This was not planned but as I have been writing a new series of stories titled Five People in a Pandemic, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.
As the author of this series, it has been difficult to write the stories of people who are brave but afraid of what is happening right now in their lives. This global health emergency has fueled an amazing amount of fear in all of us.
Writing the stories of other people going through the pandemic has become a high priority in my life. It helps me cope with what is going on around me.
I see people doing the right and the wrong things. I’ve seen some people help total strangers in times of need while someone else is shoving people aside at the grocery store so they can get the last bundle of toilet paper.
In more than 30 years as a journalist, I never really expected to be covering what could be the end of the human species. Yes, I do believe this might just be the beginning of the end.
My largest fear is that this strain of COVID-19 is the first of many pandemics about to be unleashed on the human species. I’m not alone as several people have predicted wave after wave of infections as this virus mutates in the coming years.
I live in Maricopa with my dear girlfriend Catherine. Her son Justin also lives in our house.
This week Justin had his 21st birthday and it was not the 21st birthday that I wanted to give him.
Last night we had to put our cat down as his kidneys suddenly failed. As I saw Justin this morning, I went to wish him a happy birthday but I already knew there was nothing happy about the occasion. I just looked at him and said “birthday” and dropped the happy altogether. Justin got the joke and laughed, something that none of us have been doing very much of lately.
There is little that goes on in this house that doesn’t revolve around this pandemic. We have spent all of the past week inside and not even ventured out to the store for anything. When the governor issued a stay at home order yesterday, I knew it was the last day possible to go out for probably the next month.
I also knew it wasn’t really safe.
Yesterday’s trip was different than the last one I made two weeks ago. The virus is spread and now you have to suspect that everyone has it. There is no way that I’m going to take chances as Catherine and I both have asthma and are at severe risk of death.
I set up the garage as a “cleaning station.” I have two tables. One is sterilized and the other is incoming items that could carry the virus.
Anything that comes into the house has to first go through this station.
I dressed and readied for the store and placed clean clothes to change into on the clean table in the garage. I used a breathing mask and wore surgical gloves.
The trip to the store was actually quite frightening.
I go to this store often and know many of the employees. No one working that day seemed to be themselves. Everyone was clearly afraid of what was happening. No one had smiles on their faces and everyone was quite serious about their urgent mission in that store.
I felt my blood pressure and heart rate rise as I went through the aisles. I just kept moving faster and faster.
People were not rude but it was clear that everyone was annoyed by seeing another person, someone who might just be a carrier of the deadly virus. I realized they were as afraid of me as I was of them.
I quickly got what we needed, which was fresh foods like hamburger, milk, bread and etc. This will be my last trip before the long self-quarantine that I know is coming.
When I returned to the house, Justin was waiting for me and we cleaned the groceries together before bringing them in. I left my clothes in the garage and quickly took a shower.
Catherine and I have spent more than two months getting ready for this. We’re prepared to stay inside for the coming month. I think we will likely be here for at least that long.
Catherine is holding up pretty well through all of this. Both of us are incredibly frustrated and even angered by the direction the government is taking with this pandemic. Sometimes there is little either of us can do but yell at the television when we watch the news. I’m so glad that I have her beside me as we go through this incredible time in history.
As what is going on with the pandemic is vital to our survival, we often have the news on.
I’m sure you do too.
There are times I just can’t take the negative noise anymore and resort to turning off the tube and listening to and playing music. I’m heavily into bluegrass and find it to be a great release. You have to find your own way out of this mental roadblock or it easily becomes overwhelming and even depressing.
I’ve found it useful to walk down and get the mail every day, and even riding a bicycle around the neighborhood really gets rid of a lot of stress. Talking to Catherine and Justin all the time helps us all keep in step with each other and adjust our pandemic plans as the world changes around us.
I talk with my brother and son on the phone as much as I can. Both are in other states; my son is in Buffalo, New York, where the pandemic is really getting bad. I’m afraid for him as he has at least 25 people within a 5-mile radius of him who have the virus.
I’m trying to stay positive and not catch the virus. We all need one another yet we can’t be near one another. It is confusing but we have to figure this out.
Please stay home as the life that you can save may be your own.
Justice reporter Jim Headley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.