My family loves disaster movies. The sillier the premise, the better. (The Earth’s core has stopped rotating! The planet is plunging into an instant Ice Age! The San Andreas fault does … whatever the San Andreas fault does!) We love when landmarks are destroyed, either by alien explosion or tidal wave, we love making fun of the science and major bonus points are given if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is involved somehow.

Maine usually remains pretty safe in disaster movies. We’ve done the calculations – even if New York got nuked, it would take a few decades for the fallout to give us cancer. As a state, we don’t have any major geological fault lines, we aren’t prone to tornadoes, we don’t have mountains big enough for many avalanches and aliens have bigger metro areas to target than Bangor and Portland.

I’ve never liked disease-related disaster movies like “Contagion” or “Outbreak,” though. They’re too real for me, which makes them too scary. The odds of being trapped on a cruise ship that has flipped upside-down underwater are comically low. The odds of getting sick and going to a hospital are much, much higher. I’ve been to hospitals enough that I don’t want to watch movies about it. So my family watches those ones without me.

Back in February, when the reports of coronavirus were coming out of China and Washington state, my mom told me that this looked like the first 10 minutes of a disaster, and we should get some extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And now? I can’t be the only one who feels like we’re all trapped in a slow-motion disaster movie. One of the really boring ones. I’m not even having a torrid romance with a Hemsworth brother.

Economically, being a small rural state isn’t great. Epidemiologically, it’s the best we could ask for. Our numbers are heading the right direction, but since a vaccine won’t be available until 2021 at the absolute earliest (unlike in the movies, science doesn’t move along at the speed of the plot), vigilance continues to be the watchword. My family is moving from “this is an emergency” mode to “lifestyle changes” mode. One hundred and eighteen Mainers have died from COVID-19 already. That’s 118 too many, in my opinion. Natural disasters aren’t preventable. Contagious disease is.

Whenever I leave the house, I have a mask on my person. If I go indoors, that mask goes on. (If I’m walking the dog on the back roads, it is in my trusty fanny pack, with the doggie bags and the hand sanitizer.) So far, masks seem to be the most efficient way to stop transmission, with the exception of actually keeping your body far away from other bodies. I’ve also been doing that, and will continue to do it. (If a Hemsworth brother does in fact show up, this could become complicated. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.) I have tie-on masks, neck gaiter masks, mass-produced masks and handmade masks. Fashion is important, and in this case, a matter of life and death. Embrace the masks. Get one in every color so you always have one that matches your outfit. Imagine how warm your face will be in the winter when it’s zero degrees.

When considering going somewhere, the first question I ask myself is, “Is this necessary?” If it’s not necessary, we generally don’t do it. If it is necessary, like going to the grocery store, we try to make the trips as few and far between as possible, we try to go at low-volume shopping times, we utilize curbside pickup where necessary. For the foreseeable future, we will not be dining at restaurants. (Takeout, yes.) We will not be going to movie theaters. (Drive-ins, yes.) We haven’t figured out what we are doing to do about my sister’s fall semester at UMaine, but so far their safety plans have not been impressive.

Maine’s most valuable assets aren’t its forests or its rivers or even its expensive oceanfront property. The most valuable part of Maine is its people. By removing myself from social circulation, I lower the risk of catching the virus, and, more importantly, I lower the risk of passing it on. While I’m happy to risk my own life, I won’t risk the life of others. Having watched my own father die before his time – an exceptionally traumatic thing to go through – I am happy to do everything in my power to make sure nobody else suffers like that. I will be taking COVID-19 seriously for a long time to come.

And if it gives me an excuse to stay in and have movie night every night of the week, well, so far I haven’t run out of disaster movies.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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