.
Reading for Resilience
Earlier this week, I called Mark Rubbo — the owner of Readings, Melbourne’s most popular independent bookstore — and I expected him to be downbeat and stressed as the lockdown commenced. But he was just as observant and jovial as usual. I asked him what the city felt like. He looked out the shop’s window and said it felt like a Sunday in the 1950s.
He also said book sales online have been surging, a sign of people shut up at home, finding calm in imaginary worlds and in the resilience of others.
The most popular book of the week: “The Happiest Man on Earth,” a hopeful memoir from a Holocaust survivor who argues that contentment can found even in the darkest of times.
Food for Local Thought
The farmers market in Mullumbimby, north of Byron Bay, is always a lively place, but when I visited last month for a soon-to-be-written story on localism, several farmers told me that the pandemic had created a new pool of customers.
“There are a lot of faces here I’m not used to seeing,” said Andrew Cameron, 38, a bearded cattle farmer selling cuts of grass-fed beef. “Right now a lot of people are realizing we need to really look at how our food systems work.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Like many others, he told me he wasn’t sure how long the interest would last. But for now, more and more Australians seem to want food grown closer to home, keeping people employed. Add to that all the home-cooking that’s going on, with more family meals, and you have to figure that our eating lives are more thoughtful than usual.
There’s a sense of solace, in fact, that comes from all of these activities: eating healthier food, reading more, exercising in nature. Maybe some of these habits will stick around.
What are you doing to stay calm and happy that you hope to hold on to after the pandemic fades? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now here are our stories of the week.
Australia and the Region