Saturday, February 29
We learn that a Snohomish teenager tests positive for COVID-19. The patient has not recently traveled and has had no known contact with other infected patients. This is when I understand that the virus is here, it’s been here for awhile, and likely, a bunch of people have it. Shit’s about to go down.
Wednesday, March 4
Exchange texts with a friend in LA. I’m supposed to fly there on Sunday.
Me: “Really hoping coronavirus doesn’t f*#@ things up for us this weekend.”
Friday, March 6
Meet friend for lunch at local pub. Learn about Johns Hopkins interactive COVID-19 map, a realtime infographic for confirmed global cases. There is a red bubble emerging over Switzerland, where my brother and his family live.
The elementary school auction is canceled and they are exploring an online version. This fundraiser represents more than half of our overall operating budget and a large portion was to allocated to a playground renovation that breaks ground in June. As a fundraising chair for this new playground, I’m feeling stress, uncertainty, and maybe even a dab of hopelessness. On the scale of importance during this crisis, the playground is very, very low. But our chances of ever reaching that big giant fundraising number, which was finally looking within reach, feel dashed.
Saturday, March 7
Flatten the curve. Flatten the curve. That is our objective.
Sunday, March 8
Fly to California. The plane is noticeably less full, I mean, there are empty seats, but they’re still making money on this flight. I feel a little douche-y wiping down my tray and arm rests, but I fully expected everyone would be doing this. They are not. During my visit, my friends comment on the coronavirus hype. It’s a “bad flu.” I gently disagree. It feels like California is a week behind us.
Wednesday, March 11
I travel home from LA, observe some weirdness in the airport and airplane – like everybody is suspicious of one another, but once again, don’t see much self-sanitizing. By the time my flight touches down in Seattle, I get a notification that Seattle Schools are canceled. For at least two weeks.
Thursday, March 12
The prospect of homeschooling is overwhelming. Plus, as I’m a rare at-home parent in these parts, I’ve got extra kids at my house as parents scramble to figure out this un-figure-out-able situation.
Millions of emails start rolling in from teachers with various assignments, online resources, schedules, and tips. Social media feeds are filled with obnoxious, color-coded schedules that include snack, art, music, and PE in addition to the subjects that actually get you into college. I’m not feeling up to the task.
Let’s keep the bar low and get through this week. Even though they’re not acting like it, the kids could be stressed out or traumatized by the news. Let’s give them a breather. This is mostly an excuse for me to avoid academic responsibilities and have my own personal anxiety attack. In fact, the kids are not giving coronavirus much emotional energy at all – they keep calling it a “break” and I aggressively correct them. This is school. At home. Eventually, they realize how easily they can agitate me by simply referring to this time at home as a “break.” Touché.
All day, I experience periods of shortness of breath as I begin to play this out and consider the extensive fallout. The lost jobs, the closed businesses, the mortgage defaults, the tanked retirements. The deaths. Already, 50 restaurants in Seattle have closed. Yesterday, Tutta Bella, a popular and bustling neighborhood restaurant, asked me if they can go on a payment plan for their Little League sponsorship: $150/month. It’s dire. So fast.
It feels odd to be in the midst of a pandemic when you feel fine, everyone around you is fine, and you still have income. The only pandemicky things are the news and the panic shoppers. And this odd obsession with toilet paper.
A friend of a friend launched a Facebook page to help local restaurants spread the word if they are on the brink of closing. She is amazing. There are efforts to direct patrons to specific restaurants as a hail mary. Just as quickly as the crowd can rally to save a handful of restaurants, dozens more are added to the list. It’s a desperate situation. So many livelihoods zapped.
Another friend, in a safe text thread of four of us, asked our thoughts on self-isolating, particularly our kids who hang out frequently, to avoid the fate of some other countries. I found it very interesting the diversity and RESPECTFULNESS of thought among the four of us. One was clearly life as usual until she learns otherwise, washing hands and not touching faces, of course. Another was mostly supportive of isolation, but supportive of outdoor togetherness. I was leaning toward a micro-community approach – let’s isolate from everybody else, but not each other. And the fourth was definitely heeding warnings from her friends abroad: isolation is the answer.
Friday, March 13
More anxiety. Holy shit. I’m going to have to teach pre-calculus. Also, I am the worst mother ever. I have no creative skills and I cannot keep any of my children on task and they will never graduate.
Our school’s online auction is now canceled due to widespread financial uncertainty for families.
Friends are meeting at a local bar for game night. I feel real apprehension about gathering in a public space. I don’t go.
Jeff and I had tickets to so many great shows in the next several weeks. I am mourning for musicians, venues, hospitality workers, my friend who owns the local coffee shop. I am freaking out. How and when will this end?
Saturday, March 14
I’ve been evaluating the level of concern of my various friend groups, locally and elsewhere, based on the bell curve of their toilet paper meme posting. It’s interesting because you can have a conversation with someone who is annoyed by the overreaction, then two days later, the same friend will be explaining to you how to make masks at home to deliver to healthcare workers. I’m not sure which fact they learned or story they heard that turned the tide, and it doesn’t matter, but I’ve seen that pattern quite a bit.
When we are all stripped down in resources and fortitude, as I imagine we will be compared to where we were two weeks ago, what will we have learned? Thinking about our carefree, gluttonous living in the “booming” economy of January seems like we were ripe for some kind of slap in the face. I wonder how we will change. I wonder how this manifests for Gen Z. Will it affect them for life like the Depression’s eternal thriftiness did for many of our grandparents? Or will it be like the 16,200 (and counting) lies or misleading claims from our president: quickly forgotten.
I saw a video of Italians singing together from their balconies as they remain quarantined. It was beautiful.
Sunday, March 15
A neighbor organizes an optimistically socially distant group walk as a way to responsibly socialize. Green Lake is PACKED. Probably a spread-fest. But nice to catch up with everybody.
Massive resistance from kids that midnight is not the new bedtime during this break. Incredulity. “We have to set an alarm???”
Governor Inslee orders all bars and restaurants to close. Take out and delivery orders only starting Tuesday.
Monday, March 16
New schedule. I’m on this. I’ve got a spreadsheet, with tabs for each day. Sometimes we will be working together on a topic – like silent reading or journaling. Other times, I’ve got individual assignments for each kids, with pre-populated links to digital learning platforms. I’ve got this.
I do not got this. Nobody listens. The schedule has fallen apart before lunch. My expectations are impossible. I am not their teacher.
Some terrible news is circulating. Italians and Spaniards are begging Americans to do things differently than they did. They are recording messages they wish they could have told themselves 10 days ago. And still, we are barely distancing ourselves. Kids are still rendezvousing and I hear college kids are trying to get to Hawaii faster than their original spring break plans so they can “ride it out” over there.
My brother-in-law is not ready to cancel my sister’s surprise 50th birthday party in California on Saturday. His local congressman just told everybody to keep eating out at pubs and restaurants “if you’re not feeling sick.” I can’t understand why science and data are partisan.
In an ironic twist, a California friend has an in-person run-in with this same congressman today – whom we shall now name: Devin Nunes. My friend asks why he continues to defy recommendations from the CDC and health professionals and instead promote irresponsible and dangerous behavior? Nunes angrily calls him a freak. Hours later Nunes is on Hannity where he accuses the “media freaks” of encouraging panic buying and denies he advised any such thing as eating out if you’re not feeling sick. Even though he most definitely said it, on television, and there are plenty of copies of that very clip floating around the internet, he can still say he never said it. And his loyal followers will believe him. And continue to follow his reckless COVID-19 guidance.
And our president. Holy cow.
Tuesday, March 17
St. Patrick’s Day. Green milk, per usual. Three out of four kids delight in this tradition, the other one is furious that his bowl of Life is ruined by this hideous and unexpected milk. There are lots of tears today. Mine. All mine. The schedule is never fully executed – except for the first part: journaling. Journaling happened and for that I am so proud.
Excerpt from kid 1: Once upon a time, there was a pig who lived on a farm with his friends. Cow, sheep, horse, sheep, dog, and farmer.
Excerpt from kid 2: I don’t like to journal.
Excerpt from kid 3: CORONAVIRUS SUCKS!!!
Excerpt from kid 4: [blank. totally fucking blank. i was hoodwinked by this one]
I see a Facebook post from a friend whose son is a high school senior. It talks about all the moments these poor kids will miss, but the part that makes me cry is “they may never be able to take the field again.” Literally, they may have played their last competitive game of whatever and never had a clue they wouldn’t put on a uniform again. Heartbreaking. And I know there are one million other ways this situation is breaking hearts.
I drive by the iconic poster “Hope” poster of Obama. It became embroiled in some copyright troubles. Didn’t it? In any case, he looks like a hero. He looks calm, self-assured and confident. He looks like a leader, like an actual beacon of hope. And I so wish that he was in charge right now.
My 75 and 76-year old parents attend a St. Patrick’s Day party with other old folks. But they are praying about the coronavirus situation and washing their hands.
We are committed to supporting local businesses however possible so we pick up burritos and tacos from TNT and head to Golden Gardens. Baseball on the beach, beautiful sunset, perfection.
After considering hula hoops with straps for all guests, my brother-in-law officially cancels the surprise party in California.
Wednesday, March 18
General observations: all the work-from-home people are buzzing about more jammies and less showers. And just generally how they are easing into this new, indefinite reality. Funny things like spouses accidentally entering video frames during virtual meetings while disrobing (me) start happening.
I institute a new schedule. After reviewing 137 emails from teachers and 214 educational websites, I create a bulletin board with moveable tasks. I have devices loaded with apps for audio books and access to math programs. I’m devoted. Meanwhile, my work, work can wait. Taxes? Next week.
My dad is at the Subaru dealer. Getting an oil change. But he’s washing his hands and avoiding his face.
We’re learning that members of congress received coronavirus briefings in early February and promptly sold millions in stocks. Meanwhile, they assured constituents the virus was under control and/or a hoax. By now, I expect this despicable behavior from the president and his ass-kissers, but I was sad to see Dianne Feinstein’s name among the early stock dumpers. So drunk on power and wealth, you can’t even recognize your own heartlessness and detachment to reality.
I hear a lot of commentary that watching movies and television shows is a weird reminder of how we used to touch each other… and that we touched way too much. Whoever thought shaking hands with a germ-covered stranger before a lunch meeting was a good idea?
Enjoy socially distant drinks with neighbors on their back deck, BYOB and enter through the backyard. Later, I have my first virtual cocktail hour with a grad school friend on Zoom. It was lovely and I make arrangements for many more.
The friends I recently visited in California are desperately trying to save their small business. Their entire staff is on leave.
Thursday, March 19
Dentists and orthodontists must close and only perform emergency procedures.
We blow off the schedule and go to Discovery Park because A) it’s GORGEOUS outside and B) I’m the worst parent and most of my kids didn’t even know about this gem of a park in our very own city.
I’m trying to embrace this unexpected time to slow down a bit, explore with the kids, and learn and try new things. But I haven’t yet deleted iCal events from before the world fell apart. Several times a day I’m notified of baseball practices or games or field trips. It’s hard to imagine that life that was normal a couple weeks ago.
I learn that a friend’s wife had to lay off 40 employees last week at her Ballard salon and spa. Forty.People.Suddenly.Unemployed.
Jeff and I take a long evening walk and run into a doctor friend. She says things feel manageable at the moment, more positive test results rolling in, but they are bracing for next week. We are aware of a tent that’s been constructed on a soccer field in Shoreline to house overflow patients. It’s coming.
California’s governor issues a shelter-in-place situation. I call my sister to see how she’s coping with her canceled (now not surprise) 50th birthday party. The lockdown news, however, is a surprise to her. I wonder about the old days, when emergency, factual news scrolled across the bottom of your television screen. That was rad. And reliable. And accurate.
Friday, March 20
Testing!!! Can we please have widespread testing?? Why was this not priority numero uno a month ago?? I’m hearing about fevers. People I’ve been in contact with have fevers. Mild symptoms, short duration, but fevers. And no tests. So we’ll never know. And these people aren’t self-isolating because it’s hard to tell yourself that you probably have COVID-19 and that you probably already infected a bunch of people and that you will infect a bunch more even after your 48-hour fever subsides.
Here’s the deal as understood by me, a non-scientist: most people will tolerate this virus well. We’ve read about fevers, perhaps brief, a cough. But sometimes, it’s much, much worse. We know that it can be particularly acute for the elderly and immunocompromised people. The extra scary part is that occasionally, it ravages perfectly healthy people. For whatever reason, it’s not just a “bad flu” for them and they become critical or worse. I read about one of the original cruise ship COVID-19 patients and he said he felt lousy for 2 days, but remained quarantined for TWENTY-NINE days until he tested negative. That’s a lot of days to spread coronavirus to everyone you meet if say, you felt lousy one day, but resumed your normal life shortly after. Anywho….
I tune in too late to catch a friend’s livestream workout, but she’s making a new career out of this video workout biz. I’ve been marveling at the way some businesses are pivoting. Canlis, a very, very fancy Seattle restaurant now serves breakfast bagels, lunches, and family dinners in a drive-thru. With a line all day long! Would not have predicted that.
Coronavirus perk: Giles rides his bike to Golden Gardens with friends. This would never have happened in normal life.
Virtual cocktails with 5 interstate friends. So fun. I wear strapless velvet, just because. Later, socially distant cocktails with friends on their rooftop deck. We have an interesting discussion about mortality rates due to coronavirus and mortality rates due to an economic recession/depression. Ugh.
Before bed, I stupidly open a twitter notification. @Mikel_Jollett reminds us that this virus was discovered in the US on the EXACT SAME DAY it was discovered in South Korea. Where it is already on the other side of the curve. The lack of leadership is astounding.
Saturday, March 21
I wake up to funniest meme of Dr. Anthony Fauci. I don’t know how he’s managed a straight face for all of those briefings. Trump is a cartoon.
We go to Costco. I feel sheepish and irresponsible. It’s not crowded, they are vigilantly wiping carts, but how can it not be a another spread-fest?
We enjoy another socially distant drinks with neighbors in our front yard. Soaking up the last of the great weather and pondering what the next week will bring. We are out of masks and the ventilators are running low. Our ridiculous president just told healthcare workers to rinse and reuse their N95 masks. I hate him.
Sunday, March 22
I pick up some groceries at QFC. Everybody seems pretty vigilant about cart wipe-downs before/during/after shopping trips. I wonder about the mask-wearers. Are you sick, but shopping because you have no other option for getting food and supplies? Are you concerned that you might be sick and you are doing us a solid? Are you just cautious by nature?
I also wonder how many times I’ll be able to return to the store before I fall ill or somebody with whom I’ve been in contact is a confirmed case. It’s starting to feel very irresponsible to go to the store at all unless it’s a true emergency. Maybe I do need to do some apocalypse-style stocking. We have six people in this family, including two hungry teenagers and two abnormally hungry adults. It’s easy to blow through groceries around here.
I’m worried about everybody who has to work away from home right now. Obviously, health care providers, but retail and service-oriented industries, too. Isn’t it a matter of time until they are exposed? Haven’t they already been exposed? If there’s a math equation for this, I think it would say yes.