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Day 22: Wednesday, April 1, 2020

It’s been 3 weeks since that night in Lisbon when a deluge of text messages drew my attention to the new travel restrictions from Europe, 22 days since Wednesday, March 11 when WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

When we landed at LAX on Friday, March 13, I thought I might have to self-quarantine for a couple of weeks. Now it looks as though we’re in it for the long haul. Social distancing for the rest of the month, schools closed the rest of the school year, the Democratic Convention pushed back to August. COVID-19 will no doubt affect the national elections, but it’s too soon to know how. Social distancing slows the spread, but it acts s-l-o-w-l-y.

Staying home is becoming a way of life. We will come out of this, but we will not be the same.

“Trump announces social distancing guidelines extended to April 30,” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing-april-30-extend-covid-19/

“Governor Newsom: Most Schools to Remain Closed Through Summer Break,” https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/03/17/coronavirus-gov-newsom-most-california-schools-will-remain-closed-all-year/

“Social distancing could help flatten the curve in California–if we don’t stop too soon,” L.A. Times.

Day 23: Thursday, April 2, 2020

Film noir seems to speak to our times — and who can resist the cynical loner, the femme fatale, the man approaching through the fog . . .

We’ve been watching a lot of film noir these days, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones. Especially after seeing this headline yesterday:

“The Staying Inside Guide: Cozying up to Film Noir Across the Spectrum,” Wall Street Journal, Peter Tonguette, March 30, 2020.

The article reviewed two films: “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) and “The Lady From Shanghai” (1948). I haven’t found a streaming source for the first one, but we did watch “The Lady” and enjoyed its brooding cinematography and enigmatic plot. For an Orson Welles-directed film with a more direct storyline, however, I prefer “Touch of Evil” (1958) which takes place in a town on the Mexican border and features a young Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. My favorite Welles role, though, has to be Harry Lime in “The Third Man.”

One of the things I love about film noir is the stark contrast of dark and light, the shadows of palm trees in “Double Indemnity,” the half-lit face of Marlene Dietrich in “Witness for the Prosecution.” I enjoy California settings like Lake Tahoe (“Out of the Past”), Los Angeles (“Sunset Boulevard”), and San Francisco (“Woman on the Run”). We watched that one last just night, won over by its snappy dialog and Ann Sheridan’s portrayal of a very determined woman.

I’ve had the best luck finding these classics through Amazon Prime. Every evening is now movie night, something to look forward to in these locked down days.

Social distancing? The Big Combo (1955)

[With gratitude for the screenshot: By Allied Artists – Wikipedia in English, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4286859%5D

Day 24: Friday, April 3, 2020

Masked shoppers 6 feet apart waiting to be let into Costco. April 3, 2020.

California is ramping up. You can see the changes at the one place everybody still goes–the supermarket.

My first pandemic shopping trip was on March 14, a day after we got back from Portugal. We needed to stock up after being away and the empty shelves caught me by surprise.

A few days later there were more changes. One door was designated “Entrance” and the other one “Exit.” People stood in line outside, 6 feet apart. An employee at the door admitted 5 people at a time.

Early this morning John went on a grocery run to Pavilion’s. Just for a few fresh things–grapes, tomatoes, bananas. I asked him if anything had changed since last week.

Masks. About 60 % of the people in line wore masks, he said. Many of those were scarves or bandanas, but the door monitor wore a “serious mask.” Makes sense, I thought, he’s around people all day long.

Inside the shelves were well-stocked and John was able to pick up orange juice and eggs along with the produce on our list. It was a short list because I have an Instacart delivery scheduled for Sunday evening.

They don’t charge for bags any more. They don’t want the same used bags going in and out of the store all the time.

The last time I was in a store was almost 3 weeks ago. Everybody could go in, nobody wore masks, and many shelves were empty–not just toilet paper, but most soups, canned vegetables, and meat. I think you could get canned okra. Today the variety is back, but safety precautions are everywhere.

Other changes announced in the news today — first, local:

  • “Coronavirus upended local TV news overnight,” L.A. Times. Local news and weather reporters are broadcasting from home “studios” hastily assembled in the last week or so. Ratings of local newscasts are up.
  • “LAPD officers will wear masks or coverings,” L.A.Times.
  • “[Mayor] Garcetti urges Angelenos to wear face coverings in public,” L.A.Times
  • L.A. moves to prosecute eight businesses that refuse to close amid coronavirus,” L.A.Times

And on the national level:

  • “U.S. stops issuing passports except in emergencies,” L.A. Times.
  • “Administration to Pay Hospitals to Treat Uninsured Virus Patients,” Wall Street Journal.
  • “White House expected to recommend masks in virus hot spots,” NBC News.

Day 25: Saturday, April 4, 2020

Kate Hudson has been vindicated. On February 24 she posted a picture of herself wearing a mask on Instagram captioned “Travel, 2020.” The article I saw on https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/kate-hudson-selfie-mask-coronavirus-015647717.html took a scornful attitude: “But despite both the low-level of spreading outside of China and the extremely high likelihood of a full recovery, an increasing number of Americans have begun to purchase and wear masks like Hudson.”

Medical experts weighed in with how ineffectual masks were and of course they had to point out that anyway she was wearing the wrong mask. Only a “properly fitted” N95 mask would stop virus particles from reaching your face, they said.

I was scheduled to fly to Lisbon the following week and I thought about getting a mask to wear during the flight. After talking to a friend who had contracted a bad cold from a person sitting next to her on the plane (without a mask), I decided to simply order one from Amazon. After all, I still had a few days.

February 27: I searched. N95 masks on Amazon were all sold out. So I looked for the “wrong” kind of mask. Sold out. I walked into Target and heard the man ahead of me being told they were out of masks. Clearly a lot of people thought masks were a good idea, right or wrong.

Now anything goes. The CDC not only recommended face masks or “cloth face coverings,” but published instructions on making diy ones at home. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html . People in our neighborhood are beginning to wear them. John estimated that about 60% of the customers at the grocery store were wearing masks yesterday morning. During our 6-feet-apart dog walk yesterday afternoon, my neighbor told me that about 90% of the people in Costco were wearing them. I asked about the kind of mask and both my sources reported all kinds of masks–bandanas, scarves, anything you can pull over your mouth and nose.

The point is we are still learning about this virus and how it spreads. I see masks as one more way we can protect each other and slow the spread, especially in places where we can’t help seeing people face to face. I plan to wear one if I have to go into a store of any kind. Even if it does make me feel a little strange.

But somebody ought to apologize to Kate.

“As Riverside County makes masks mandatory, California awaits spike in cases,” L.A. Times.

Day 26: Sunday, April 5, 2020

Yesterday evening we had our first Zoom family reunion, with me, the four children, their spouses, ten grandchildren and their spouses and two great grandchildren! Absentees were few: the newest great granddaughter was asleep and her parents “refused” to wake her up. Only one grandchild was missing and for a good reason. She was finishing up a 12-hour shift at the hospital. I have five grandchildren who are nurses and one nephew on board the hospital ship Mercy. God bless them all.

We enjoyed our Zoom reunion. It was reassuring to see everyone there smiling and healthy. We did a round robin so everyone could share their news and how they were coping with the lockdown. The babies waved and smiled which cheered us all up.

Today is Palm Sunday. In anticipation of Easter, I’m trying to think of ways to make it special and keep up our morale. So far my ideas are: send out cards to family and friends, especially those who are alone; send flowers to the family — maybe especially to the nurses; set up a Happy Easter Zoom party next week.

Keep those connections strong.

“Seder by Videoconference: Families Struggle to Connect for Passover, Easter This Year,” WSJ

“Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday mass in an empty church,” CNN

“U.S. braces for “hardest, saddest” week as virus deaths surpass 9,300,” Reuters.

Day 27: Monday, April 6, 2020

The rain is pouring down this Monday morning, in keeping with today’s ominous projections about the weeks ahead. ” ‘Very difficult days ahead’ as jump in coronavirus deaths expected across California,” headlines the L.A. Times. A good day for a little online investigation.

If you’re looking for practical information about COVID-19 that is more immediately helpful than online news or the CDC, you might try your local hospital website. I checked a few just out of curiosity. Mission Hospital, Hoag Hospital, and Saddleback Hospital each have a COVID-19 link on their home page about prevention, self-assessment, and what to do if you think you have a coronavirus infection. They all have restrictions on visitors, but vary on specific exceptions (for example, end of life patients, women in labor, infants in the NICU, minors).

Since masks have become important recently, I thought I might order a few just in case. The news on line suggested Amazon or Etsy (or making your own). Not helpful if you’re in a hurry. Etsy has washable cotton face masks which may take 4-5 weeks and another kind with an 8-week lead time. Amazon has a box of disposable blue masks which arrives May 26-June 16. No wonder people are wearing bandanas! The availability and lead time may change daily, especially now that the authorities are less particular about the type of mask recommended for personal use.

I’m not going to any stores these days, but if they decide to require masks for walking your dog I’ll have to find something around the house that works.

On a day like today, it’s a moot point.

Day 28: Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The rules keep changing. Yesterday it was masks. Today it’s grocery shopping. The first week after we got back from Portugal (March 13) I went to the store twice. But many shelves were empty and I began to realize that going to the store was the riskiest thing I did. Here I was in the high-risk age group walking around in a building full of people.

Some stores instituted special hours for older people–at exactly the same time that the CDC advised us to stay home. So I turned to Instacart. I filled the “cart” on line and left it there until I could get a delivery date, which took a few days and was 5 days out. But in the meantime I could keep adding or removing items in the cart so that I had a fine-tuned shopping list on the delivery date. If we ran out of eggs, we just did without eggs for a few days.

This worked for two weeks. So yesterday I filled my cart with a preliminary order, planning to edit it over the next 5 days so that it’s in synch with our stock on hand. This time there was no option for Saturday or Sunday. The choice was to take the next time a shopper was available. Huh? So I just left the digital cart in the virtual aisle because if the delivery time is that random then I’d better fine-tune the list right now and I’m just not ready.

This week health officials are telling everyone to avoid stores and stay inside because the peak is coming soon. “Winter is coming,” I think.

Shopping trivia? Of course, but these are the details that will be part of our story. This is the war, the depression, the tsunami of our time. We can’t even guess how people will view it next year, let alone in ten years or fifty. But it will be in the history books. Ken Burns will film it. Some of us will be interviewed for oral history projects. I’m just getting ready.

“Best shot at fighting ‘a virus that knows no boundaries’? Stay inside,” L.A. Times

6 thoughts on “Pandemic Journal: Week 4

  1. I’m really curious as to what the “new normal” will look like. There are things I like about not having to wake up in the morning and drive somewhere when I can be even more productive at home. I’m sure much more will be done virtually than we ever imagined before.
    I’ve also noticed that I feel a lot less lonely now, since we are able to connect more regularly with people around the world who are important to us, nurturing those relationships that really matter, rather than just the ones that are geographically convenient.

  2. I prefer to watch happy movies. My favorites are musicals. I can see musicals over and over again. I never get tired of them. How can you not love “Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago “?

  3. I remember at the beginning when people were making fun of people for wearing masks. The CDC said that they wouldn’t prevent you from getting sick, and I guess it was because they didn’t want people to get a false sense of security. To me it seemed obvious that having a physical barrier would reduce the chance of getting sick, even if it doesn’t prevent it outright. But I guess there’s people out there looking for whatever excuse they can find to make fun of each other.
    Kate Hudson was just trying to do the right thing.

    • I disagree with people who think masks might give a false sense of security. On the contrary, I think they make us more aware that these are unusual times and we need to keep our distance.

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