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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Casteel

Without Bicycling

With all the terrible news out there, it's easy to lose sight of what's working.

"It's widely recognized among San Francisco healthcare professionals that S.F. has had the lowest COVID-19 death rate among all major U.S. cities throughout most of the pandemic..."The low case rate is a result of people acting well, and acting well is everything from city health leaders doing the right thing to the people doing the right thing," said Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF. "We have very high rates of mask-wearing, probably the highest in the country. I think from the beginning people have trusted the science, trusted the guidance. You don’t hear in S.F. that COVID is a hoax. People have generally taken this very seriously and I think the leadership from the mayor and the regional health directors has been terrific." "

It's really not that complicated. That doesn't mean it's easy. Doing it every day for months is not easy, but it's working.

I loved this city before covid. I love it and the people here even more after all we've gone through. We're truly looking out for each other.

This pandemic has shown me sides of this city that I've never seen before. From the earliest moments in the pandemic, our neighbors started decorating their windows to make an informal treasure hunt for the kids who couldn't go to playgrounds. We were inspired to build a bunch of rainbow duplo hearts for our windows too. All those hidden gems added some color to the early drab days of this pandemic.

Thanks to the pandemic, all the little markets and bodegas have had a resurgence. I don't like shopping in crowded supermarkets during the pandemic and I'm not alone in that here in SF. Our little local market had gloves and hand sanitizer out for shoppers before it was even required. The shop owner even remembers what fruit my son likes and always lets me know when his favorites have come in. My friend at the cheese shop sees me a lot more as I visit frequently to get cheese to trade for eggs with my friends in Ben Lomond. It feels so European. If the ergonomics weren't so bad, I'd get a wicker basket to fill with my shopping just to complete the look.

With the playgrounds closed, I've really come to appreciate all the open space in the city. The cool grove of redwoods by the rose garden, the majestic falls at strawberry hill, the otherworldly fog that never seems to leave ocean beach are the daily balm we apply to soothe our restless spirits. I've never spent this much time at a beach in my life. I now notice when the sea is calm and when it's surging. We've found secret paths through tunnels of Ivy between the lake and the waterfall. My son has scaled the cliffs at the end of the beach and run through the freezing surf. There's times we'll just sit and watch the waves. Bearing witness to that endless tumult where the land meets the sea has helped me find perspective in a very tumultuous year.

Our friends have pulled together to keep us all safe and sane. We only meet outside and keep our distance. It was a hard adjustment to make. We had to quit giving each other hugs right when we all really needed them, but we did quit cold turkey. While we miss that, we can still talk. More importantly, we can still listen. Staying sane in a crazy time is much easier to do together. When a pandemic makes you circle the wagon and each person in your circle comes with some amount of risk, you find out who really matters to you. I'm extremely grateful to have such a loving circle of friends who take care of each other and put in the hard work of communicating their needs constructively so we can find common ground from which to weather this storm.

Each and every day this city gives me a thousand reasons to be present. It keeps me from wasting my time waiting for this pandemic to be over. I don't need to wait to run through the surf with my son. I don't need to wait to picnic with my friends outside. I don't need to wait to smell the roses in the park. Even with everything the pandemic took away, this city has still has more to offer. All it asks in return is that we wear our masks and keep our distance. That's what we've done. That's what we'll keep doing.

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