Clinical psychologist Ana Nogales wrote about the emotional stages of coping with the pandemic in a piece published last month in Psychology Today. Similar to the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross “Stages of Grief,” Nogales laid out the recognizable phases people are experiencing during this time of lockdown and fear, though she notes that “the order, duration and severity of which they are experienced differ from person to person.”
The stages Nogales identified are panic, action, confusion, anxiety and depression, anger and, finally, adaptation.
Hawaii residents have seen all of that, from the panic of buying toilet paper and rice to the action of sewing masks for the community; the confusion, anxiety and anger over rules that seem to be applied unevenly, all the way through to the adaptation of kids dutifully doing their Zoom classes and everyone wearing masks at Foodland.
Hawaii’s pandemic-response leaders, however, seem to be stuck in the confusion stage.
The number of times a new order has come down only to be walked back in the next press conference is hard to tally. It has happened almost with regularity.
Then there have been the dueling government orders, a problem that was supposed to be fixed when Gov. David Ige ordered that all county mayors had to get their COVID-19 decisions OK’d by him, but seems to persist, showing up not only as a lack of coordination and communication but a source of contention between levels of government and sometimes within government agencies.
Granted, a lot of stuff is confusing right now. We haven’t done this before and we’re all figuring stuff out as we go.
There are surprises everywhere.
For example, Whole Foods is no longer allowing customers to bring in reusable shopping bags from home or fill their reusable cups at the coffee bar (though shoppers can carry out their purchases and pack their reusable bags in the trunk of their car.) Or the odd fact that you can walk right in an office supply store and buy erasable pens off the shelf but you have to sit in your car to have your dinner order brought to you.
What’s happening locally is what’s happening globally: conflicting messages, lack of consensus, failure to think through all the possible outcomes to an action before announcing a decision.
But though it’s understandable, it’s still really irritating.
At the end of this week, we learned that though shopping malls are being opened and Oahu restaurants may be able to offer sit-down dining by June 5, the “safer-at-home” order is being extended all the way through the month of June.
What are we to make of this? Go out if you must but stay home if you can.
Don’t go back to work unless you sell shoes at the mall. Support the economy but don’t touch anything.
Open the malls so the tourists who aren’t supposed to be here can buy souvenirs of their renegade vacation.
Moving forward from lockdown is bound to be confusing, but maybe it doesn’t have to be laughably so.