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Day 5: Fomites

This morning, Tessa woke up with a fever and a runny nose. She was scared. I wanted to comfort her, but she wouldn't let me hug her. She didn't want to infect me and reminded me of the time I got pneumonia from her in 2017. How could I reassure her? It's likely to be a rhinovirus, just a cold.

I needed to check her temperature but could not find a thermometer. Since I had to walk Darcy, the dog, I thought I would stop by the supermarket and get one.

I wanted to ask the pharmacist where they kept the thermometers. She was busy, talking to a man, her hands on the counter and her body leaning towards him. Perhaps they knew each other. After wishing her a good day, he left. She walked to another part of the pharmacy, so she was now behind a large glass divider.

"Excuse me," I said, trying to get her attention, "Where are the thermometers?"

"They are sold out," she answered, and then continued, "What do you want it for?"

Errh, for taking human temperature?

"It's for my daughter. She has a temperature and a runny nose."

At those words, the pharmacist started to back away slowly.

"You should call 811," she said, her tone higher than before. "We need to look after the community."

She disappeared behind a shelf leaving me to wonder.

The cashiers were all wearing plastic gloves. As I waited to pay for a bottle of cleaning spray and some ribs I found on sale, I noticed everything I would have to touch. My card, the buttons on the payment machine (I should have used tap), the plastic bag, my keys, the entry door's doorknob, the latch to close it from the inside, the handle of the closed, the doorknob of the bathroom door, the faucet handle. Good thing I got the cleaning spray, even though it isn't Lysol. I washed my hands thoroughly and proceeded to open old boxes in search of one of the old thermometers. I found two, both from the UK (we moved to Canada from England in 2010). Initially, it seemed that they are both out of battery, but one of them still had some juice.

Tessa's temperature turned to be 37, only a slight rise from her normal. Mine was 36.4.

I looked around and noticed, as if for the first time ever, what appeared to be an innumerable set of handles, switches, buttons, and an array of other things we touch daily. If they are contaminated, there is no escaping the virus. We have learned how many times we touch our faces, so we try to keep everything clean. Businesses refuse to take cash.

When I saw the pharmacist backing away, I was reminded of a lecture Tessa's father used to give. On Chaucer. He described the lavish wedding of Violante Visconti, the rich courses served one after another, the embroidered clothing. And he contrasted that with the plague. He pointed at two-thirds of the auditorium and announced that they would not make it. Then he proceeded to describe how, by the time you felt unwell, you would have seen the people you loved die. Your mother, your brother, your neighbour, your friend, your lover, your child. And, if anyone was left, no one would even hand you a drink to quench your feverish thirst.

They would be that afraid of being close to you. Your death would be agony. You would know what would come, you had seen it before. And you would be alone and terrified as the fever consumed you and your organs collapsed overwhelmed by your own blood.

So, even as the pharmacist slowly backed away, even though she was behind a protective glass, I realized that this was "the Black Death" effect.

At 6:39 pm Canada has 1044 cases and 13 deaths.


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