Dispatches from quarantine: Updates and broodings on the Colorado COVID-19 situation

Dispatches from quarantine: Updates and broodings on the Colorado COVID-19 situation

VicesMarch 27, 2020 By Will Brendza

Well, Colorado, we’ve officially been put under quarantine by executive order of the governor, and now unless your work has been dubbed “essential,” you’re stuck at home, burning through Netflix and Disney plus, occupying yourself with food, booze and weed, walking the dog four to five times a day and starting happy hour whenever you goddamn please (at least that’s the situation at my desk).

So, I suppose now’s as good a time as any to really start cataloguing this shitshow — to begin writing dispatches from quarantine: updates and broodings on this strange situation and stories from people on the ground; on The Front Lines.

There was a lot of news this week (as there seems to be every week), and grim news it was: aside from the state-wide quarantine announcement, there was the Great Weed and Booze Prohibition of Colorado. Which lasted a grueling two and a half hours before the government realized what a terrible mistake they’d made and retracted it. People bum rushed the dispensaries and the liquor stores, in fear that they’d be closed along with the rest of the City of Denver. I myself went to go stock up on weed, but every dispensary I drove to seemed to have a line wrapped twice around the block. (Which was the real reason they ended the Prohibition: it was creating crowds; gatherings of way more than 10 people.)

So, they put a stop to it, and reluctantly threw the public a bone (and many of those businesses a lifeline). Thus, ending Denver’s 2020 prohibition and sweet holy hell thank god it’s so.

The state temporarily suspended vehicle emissions testing. Health care workers and first responders in Larimer, Mesa and El Paso counties and Montrose finally received testing kits from the State. And resources from the Strategic National Stockpile, were brought in and distributed throughout Colorado, as well.

The work life has changed for nearly everyone. Health care workers are experiencing increasing volumes of patients. Every level of government is scrambling (from the Feds to the States to the local townships) to try and get this problem handled. Bars and restaurants have all turned into delivery and to-go operations — some, like the Bluegrass Coffee & Whiskey Lounge in Arvada, are selling their most prized and rarest bottles to pay their employees paychecks. Grocers are constantly re-stockping the always-empty shelves of every grocery store in the state (and nation). Firemen have seen an uptick in car crashes and home fires. Newsrooms have laid off all their freelancers. And of course, everyone who can work from home, is now working from home full time.

Perhaps the most unfortunate announcement this week: the Forest Service closed all trailheads, campgrounds and picnic areas in the state. They’re just too high-risk right now, as everyone has started flooding those areas. People are bored out of their minds! And they’re getting outside because where the hell else are they going to go?

So, they closed one more outdoor escape valve and the pressure is building. People are taking to the backcountry and it’s getting perilous out there. The avalanche danger is extremely high right now — since March 20th there have been 34 human triggered avalanche incidents, a significant uptick from normal, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. And what happens if someone gets themselves hurt out there? Not only does it mean even more work for the search and rescue teams who are going to come and get you, but it also means that your dumbass is taking up a hospital bed. One that could be used to save someone else's life.

It’s why Facebook groups like Boulder Rock Climbers have changed their group name to “Please do not climb due to COVID-19 (Boulder Rock Climbers)” —  any outdoor sport where, bodily harm is imnherently a threat, is just too risky right now. It’s selfish to put yourself in those situations just for a kick or a workout, when it could mean the difference between life and death for another.

But that surely doesn’t make it any easier to stay boxed up at home. What will people do when they go totally mad inside their own domains, with nowhere to go except the grocery store (and even then, only if it’s truly necessary)? I can only imagine at the end of all this, there will be many dead bodies discovered; murder victims, who drove their quarantine partners to the brink. Likely there will be many divorces and many broken relationships, too. It is not an easy thing to remain cooked up with the same individual(s) day after day after day; to spend your evenings and your mornings with the same person or people you spend your work days alongside…

Such macro-doses of another human being, can drive one to extreme ends.

But, then again, there will also be the corona-babies of 2020/21. Kids borne of boredom during the quarantine order, not so unlike the boomer boom after WWII. 

As of Thursday (3/26), perhaps not surprisingly, the mighty US-of-A surpassed every other nation on Earth with the number of confirmed cases of this COVID-19 virus: Over 85,000. And those are just the one’s we know of. How many people out there are sick but haven’t been tested? How many people have had it and got better already? How many are carrying the virus around and haven’t yet fallen ill?

“The greatest nation on Earth” reacted too slow. We had a huge head start. What was it? January when we first started hearing about how bad things had gotten in China? And still we carried on like business as usual. Even when Italy went under full emergency quarantine, we watched with intrigue, but did nothing to react. We didn’t stop travel. We didn’t jump-start medical supply manufacturing. We didn’t make a plan to handle the issue when it finally arrived at our doorstep. In fact, we acted like it wasn’t going to affect us.

And look at us now. Americans are dying. Our Orange President wants to see all of America’s churches filled on Easter. Businesses are terrified that they’ll go under, and realistically, most of the small and local businesses that give your community color and vibrancy, are going to die in the water without income or supplement.

But fear not everyone. Because just today, the Republican-led House passed this $2 trillion socialist stimulus package. Everyone who makes under $75,000 annually is getting $1,200 in the mail. Surely that will solve all of the problems! Or at least, pay for a few more palletes of toilet paper.

Anyway, there’s a lot going on in the world right now and not much of it is a sign of good times to come. The best any one of us can do is just hold fast and stay strong, wash our hands and try not to catch this godawful bug, that’s thrown a monkey wrench into gears of civilization itself.

In the weeks to come: more updates, and stories from the Front Lines. Cannabis dispensary and liquor store owners, nurses, EMT’s, grocers, mailmen and others, tell us how this outbreak has affected their jobs, and what they expect from the future.