Don’t ask how many times I have either forgotten or misplaced my mask. Too many times! Oh initially, back in March, I was diligent. I was very careful about wearing, cleaning and yes, keeping track of my masks. That was back when I only had a couple of masks, before my collection expanded. No, I do not know how many masks I have, but somehow, I have collected too many. I blame it on trying to find one that doesn’t automatically and repeatedly slip off of my stubby nose. I always suspected my face was shaped funny. Even so, what good is my mask if I cannot keep it over my schnoz?

Now, you would think access to more masks would make mask wearing easier. Not so. No, I struggle with the onset of COVID fatigue. Unfortunately, my awareness of social distancing is dimming. I find myself edging closer to store clerks. Remarkable, given that I am definitely not a hugger. I still do wash hands to the “Happy Birthday” song, twice over. However, my devotion to that is fading. Can’t we, please, please get a different song? Warning, I am going trite here, but those verses run around in my head like the proverbial hamster stuck in its proverbial cage.

My virus fighting resolve is slipping. Apparently, I am not alone.

According to a Nov. 15 CNN article, “It’s not just that less than a majority of Americans are unwilling to say they’re ‘very likely’ to shelter in place. It’s that they’re currently not isolating. A clear majority (62 percent) said they were only partially isolated or not isolated at all in Gallup’s late October poll. The percentage was half that (30 percent) in April.”

Colder weather is at our door forcing more activities and gatherings inside. That is unless you’re accustomed to Alaskan or Scandanavian climates. Of course, being indoors means folks are closer together making social distancing even more problematic. Air-exchange between us when we are at indoor gatherings dramatically increases. The abbreviated distances between us means that our oral and nasal fluids are much more likely to land on each other. Naturally, much like flus and colds are spread, the sprays carry the Coronavirus which infects much quicker than regular flu viruses or cold germs. The sprays disperse the virus to everyone in proximity of the person who coughed, sneezed or who — like me — tends to spritz when I talk.

Eating and drinking while trying to remain masked makes dining out quite a challenge. Under the best of circumstances, I struggle to bridge the gap between my plate and my mouth without losing some of the food to my lap. Certainly, you don’t want to see me try that maneuver while pulling a mask off and on. Now, the holidays are upon us with their nostalgic reflections. Holiday memories prompt emotional tugs that make us long to celebrate with friends, neighbors and relatives. We anticipate holiday festivities and ceremonies that remind us of years gone by. Indeed, almost all of our friends and relatives are planning to get together for Thanksgiving — but it will be via Zoom! Thankfully we now have sophisticated tele-communications technology. Doubtless, the Zoom experiences will lack the energy, the camaraderie and the celebratory feel of in-person get-togethers. (Note, my crew seldom celebrated on Thanksgiving Day due to work demands, but did get together at some point, later, to mark our twin daughters’, and one granddaughter’s birthdays.) That’s been scrapped, of course, and we are reluctant to even think about Christmas, yet.

I must admit, this moment feels somewhat dismal. It does not help that COVID-19 statistics are bleak.

The Nov. 15 CNN article indicates that “A glance at the numbers tells the story. Right now, the virus is raging in pretty much every state. As of this writing, a CNN analysis of John Hopkins University data indicates that the number of coronavirus cases is up in every state compared to last week, except for Georgia. A New York Times examination of the data shows that in over 90 percent of the states, there was a daily average of at least 15 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week.” -CNN, Nov. 15.

“Horrifyingly, there are more daily new coronavirus cases than at any point of the pandemic.

“Indeed, it’s not just cases and testing that’s up nationally. The number of deaths and hospitalizations are up over 33 percent, according to the Times.” -CNN, Nov. 15.

(Note: There has been no slackening in the rampant increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths since this column was submitted for publication.)

However, to quote the eternal optimist with whom I am quarantined, “This terrible moment in our history could be looked at as a test of our mettle.” -S. Nevada, Nov. 14.

Can our nation truly function as a democracy? Perhaps, this pandemic is a measure of our ability to do what is best for us all — sort of a stress test. Can we, as a free society, put aside our differences, our political animosities, and rise to thwart this virus’s spread?

Some among us appear to be concerned that they will be seen as cowards if they don masks. Personally, if I am given the choice of looking like a full-blown coward behind my mask or of hazarding severe illness and even possible death or spreading it to my family or friends… wait, there’s a choice, there? Seriously?

Don’t we realize that this miniscule and invisible enemy is lethal?

It is time we recognized how dire this pandemic is! We need to halt the virus’s spread or at least we need to hold the virus at bay until scientists develop viable, safe vaccines that are made available to everyone. Actually, vaccines may be available earlier than we dared hope. Once vaccines are available, we all need to do our part — get vaccinated! Only then will we be able to put this invisible enemy behind us!

As we face this raging adversary can our nation willingly work together?

“Our nation has, over the years, exhibited great elasticity. We — the people of this democratic society — have not needed to resort to dictatorial measures to come together and to work together!

“We must keep our families and each other safe.

“We will engage in this battle and we will succeed in this fight, just as we have in the past!” -S.Nevada, Nov. 14.

How is that for an optimistic note? Naturally, we realize that we will have to make the most of this year’s holidays via our computers, snail mail and package deliveries. Perhaps, if you can work up the gumption you can engage in some holiday baking and decorating. Who knows, that might lift your spirits.

However, if, as my spouse believes, we are successful in curtailing the virus, by this time next year, we should be preparing for phenomenally large, in-person holiday celebrations!

May your holidays, this year, be brighter than you imagined they could be!