Bob McKinney

My spouse and I ventured out into the July heat and humidity a few nights ago to join some friends for outside socialization.

In ordinary times this would only be noteworthy because I would be participating in an outside activity in Tennessee in July, which I would – ordinarily – never do.

But this just in – these times are anything but ordinary.

My wife and I have done fine quarantining and semi-quarantining, but give us a chance to interact with others in a safe environment, and we’re in. And I’ll even refrain from complaining about the heat.

For a few years we have been part of a dinner group consisting of eight couples, nicknamed “Simple Suppers.” The objective is to get together once a month, alternating among the homes of our members, for a meal and visiting.

While most of us have been friends a long time, some of us don’t typically see each other outside of these get-togethers. So it’s become a fun way to stay connected, and something I look forward to. 

Like other gatherings of its kind, we’ve been on hiatus for about four months. Our hosts from last week have access to a gazebo in a common area in their neighborhood, so they reserved it and invited us to reconvene in a social distance setting. With the addition of a couple of high-powered fans, it was tolerable.

And like any other foray into normalcy these days, it was life giving. We were respectful of distances and refrained from customary handshakes and hugs, but the easy conversation and laughter allowed us to temporarily forget about the cautionary lives we find ourselves living these days.

Inevitably, there was talk about how we are coping with things, with varied takes on that.

A couple of folks have seen very little change to their daily routine, still going to work as usual and seeing extended family members. Others of us are now members of the remote workforce whose homes and office lives have blended.

Some seem annoyed at being expected to wear a mask when they go out, while others are all in. 

I was involved in a couple of sidebar discussions about the breaking down of news and the onslaught of often inconsistent information.

“How do you know what to believe?” someone pointedly asked of me.

That’s a great question, and one I was prepared to answer.

To begin with, I said, I don’t have any social media accounts. I don’t criticize or judge those who do, but besides not wanting to devote the time to perusing through threads of information from people I might (or might not) have known eons ago, I also don’t want to see the “news” people post that is not much different from headlines I see in checkout-line tabloids.

Although I have base intelligence enough (just enough) to filter through stuff like that, I simply don’t want it taking up space in my brain.

And with that disclaimer, I told my friends, I simply choose to believe science. Science indicates if we wear masks in public indoor settings (and even some outdoor settings), we are diligent about washing our hands and, as much as possible, we stay six feet away from others, we can slow the spread of the virus.

I don’t like it and believe me, when we come out of this, if I never hear the term “social distancing” again, it will be fine with me.  I have been a fairly reluctant hugger in my adult life, but if I eventually get the COVID vaccine and I’m given the all clear, you won’t be able to keep me off of you.

But for now, if taking these precautions will slow the spread of COVID (and I believe it will), I’m going to be taking them.

I’ve vetted this with a couple of doctor friends, both of whom have no political stake in any of this, and they confirm following the science makes sense. It is what they do and what they recommend to their patients.

It was pointed out to me that a great deal has changed since this all started, and some are understandably frustrated at the seeming mixed messages. Back in March it was suggested we not wear masks. 

My reply to that is yes, it is true the guidelines have changed and evolved. But while there is still much we don’t know about this virus, we know much more than we did, and we have made adjustments accordingly.

I am confident we will continue to learn, and I am confident we will eventually have a vaccine.

Until then, all I know to do is to be careful, trust science and socialize outdoors as much as I can stand it. 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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