Coronavirus Diary Part 1

I’d been quietly stressing about Coronavirus for weeks. I’d been paying attention to the news on twitter, and was reading the first-person accounts coming out of Wuhan, then Italy. I became quite alarmed 1) because I have lung damage from a double whooping cough/pneumonia infection in 2008, am prone to bad colds that turn into bad bronchitis, and I don’t want to EVER have pneumonia again and 2) nobody in this country seemed to be very worried. We don’t breathe rarified air in US. Our worlds are interconnected now and whatever is in one part of the world can be here in the blink of a international flight.

Then, because I’m a masochist, I watched this documentary series.

It scared me so badly I went into Chicken Little mode. The parallels between then and now are too similar to ignore. Much to Jeremy’s dismay, I started buying a multi-week supply of groceries and pet food. He thought I was being a little bit hysterical, but humored me. We stocked up on groceries over the weekend. Bought a chest freezer and a dehydrator. With my diet needs, I needed to be sure I had food on hand that wouldn’t make me feel bad. We tried to be prepared for whatever was going to happen.

Jeremy and I had a trip to NYC planned but were waiting to see what happened before we got a hotel room. I was feeling more and more uneasy about the trip. With so much talk in the news of patients being quarantined, etc. I was afraid we might get stuck in the city, which, while lovely most of the time, was not the place to be in a pandemic. I thought back to the video I’d watched, especially the parts about hospital overcrowding, and basically said there was no effing way I wanted to be in NYC, with a population of 8 million other possibly infected people, if I might need to be hospitalized. We talked about it, and had decided that even if things were still open, we wouldn’t travel. We also decided not to visit Jeremy’s family for Easter. It seemed irresponsible to leave an area with known cases to visit an area with no cases. So that was settled.

Wednesday night President Trump had a press conference finally acknowledging the seriousness of Coronavirus.

After that, shit got real.

Thursday morning, I went to Walmart and found one bottle of Lysol clean up spray, which was such a miracle, I felt like I’d struck gold. I am not normally a germaphobe, and didn’t think to get Lysol or hand sanitizer in bulk. I’m still not sure it would make much difference against an airborne virus but I’ll use it if I can…

Before I left for work I stopped into Hannaford to grab a bottle of water and a gallon of dish soap. It was a madhouse in there. Everyone seemed to be stocking up on necessities. New Rochelle was already quarantined, so we all knew that was a possibility. I was waiting in line at self checkout, and since I’m short I couldn’t see over the shelving separating us from the regular check out lanes. But I saw a shopping cart go flying over and a guy my age literally vault over the waist high metal barrier.separating us from the check out line. My first thought was maybe there was a riot over toilet paper, or wow some people go to some crazy lengths to cut in line. But people went running and someone said an old man who’d been standing in the line just collapsed, and hit his head on the floor hard. There are a lot of reasons an old man might collapse, but this seemed different somehow. Now we all knew that it might be Coronavirus and all that contracting it meant (self isolation or quarantine). But no one balked about going up to him and helping him.

An ambulance was called. A lovely woman (a Hannaford employee) helped the old man as he came to. He said there was no one he wanted called. It was scary/sad/nerve-wracking. I’m worried for our older population, and anyone else with a compromised immune system. I said a little prayer of protection for them and all my older relatives. May they all survive this.

I went to the studio completely rattled, to gather up my stuff to teach my class at a local elementary school in the Shen district. When I got there, it was pandemonium. Parents were picking kids up with no notice and 6 kids were missing from my class. No one was really sure if the program would continue or not. All the teachers were in a meeting about next steps. Apparently the governor had shut down Broadway and banned gatherings of over 50 people. Sports organizations were suspending and ending seasons. Jeremy was at home and sending me a play by play. It was like brick by brick the foundation of our normal life was being dismantled. You could see everyone process this with a numb acceptance. Everyone had this battle face on. I heard a lot of people saying it has to be done. We’re all going to get this. Let’s just hope it’s only temporary.

Oh did I mention I also have a bad cold? I have NONE of the symptoms of Coronavirus–it’s definitely a cold–but I feel like crap and this whole thing is putting me on edge and making me want to hind in my house, in my bed, where it’s safe.

After the craziness at the elementary school, I went to the studio to teach a glass class to adults. There were a lot of teachers taking the class, buzzing about everything that had been shut down: all professional sports teams, Broadway, gatherings, concerts, then the school districts decided to put a halt to all after school activities. My new part time job sort of evaporated right there, as I was mostly hired to teach at the after school programs in several school districts. No one wanted to talk about anything else, and their phones were all dinging with updates. We were all in a state of shock. Frankly it was unprecedented to close everything. Banning flights from Europe. Shutting down everything even remotely entertaining in the country. The studio owner suggested we try to change the subject to happier topics, but it was just a constant conversation. Then the stock market imploded. There was so much to process. I think everyone needed to talk about it, to collectively grieve our new reality.

I had a job at a school today but cancelled it and rested all day. To be honest, I wanted to cancel all my jobs for the foreseeable future. It seemed unsafe to travel around 4 school districts where I could either contract or transmit the Coronavirus. It made me really nervous that everything was cancelling but not the schools. It seemed counterproductive. But at the same time, I knew that the schools were worried about feeding kids and making sure they were well taken care of. They wouldn’t close until it was their last resort.

The end of the school day arrived. The boys reported it was a normal school day–there was no hint of what was to come. President Trump declared a National Emergency at 3:30pm and it wasn’t an hour before the notifications came in. Every school district in the area closed one by one. There went my other job up in smoke. I can’t even say I mind. I’m ready to hunker down in my house and hopefully ride this out in safety and good health.

The boys’ school is closed all week and will re-evaluate whether it will reopen on the 20th. I told the boys to get used to being out of school for a while. I suspect they won’t be back any time soon. 96 new cases today in NY and the first case in our own county.

I had forced the boys weeks ago to watch the 1918 flu video–so they would have some understanding of what might be happening. I had shown them all the groceries and how to prepare everything in case I was too sick to make them food. They humored me, but didn’t think any of my apocalyptic predictions could happen. As they watched all the schools around us closing unexpectedly, and all my predictions coming true, I think the reality of this situation began to dawn on them. As a parent, I hate that they will have pandemic stories to tell.

This is going to be mine..