Now that we can finally go out again, we’re choosing not to

After three months locked in the house with three feral children who were perfectly described as “drunken penguins”, we’ve been anxious to start getting out of the house again. With numerous business reopenings in the past few weeks, from parks to beaches, to amusement parks, zoos, and restaurants, we were finally starting to make plans to leave the house again. But the coronavirus had other plans. Even though we can go out, we’re largely choosing not to.

We’re very lucky to live in New Jersey, in what I consider one of the states with the best, if not absolutely the best reaction to the virus. Our state took quick and decisive action to lock down in March. While I wasn’t happy about some of the decisions, especially when my ability to go for runs in the nearby State Forest was taken from me, I’ve largely been happy with the conservative and data driven approach to how the state has handled the virus. While other states reopened just about every business, or never shut them down in the first place, ours kept a slow but steady approach to managing the virus, keeping people safe, and slowly reopening.

But then June came and it seemed that everyone else was giving up on managing the spread. States across the country that saw nowhere near the same early spike as the coasts reopened swiftly and without controls in place. While I place some of the blame on those who decide to make mask wearing and business reopenings political rather than scientific, I changed my tune to stop getting mad at the people I see maskless, and instead focus on what a terrible reaction almost all of our leaders have had to this situation. As much of the country started opening back up, cases began spiking and every measure of virus containment dropped. While NJ hasn’t yet seen the same magnitude of uptick, several important measures including transmission rate and cases have begun ticking back up in a worrying way.

This week the state even announced the first step back in reopening plans. Restaurants will not reopen for inside dinning as planned, and would instead be delayed indefinitely until the spread slows again. Yet somehow water parks, aquariums, and amusements parks still plan to reopen soon. While data does indicate the spread of the virus is less likely outdoors, these still seem like unnecessary risks to take in the name of entertainment and business while people are dying.

I hate being cooped up inside the house. In normal times, I can’t stand to be at home both days of any weekend and always have plans to get out and do something at least one day of the week. I can’t go more than a couple of months without a trip for work or vacation just to experience something new. Even when we are stuck at home, I always aim to spend the majority of at least one weekend day outside rather than being confined inside. During the lockdown, the hardest thing for me has been the need to remain responsible and stay home as much as possible.

When things began reopening, I jumped at the chance to get out and do things again. We went to the drive through safari at Six Flags the weekend it opened. We visited the Turtleback Zoo the second day it opened. We took three hikes as soon as parks opened up and eased some restrictions. We even went to the beach one day with the kids to have a change of pace.

I looked forward to being able to do the other things I love as well. While some breweries have opened up outside, and I greatly prefer to be outside, others simply didn’t have the option so I looked forward to their reopening indoors. I started researching Airstream trailers and campsites near National Parks as a potential family trip option for the fall. I figured we could spend more of our weekends at the zoo and visiting aquariums to get out of the house and so something different to keep the boys occupied and entertained so we wouldn’t have the constant meltdowns and fights we have from spending too much time near each other at home.

However, with the way things are now progressing, it looks like we’re in store for either the extension of the first wave, or an even bigger second wave in the next few weeks. Because of the way the virus travels and incubates, it’s impossible to tell exactly how risky things are at any given time as well as cases only show up weeks later. We’re already at an all-time high for national cases, but it might actually be even worse than expected because we won’t know for about two weeks.

Because of this, we’re taking a conservative approach and continuing to stay home. Sure, it won’t be 100% if possible, we still plan to send the boys in to daycare, but we will prioritize that above entertainment activities and just about everything else. To keep them healthy and the school safe and open, we’re not planning any real excursions or activities outside of our house for the foreseeable future. We already canceled plans to go to the beach again, a zoo visit, and likely a family celebration for my birthday as a result. If this country can’t control the spread of the virus on its own, we have to take control of our own situation and manage our own risk as much as possible. Until we can better manage the situation as a nation, our family will at least manage it for ourselves.

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