October 29, 2020

We are all striving to survive Covid-19. It’s a terrifying time. For sure!

By John Guy LaPlante

Correction. Make that we are all striving, struggling, fighting, praying to get through it!

The reality of it is horrible. We are all at risk.

It is turning our world topsy-turvy.

I just read that Dr. Anthony Fauci, nationally famous now as our top infectious disease expert, has just announced that we in the USA now have more than 130,000 deaths, with 50,000 every day. Not cases. Deaths!

He said we are now in the first wave and the prognosis is not good. Because in many “hot spots“in our country, we are relaxing and opening up too soon. He fears a new wave is coming.

We have more than 2.5 million confirmed infections. And they may surpass 200,000 deaths by summer’s end.

Yes, I’m struggling. You’re struggling. We are all struggling. You have your story. I have my story.

They are all the same in essence but different in details.

It seems clear some of us will not be alive by the end of summer. I hope that will not include me or you.

We are all hoping for an antidote but everything that I’ve read says that one will not be available for months.

Without doubt, I am at a much higher risk than just about all of you. For two big reasons.

I am very old, in fact 91 years old. And just six months ago I was diagnosed with double pneumonia.

That’s a very lethal combination.

Of course I am doing everything the experts have been preaching for us to do. I am wearing a mask whenever I go out among people. Trying not to touch my face, but which I have found just about impossible to do.

And I have been really, really practicing social distancing.

That’s a new expression for the dictionary, isn’t it? Social distancing! At least six feet from him. At least six feet from her.

I wonder what genius thought up that strange expression.

One thing is sure. If I happen to follow through on those two big “must-do’s“– wearing a mask and staying six feet apart at the very least from anybody else — and my daughter Monique catches me, there will be hell to pay. So I am most careful.

She insists on that because she loves me. She wants me to stay alive. Hey, I also want to stay alive. No argument there.

I also want her to do the same vital things and stay alive. And also her husband David the same thing.

Everybody in my family. All my friends. Even my enemies. Joke!

When I first heard that a mask is absolutely essential, I looked high and low for one. No luck. Then I thought of my friend Martha.

I know her well. I have changed her name. I think it wise to do that.

She’s nearly as old as I am. A wonderful seamstress. Has had decades of practice on her good old treadle sewing machine.

A few years ago, she had done some tailoring and sewing for me when I was still developing my revolutionary, actually copyrighted MedGown, so wonderful that I thought every hospital in the country would be using it. Hah! Hah!

You may remember that. If not, I can’t go into that right now. I’m sorry.

Mask? Right away Martha told me, “John, I’ll make you a mask. No problem.”

She rushed over the next morning with it. Very proud of it. There was a big problem. She had never seen one up close.

She put it on me. It wasn’t quite right. She adjusted it. Not right. I tried to put it on and have it stay on but I couldn’t manage to do that. She tried again. Impossible.

Poor Martha! Not her fault. She had tried so hard for me.There was no consoling the poor dear.

I happened to mention this to my friend Sheila. That’s her true name, by the way.

Right away she said, “I will send you some, John. I just got a batch of them from a friend in China.”

Sheila has been to China, and more than once. She lives in Massachusetts. I live in California now.I did not expect them overnight. But her package arrived lickety-split.

She sent me more than a dozen. A perfect fit. Light blue, not essential, but a nice color for men.

But please do not ask me for one. I want all of them, just in case. Who knows how long covid-19 will be a problem?

Every conscientious person wears one of course when with other people. But I believe many of them do not understand. They believe that their mask is protecting them. No, no. It is protecting anybody else within six feet.

If I encounter friends wearing one, my mask is protecting them and their masks are protecting me.

I am going to ask Sheila to ask her contact in China to include a little note stating that with every mask shipped to our shores. It would say, “Protects any other person within six me.“

Consumer Reports Magazine would certainly highlight that in their next article about covid-19. It would be a great public service.

Oh, I read in their last issue that it takes two weeks for Covid-19 to incubate.

In plain English that means I could catch it today, or you could, but there would be no symptoms for 14 days or so.

But some public official here in Morro Bay came up with a very smart idea. To offer a free covid-19 test!

Yes, free!

I felt I was “clean“ of Covid-19 but maybe not.

I showed up. First-come, first-served. Quite a stream of people. I got in line. We all stood six feet apart. I checked. It looked more like seven feet apart. Very good.

We were told the test is super fast and easy. That was good news. My turn came up.

The technician, who happened to be a man, had an instrument which looked like a very long toothpick. Maybe it was a tube. I don’t know.

He said to me, “I’m going to stick this up one of your nostrils and I want you to count to yourself“ One Two Three Four Five. “Just like that. Okay?“

I nodded. Not a problem.

He stuck it up. Way up. I counted “One Two Three Four Five” just as I was supposed to.

It hurt like hell!

So glad I did not have to count to Six!

I don’t know whether he sprayed something in or sucked something out. He did not explain that. Sucking out seems to make more sense. You know, drawing a sample.

I was so glad the test was all over.

But then he told me, “Now I will do your other nostril.“

It was not all over!

He stuck the thin stick way, way up. I counted “One Two Three Four Five“ again. Wow! It really, really hurt!

I asked when I would find out and he told me I would be notified in three to seven days, by phone or email, my choice. I told him by phone, please.

On my way out, a fellow waiting in line asked me, “Well, how was it?”

“Not bad,” I said. “Not bad.“

Better to fib, I reasoned. He might have turned around and gone home. That would have been awful.

Counter-productive. Suppose he did have the virus!

Well, I got a phone call in five days. I had worried. As I said, I’m a prime candidate. The test was negative. Whoopee!

The relief was wonderful beyond words.

Dear readers, I must admit something. I lost sleep worrying whether I should tell you about my two most painful five-second tests ever.

I felt you might up and decide “Forget it!“ You know, chicken out. That would be awful. Better to face the music now. Go get tested

And remember, it wasn’t six seconds, or seven, or eight, which would have been super agony, Just five.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that I won’t catch covid-19 tomorrow or next week or next month. That’s true for everybody who passes the test.

It would be so fantastic to hear tomorrow morning the great big news, “Wonderful Antidote Discovered!

Available in two weeks! Free! But that’s dreaming.

It’s awful how this pandemic has disrupted daily life. For me and for you also, I am sure.

Has disrupted things that mean so much to me.

Normally our Public Library is open five days a week and I go 5 days a week. It has been closed.

But now a bit of good news. It’s open again, but only to pick up or leave off library materials. No sitting down to read a newspaper or a book or anything like that. I don’t bother going.

I go to our Senior Center two or three times a week. I see friends there and I have lunch there.

But all you can do now is pick up a box lunch to take home. So I skip that.

Oh, normally I don’t walk there or drive there. I pedal my tricycle there. I enjoy pedaling it. And the exercise is essential for me.

I’ve had physical therapy in the past. I consider my trike my super physical therapy machine.

The trike is so practical. It has a big basket in the back. Great for books, say, or groceries. Oh, I don’t wear a mask when I pedal. I won’t come within six feet of anybody.

Every afternoon in fair weather I make my rounds on my trike. Always stop by McDonald’s for my daily cup of coffee. I always bring along a magazine. I sip and I read. Wonderful.

But the dining room is closed now. It’s take-out only. I put on my mask to go in and get my coffee. I sit at a table outside, take off my mask, and sip and read. It’s just not the same.

The McDonald’s is in the same plaza as Albertsons, our main supermarket. I shop there. I put on my mask. Buy what I need. And take off my mask when I get back on my trike.

It’s impressive how prudent Albertsons has become.

I’m sure your supermarket is prudent in the same way.

How it sanitizes handles of its shopping carts. Mandates social distancing.

Normally every aisle is two-way. But each is now one-way. So you won’t encounter another customer.

That’s theoretically. There’s always a scofflaw or two.

I admire the shelf stockers and the register clerks and the baggers. They all wear masks all shift long. That ain’t easy.

I believe the register clerks and the baggers, nearly all women, are at special risk. They stand and work just a foot or two from their customers. They are now protected from customers by newly installed plastic see-through shields.

But that protection is not as great as it is intended. They are kept very busy and in their busy-ness let 

down their guard, so to speak, the baggers more so then the register gals. It must be awfully hard to wear a mask for a whole shift. I’m in there with my mask on 20 or 30 minutes.

I take it off the minute I get back on my trike. Those supermarket workers deserve commendations and hazard pay. I doubt they’ll get hazard pay. Commendations, yes. They. are cheap.

Hazard pay would force prices up. Customers would complain. Might set up picket lines.

Oh, I go to my bank every week or so. But now customers can’t go inside. You have to transact your business at the drive-up window. There are always several cars.

But I go on my trike. Not allowed in drive-thru.

These are small tribulations, I admit. But they add up.

Here in Morro Bay, tourism is a huge, huge part of our economy. Our Embarcadero, which is the long street, usually very busy, along our waterfront, has countless restaurants and shops of many kinds on both sides. Many have been closed. Terrible for the small entrepreneurs who run them. Many have had to lay off help.

For weeks there was no way to drive over to the huge famous rock that has been symbolic of Morro Bay since its founding. A big barrier closed off the highway. It has just been removed.

There are dozens of motels and hotels here, and they’ve all been closed. Disastrous for the owners and the workers there. And disastrous to the town for the enormous loss of tax revenue that it depends on.

Schools are closed. Graduations have been skipped. Far fewer people have been going to churches and other houses of worship.

Our popular natural history museum is closed. So is our only movie theater.

No need to go on. It’s the same situation wherever you live.

What is shocking all over the country is how many patients in nursing homes have been clobbered by covid-19 and in fact have died.

As some of you know, until three months ago, I spent a total of more than four months in two nursing homes and one assisted living community.

All three were fine institutions. I was fortunate to be one of their patients. And I was discharged to return home just before the pandemic struck.

What is extraordinary is that not one of these three places has had a single case of covid-19. I believe that it’s more than just good luck. More than just a coincidence.

I believe it is because all three have been super diligent in taking every preventive measure possible to shield their patients and their staffs.

It is a supreme compliment to the brilliant leadership of the three.

I am tempted to use the good old expression, “the past is prologue.“I hope so. But sadly there is no guarantee that covid-19 will not strike there. Keeping your fingers crossed is not enough.

What amazes me is that this pandemic and all the problems of so many kinds it has created have been so huge is that it has dominated the news day after day after day.

And our national elections are less than four months away! For president, vice president, senators, state representatives, governors, on and on.

I follow the news closely. There are some days when I don’t find a single mention of Joe Biden even!

Notice that exclamation mark. It is totally appropriate.

If things were normal, it would be a Page 1 story time and again. If I do spot one, most likely it will be on Page 3 or 5 or something like that.

One thing is clear. Plainly and tragically clear.

One politician will be on Page 1 time and again.

Donald Trump, of course. Who has blundered and blustered through this pandemic since it began.

Just as he has blundered and blustered through so many of his other responsibilities since the day he moved into the White House.

Notice that I did not say President Donald Trump. He is not worthy of the title.

All he has presided over is one screw-up after another

I believe he will go down in history at the very top of the list of our jackass presidents.

I find so many things that are amazing during the pandemic.

Here is one example. How can newspapers and magazines continue to publish. The people who do the planning and the writing are not working at the office. They are working from home. Social distancing!

True also of many business people that don’t need daily face-to-face contact with one another or their customers

How come? A big reason is a new digital app called Zoom.

Are you familiar with it?

Consider people who work together and in the course of their day’s work have to get together regularly to consider aspects of their business. But now they are working at home.

Using Zoom, they can actually hold a meeting, chat with one another, take notes, ask questions, make decisions, all while seeing one another and noticing one another’s smiles and frowns and hesitations. And make decisions.

I can give you a good example. My son Arthur. He is a busy lawyer. Civil law, not criminal law.

Using Zoom he can sit down in his office at home and carry on business with his clients, not there in his office with him or him in their office with them. Or with other lawyers involved in a particular case.

Again, not only talk with them but see their reactions. Which is all-important.

Normally Arthur goes to court often. But many courthouses are closed till further notice. Yet the work can go on.

He can speak to an opposing lawyer or to the judge or the bailiff or a witness to make progress and with no fear of catching covid-19. All through Zoom.

Recently we had a birthday party in my family. A dozen or so family members participated – three generations of us — in half a different states and in different time zones.

My granddaughter Elise, who works in movie-making in Los Angeles, organized our get-together through Zoom. It took a lot of planning and organizing. She did a terrific job. And it happened. It was absolutely wonderful and memorable.

Here’s another example. My son Mark and daughter-in-law Stacie are professors at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Some universities are actually thinking of shutting down for a semester. Maybe longer. Imagine that!

As a result, some students might give up the idea of college. Drop out.

And how about the professors? It’s doubtful they would be kept on the payroll. What university could afford that?

Not the University of Wisconsin. It feels that shutting down would be unfair to students.

The students are eager to finish and graduate and get started in their careers.

Well, the new semester will be starting as usual in early fall.

Normally the professors would teach in a classroom or a lecture hall depending on the number of students.

Because of Covid-19, it’s impossible now for students to sit side-by-side as they usually do.

And it’s easy to see how professors might catch the virus from students close by.

This semester, like other professors, Mark will really be teaching his classes differently.

He has some classes with more than 50 students. For these, he will create videos and use them to teach students as they sit at least six feet apart in a very large lecture hall.

He is fortunate. He has had a lot of experience of teaching online this way. Many professors have had zilch.

For his classes of 50 students or less, he will lecture in person conventionally. His students will be sitting at least six feet apart of course. And he will stand as many feet as he can in front of them.

All Stacie’s classes have fewer than 50 students. She will teach them in person as usual. Her students will be social distancing of course. And she will be standing as many feet as she can in front of them.

I am describing not only how Mark and Stacie teach but professors university-wide.

Isn’t that far better than universities with thousands of students and hundreds of professors shutting down for a semester or more?

We’ve had pandemics before. I read about the awful Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. That was as bad as this one.

Gladys and Frederick Disk developed the decisive antitoxin and vaccine in 1924. It was eclipsed by penicillin in the 1940s.

Sorry, Wikipedia doesn’t say whether the Dicks were man and wife or brother and sister or father and daughter

I remember the polio epidemic. Polio scarred countless lives. I was just a kid. I had a little cousin named Katherine.

I did not get polio. I might have. She did. She survived but tragically had to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

My Uncle Emile’s wife came down with it. They were newly married. She died.

Dr. Jonas Solk announced his vaccine in 1953. It eliminated polio in the United States. No more cases.

And from the Western Hemisphere in the 1990s.

This pandemic, too, will pass.

Some of us will not be privileged to live to see that. Others will.

Life is always risky, even in the best of times. Extremely risky right now.

All we can do is follow the new rules. As conscientiously as we can. Pray. Keep our fingers crossed.

Hope for the best.

And keep watching for news that a vaccine, an antidote or whatever has been developed.

Very effective! Inexpensive! Plentiful! And available right now! For one and all, the insured and a non-insured!

I think we’d call that a Miracle, believers and non-believers.

I would love to live to find out who will go down in history for that!

Comments

  1. Joan Perrone says

    Hi John,
    We are also affected by the pandemic. Our governor has been super cautious, so our numbers are going down. He states that we must wear masks and keep social distancing…not like you know who who has made fun of wearing a mask. He has bungled this pandemic from the get-go. I have never known a worst president in my lifetime. He doesn’t care about us and the rest of our good citizens. He only cares about his ratings. I do not have one good thing to say about him; and every day he does something to irritate and disappoint me. I am baffled how many people still adore him. If they do, then they must also be liars, racists, bigots, people who do not care about justice, and happy with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I sincere hope that he is voted out office.
    Back to the pandemic. In late January, a friend of mine who has a son who has lived in a nursing home for many years because of medical conditions, told me that her son was extremely sick.. He had trouble breathing and was put on a ventilator, his temperature was 107 degrees, and he had several other symptoms. He was put in a coma for a while. Somehow, he miraculously survived. They still did not know what was wrong with him. He had some symptoms recently, and tested positive for COVID-19. We all are convinced that he had the virus before anyone knew what it was…and, of course, you know who was keeping the information from all of us because he thought it was just like the flu and would go away. So ignorant! So vain!
    Since then, all of our social club meetings have been cancelled, the church was closed, bus trips that I had planned were cancelled, and life has been led mostly within our homes. We had curbside pickup for groceries and prescriptions, and our children ran errands for us. Frank’s surgery to replace his right shoulder was postponed twice…he finally had it done last Monday, and is doing well. I was not able to stay with him prior to surgery. It was just a drop off. He is home now and hasn’t left it since he came home last Wednesday.
    I am hoping for a vaccine soon; but even if they come up with one in the next few months, it will mid-to-late next year before it will available widely. We know of a number of Seniors that have died of the virus, including social club members. It is really a scary thing that is happening. It disturbs me greatly to hear of so many people insisting on not wear masks, knot keeping social distancing, and gathering in large groups despite the recommendation not to do so. They claim that we are stepping on their constitutional rights when they are not let into restaurants and stores who require masks. I have seen photos of people spitting on other people…one actually spat on a baby! In today’s world, that is assault! I hope to God that that baby does not get the virus. How selfish they are! They have even proudly stated that they don’t care if they infect any one else. I find it odd that they obey “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” “no smoking,” and other signs such traffic and other health directives, yet they refuse to do something so basically easy to help save millions of lives. Utterly a “me” attitude…so selfish.

    In the meantime; I will try to ignore the ignorance and hate that comes from you know who (I also can’t even call him President) and listen the the scientists such Dr Faucci for correct information; and pray for a new President with the upcoming election. Maybe once he is out of office, they can go after him for some of the damage he has done, as he will no longer be a sitting President. (I’m sure he would love to be called king and he is really behaving like a dictator). I believe he is responsible for the definite division between people today, and the extremely rude, and many times untruthful, behavior that is being exhibited by so people today.
    John, keep safe, wear your mask, keep your distance; but keep on triking, as that is something you really enjoy doing and it gets you outside.
    Love,Joan
    Cousin

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