The current COVID-19 situation is paralleling one of my recent songs in my brain. The song is called ‘Knitting Zombies’. You could ask, ‘Why has Jane written a song called Knitting Zombies’, and you could also ask ‘Why would a song about knitting zombies have anything to do with COVID-19?’, both are valid questions.
Jane wrote a song about knitting zombies because she went to an open mic in Wanaka where one of the poets (open mics often combine original song with original poetry) delivered a poem about zombies. The poet went on to a about people knitting and somehow the two got tangled up in Jane’s brain and then generated the urge to write a song. Song writing is a fascinating process, at least for the person on the inside, because an idea for a song comes, takes hold and then becomes an imperative to deliver.
Knitting Zombies immediately sounded like a great potential song topic. One can get nice images of cute knitted zombies with fangs (I think this is generated by our fridge magnet, above, which comes from Hokitika and is not knitted but is definitely in the zombie vein). One also gets not so cute images of zombies knitting frantically and massively. In my song (provided below), the bridge lyrics are:
Zombie knitting greyly creeps across the planet
Zombie knitting’s growing into a widespread curse
Zombie knitting’s become an intergalactic hazard
Zombie knitting has destroyed the universe.
Knitting Zombies has proven a fun song at open mics because the chorus is easy to sing and is good for harmonising. Not to mention that, people are not in their best states at present, so entertainment is a better tack than trying to emotionally extend a crowd.
So, COVID-19 is now entangled in my head together with Knitting Zombies (it might actually have been tangled up from the initiation of the song). COVID-19 is creeping across New Zealand (it already stormed across the planet) like a plague of dingy knitting. Yesterday we got a report of a group in Stratford who tested positive (having been rather recalcitrant about testing, scanning, or any other socially-compliant behaviour) and today its someone in Taupo testing positive. For people like Sarah who come from the UK, where many of the people they know already had COVID-19 and documentation of every case never happened, the New Zealand fascination with every burgeoning case and group seems peculiar. However, New Zealand is yet to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of experiencing endemic COVID-19, we know we are getting there but we aren’t there yet.
I feel like I did when the pandemic was announced, “Can we just get on with this? It’s going to happen, so can it just please happen because I don’t want to be anticipating it any more.” This is a common sentiment at present, particularly amongst Aucklanders – can we just get on with e.g. opening schools in Auckland (we almost have), opening restaurants in Auckland (should be soon), opening the Auckland border (forecast but not as soon and not as enthusiastically welcomed by out-of-Aucklanders). It isn’t just in Auckland though, across the country people are asking, “Can we just get on with living our lives like we did before COVID-19 came along?”.
Unfortunately, the generic answer is, we can’t just get on with living our lives like before, because the situation is not like before. There is never any going back, forward is the only direction unless one is participating in a time-travel science fiction plot (preferably one without zombies present). And, as much as ‘getting on with it’ seems like a good idea, for those vulnerable to COVID-19 and for the medical system, ‘getting on with it’ doesn’t seem like such a great option.
We all know in a general sense we are going to die, but we don’t want to find out that we are likely to die soon. That is the reality for some people faced with endemic COVID-19; when these individuals are exposed to COVID, their health status is such that they are likely to be get very ill or die. Getting very ill or dying doesn’t seem like something to be ‘getting on with’ at the individual level. Yes, people are losing freedoms every day to keep those people alive – what an impossible situation we are in, there is no good choice. Yes, there are new antiviral drugs that may prevent more people dying, but with every plus comes a minus. Drugs create resistant strains of the organism they treat – giving antivirals to lots of people infected with COVID-19 will drive evolution of resistant COVID strains, and potentially resistant strains of other viruses at the same time. Saving some people now, will likely kill others in the future; once again there is no perfect solution.
The biggest collective reason to stagger the creep of COVID-19 in Auckland, and across New Zealand, is that large numbers of people will get sick, and need to be hospitalised, even if we reach our 90% vaccinated goal. 90% of current eligible people vaccinated will still leave 23.5% of the population unvaccinated; that’s 1.175 million people with the potential to get sick, not to mention breakthrough infections in a proportion of vaccinated people. So far in this outbreak we have had around 5200 people recorded as infected with COVID-19. There are a lot of people to go.
So unfortunately, when we ask if we can “Just get on with it”, we probably need to think a little harder about what it is we want to be getting on with. A plague of knitting might sound funny, but the little COVIDs are pretty much like zombies with a duty to replicate, and will do their damnedest to spread and wreak havoc in a manner that has no entertainment value.