Day 14 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Sunday, March 29, 2020 Live to Blog from A Social Distance

The term “social distancing” seems to really bother Clemencia. After walking the Girls (our miniature schnauzers) today we returned to the lobby of our building, punched the elevator button with an elbow, and waited for the doors to open. At about that same moment, the son of one of our 3rd floor neighbors was coming into the building carrying a box which, apparently, he was delivering to his parent.

Hilarious Colombian Hand Gestures #3: The Mucha Gueva Face
  • Clemencia said, “Let’s give him the elevator so we can keep the distance.”
  • “Fine,” I said, “but I did take a gigantic risk of exposure to the Coronavirus by pushing the button with my elbow and now you’re asking me to take that risk again.”
  • “You didn’t push the button, mi amor,” she responded. “That was my elbow.”
  • Oh,” I said, but not wanting to lose the point, immediately retorted, “Yeah, but, somebody will have to push it again and it will probably be me and I could get exposed.”
  • At this point she gave me one of those looks that Colombian’s are famous for and even verbalized it for me, “Mucha gueva!” (Loosely translated it means, “What an idiot!”)

Putting my elbow in harm’s way nonetheless, I pushed the elevator button. When the elevator arrived, we stepped in, and Clemencia used her elbow to push the 4th floor button. Then, she turned to me and said, with a slightly indignant voice of authority, “It should never have been called ‘social distancing’ because that’s not accurate. It should be ‘physical distancing.'” Ever the scientist seeking precision of meaning and expression, the term social distancing apparently had been bothering her for some time. Having trained and worked as a therapist at one point in my career I thought this was an invitation to explore this with her. “So, how do you feel about that?,” I asked. Before she could give me the Mucha Gueva Face again, the door opened onto the 4th floor and the dogs pulled us out.

We shared dessert with good friends from Kansas over Zoom after dinner. Why not share dinner, you wonder? Because we are people of a certain age who don’t eat heavy dinners anymore, we eat early, and we eat what Clemencia calls “personal food.” (No, this is not another Colombian thing, as far as I can tell. It is a Clemencia thing but I’ve adopted it.) “Personal food” are those things we love to eat that may not hold an appeal to anyone else or that are exceedingly messy. For me, fried or whole rotisserie chicken and most pastas are “personal food.” I make such a mess with them that I don’t want to be seen eating them in public, so the only time I eat them is at home. Liver and onions and chicken gizzards are also my “personal foods”…not because they are messy but because Clemencia…and most other people I know…cannot stomach them. All things considered, and our tendency to eat more “personal foods” during sheltering-in-place, it seemed a good idea to simply focus on dessert (ice cream, brownies, and pie, by the way).

We had a wonderful time! We laughed, reminded one another of stupid jokes we had learned from each other years ago, got caught up on our kids and families, and, of course, ate dessert. Naturally we had to spend some time on COVID-19. Though we are now entering Week #3 of sheltering-in-place here, only yesterday the Kansas governor gave shut-down orders to non-essential businesses and people began to seriously shelter-in-place. I guess it makes sense that Kansans are only now doing this. If you notice on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard, the virus is clearly, slowly, and continuously moving West across the country. Rural states like Kansas, and my home state of Iowa, are only now really beginning to see the exponential growth of it.

In Reality. No, wait, did I just write, “I guess it makes sense that Kansans are only now” sheltering in place? That’s NOT right…NONE of it makes ANY sense…not for the Kansans…not for any of us.

  • It doesn’t make any sense at all…given we have known pandemics start slow and, before we know it, they are overwhelming us. It took us 41 days (January 21 to March 2) to go from the first case to 100 cases. It took only 2 days (March 2 to March 4) for the next 100. In less than a month (March 4 to March 29), we are over 124,000 cases. No, that’s not because we have so much more testing going on…because we are STILL far behind on it.
  • It doesn’t make any sense that this Administration, or any administration, would ignore the National Security Council’s “playbook” for preparing for pandemics. (Yes, a summary of this playbook is now in the public domain and you can read it here.)
  • It doesn’t make any sense that our leaders would be warned in early January, and again in February, about the pandemic and the need to take steps then to curb the spread of the virus, but chose to wait weeks, until mid-March, to take any substantive action.
  • It doesn’t make any sense that any Administration would delay invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure needed medical supplies for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
  • It doesn’t make any sense that the United States, with a population of 328+ million would have 124,000+ confirmed cases of Coronavirus when China, with a population four times that of the U.S. (1.4 billion), have only 82,000+ confirmed cases (Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard at the writing of this blog). Even if, as some suggest, the Chinese have not been honest in reporting, the disparity is still staggering.

This disparity between the U.S. and China only makes sense is when you consider that the four previous statements don’t make any sense but are stunningly true.

Our country’s response to the Coronavirus was too slow, it is now too little, and it may be too late. Overall, it has been a mind-boggling failure of our leaders to trust expertise, possess an imagination for the worst case scenario, and to perform their ultimate duty to protect and serve the people of this country.

The couple we had dessert with last night have been in my life since I was a teenager. We grew up together in rural Iowa, attended rival high schools, became friends through an extracurricular youth program, and have been fast friends ever since. Their youngest daughter and my son were born in the same year. I performed her wedding and they attended his last Fall. Through the two darkest periods of my life, they remained fast friends. They found a way to still believe in me and extend grace to me when I could do neither for myself. I consider them to be my most trusted friends. I have often regretted that we live so far apart at this stage of our lives but, as we are all discovering in the past few days, video conferencing allows us to bridge the distances. In reality, they and we are all in that highest risk group for contracting, and dying, from Coronavirus. We are boomers, but we are not keen on being removed quite yet.

In this blog I mentioned a friend had told me of a new term for the Coronavirus – the boomer remover, which is definitely a thing. This weekend Clemencia found a thoughtful response to it from a Pulitzer Prize winning commentator, COVID-19 as “Boomer Remover?” Let’s Talk About That. I hope you will take time to read it, whether you are a Boomer, a Gen Xer, or a Millennial.

Thursday, April 2nd BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: Regardless of your generation, you are welcome to join in. See the connection information below.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, keep sheltering-in-place, and keep remembering we are all in this together – regardless of our politics, our age, our gender, our race, our ethnicity, our faith, or our generation.


Author: The Driveler

Tom Klaus is the Driveler. On March 16, 2020, the first day of the Novel Coronavirus shelter-in-place order for his state, he started writing a daily blog to keep himself from stressing too much about the pandemic situation. He thought the daily blogging would last for only a couple of week but it stretched on to 77 consecutive days. Then he continued writing daily for a while after that as well. At some point the blog became The Daily Drivel...mostly because he was mostly writing the stream of consciousness drivel that was pouring out of his head, running down his face, and, sometimes, out of his mouth. In November 2020 he launched The Daily Drivel as a free-standing website/blog.

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