Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Washington County government announced yesterday the county’s first COVID-19 fatality, one of 37 confirmed cases here. The man was my age and, like me, was employed in Waukesha County. Health department officials cited pre-existing medical conditions that made this unfortunate man more susceptible to the coronavirus. I suppose I also have a pre-existing condition: asthma. It’s not a big deal in normal circumstances, but we’re no longer living in normal circumstances.

I can go months at a time without taking a hit off my inhaler. Things were worse before I became a cyclist. I’m no doctor, but I feel like I have so greatly increased my lung capacity and efficiency that I am no longer troubled by some of the triggers that used to make me wheeze. And in recent years I have taken several measures to improve the quality of the air inside my home. Replacing the old carpet in the lower level was the biggest step forward. I shudder to think of all the dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander that resided therein. My home is smoke-free, pet-free, and more-or-less radon free. Not that radon is an asthma trigger … it’s just the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind cigarettes. So, yes, my asthma is very well controlled. But I can easily imagine that it would complicate COVID-19. Asthma or no asthma, the best thing to do is to stay uninfected.

For the last week I have been working from home, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. In most ways, the last week has felt like the work-from-home arrangement I had with my previous employer. The big difference is the schedule: these days I’m working overnight instead of normal business hours. I’ve been doing the nighttime thing for 4.5 years now, but it has felt very different during the last week. Without the 66 miles per day of commuting between West Bend and Brookfield, I have more free time and less stress. I’m sleeping longer and better. I’m probably even eating a little better, as there’s no break room vending machine to tempt me. I’m a little ashamed to say this, given how negatively the current crisis is impacting so many others, but I’m actually better off. As long as the economy doesn’t nosedive so dramatically that I lose my job, I’m going to be OK.

Bike riding? Well, here on the last day of the first quarter of 2020, at least I can say that I’m ahead of last year’s pace. Ever so slightly. That’s got nothing to do with the coronavirus or even with the decimated racing and special events calendars that disincentivize training; it’s all about the weather. We still haven’t turned the corner. We’re 2 weeks into spring but we’re struggling to stay above 40 degrees. The thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that last spring was a crapfest too and I still got close to 5,000 miles before the end of the year. It’s impossible to believe that Wisconsin’s quarantine is going to be lifted before the end of April. I’m hoping that the combination of improving weather and continuing home-based employment will contribute to a big mileage total in the month to come.

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