We are in day 8 of the 14 days of a “high exposure” quarantine. That means that the exposer (our wonderful homecare gal Jay) was unknowingly infected while she took care of my 98-year-old mom Audrey, also potentially exposing my house manager Patrick, housekeeper Mirella (who do not live with us but were present at the time), and myself.
My vigilant doctor Scott Bernstein insisted we all immediately quarantine in the house for 14 days and call him at the first sign of any symptoms. His last words to me were, “Who knows, you may all be asymptomatic and already have had it, or you all just have great immune systems. Good luck.”
I feel for people feeling exposed standing in line at Duane Reade six feet behind a person coughing into a mask at the prescription booth. But I realized our exposure was way past the droplet level, we had “hands on” — how could we NOT get it?
Naturally my first 48 hours was spent worrying that we were all going to die in three days. We would be part of the current “peak death” curve which is about to go up and over in the next month. My “quarantine team” represents the age gamut — 41, 51, 74, and 98. Five-year-old Sunshine the poodle has benefitted the most by having two extra people in the house to annoy. The good news is none of us has any pre-existing conditions except the daily free-floating anxiety of the big “what if!”
One great aspect is that after the big initial “sanitize everything” moment, we could relax a little on all of the disinfection insanity. As soon as Jay left with a sore throat and a mild cough, we triple cloroxed every area she came in contact with — kind of like koshering the entire house; door handles, plates, silverware, chairs, faucets, countertops, keyboards, sheets, towels, dog leashes. We were as clean as a surgical center.
Patrick and I became obsessed with taking our temperature daily but stopped by the 3rd day as the novelty wore off and our temperatures were always the same. Actually, “feverish” is what the three of us felt in the beginning. We felt wired and exhausted and scratchy throated (allergies) from the anxiety. The mornings were calm and hopeful with long isolated walks in my desert neighborhood. Social distancing is not as hard where I live; I can barely see my closest neighbor’s house from my backyard. There were a few people with dogs, but no need to zig zag. Everyone waved as never before.
Phone calls and TV news felt exhausting and were kept at a minimum — who needed “hourly updates.” Netflix binging got tiring, except for the new “Unorthodox,” a Yiddish miniseries about a Hasidic rebellion that became a thriller. It grabbed our psyches for a day or two, and THAT was welcome mental entertainment, especially after a week of “Tiger King,” which matched our insanity.
But by 4 PM (thru dinnertime at 7) the awful “sundowners” started to seep in with fear and loathing. By day five, we had learned to distract ourselves with organizing, cleaning, or anything to avoid that descent.
Now my Mom was immune to all of this instability. Her schedule remained intact and she became a fortress. She reads two newspapers at breakfast (without gloves) and then checks her computer for emails. Midday there is Fox Business to see stocks tumble, and at 4 p.m. it must be Judge Judy. She keeps her classical literature organized — Andalusia by John Gill (history of Spain) in the afternoon and Pirke Avot translated by William Berkson at bedtime.
Her after dinner TV is always “Shark Tank” or “Two and a Half Men” reruns. She does watch the news, but I have heard that people in their 90’s watch news and see it differently since they’ve already lived through real history. I think she is astounded by this pandemic, but not overwhelmed. She accepts it more as a moment in history and she has lived through a lot. I get stuck in the body counts and the fear conspiracies. My Mom is above all that. “Move on” is her mantra.
We lost the days of the week and did not engage in escapist jigsaw puzzles or online gaming. Diversion is tricky when you have a long road ahead of you. Newspaper stories on deluxe beach housing for sale seem meaningless when all we care about is “bunker” living and how to stock our pantries.
The online shopping promotions became annoying and somewhat insensitive. Who can look at 20% off bathing suits, and lace and sequined maxi dresses when the desire to score more Clorox wipes and paper towels has become the priority. At some point retail will have to prove that they care about the customer in the moment — not just blast us with irrelevant merchandise!! Though I hear some fashionistas are still shopping as a charitable act to keep the designers and stores afloat. I’m not there yet!
The constant pandemic war between our money and our lives is debilitating. That strange emotional fatigue of watching Dr. Fauci or Treasury Secretary Mnuchin do their daily “pressers!” Mom never watched those 5 PM briefings because that was her holy hour with Judge Judy and no doubt, she benefitted more from that.
It is clear that masks will become the trademark of this pandemic era. You now have to wear one if only to show your solidarity or more to hide how awful you look after 8 weeks of no face fillers. My therapist friend looks at the mask theme differently. “I try to get my patients to take their outer psychological ‘mask’ off — and reveal themselves. But now they have to cover themselves with something completely different.” Whether material or psychological, masks (handmade or surgical) are THE biggest reality of the moment, if not THE badge of courage.
If we want the economy to come “roaring back” I believe we have to get the hairdressers, manicurists and beauty services up and running FIRST. In the end, it is all anybody really needs and misses and talks about. My dog groomer might partially re-open soon and I may go to her to get my own hair trimmed. I can see where enticing hairdressers to make a secret house call may become the biggest and riskiest power play. Wait and see by May! Vanity desperation will hit an all-time high.
I heard a financial advisor suggest that the biggest product to invest in would be diapers — since the Corona shutdown will have its own baby boom. Yet China has already reported that there are now more divorces filed post lockdown than there ever were before.
I already admitted that my dog has had the happiest experience in this quarantine. He is the biggest attention whore and works the house for any instant belly rub and treat he can get. Which made me wonder… how are the whore and escort services doing? Are they up and running with rubber gloves, Purell and dental dams? After all, you know THAT show has to go on … somewhere, somehow in spite of in-home streaming.
The good side of all this is I learned to drink an “Immune Protection Kale” drink in the morning (Mirella’s secret recipe). I also tried some of the antibiotic “folk” remedies like St. George Nano Silver and got instantly sick to my stomach. Who can trust a product that insists it cures everything from hemorrhoids to toe fungus to gingivitis to herpes to balding and ANY virus!
I had to learn to make my own double espresso Frappuccino to mimic my Starbucks habit just to get me through the “sundowners.” The espresso machine arrived at my door as did Amazon Fresh groceries and delivery has been a quarantine highlight!
It’s been a different world daily if not hourly. I feel dizzy from the constant changes. I have said before and I believe we are not headed to a “new normal” (sick of that phrase) or “back to where we were.” It’s obvious there will be a completely New World Order! Although unlike the dreary dystopia that is often imagined, I sense a growing feeling of community and concern for others. Particularly as the scientists and financial experts try to “frumpf” their way through a guesstimate projection of when this will all end and sounding ridiculous!!
In the meantime, I keep cash on hand when I walk to tip any delivery person or gardener or whoever I see still showing up and doing their job. And obviously the biggest cheers go to all those doctors, nurses, first responders, delivery people, stockers, re-stockers, truck drivers, cleaners, maintenance people, and okay, yes, re-stockers.
The discussion of leadership at a time like this is prevalent and important. To be real — there may not be leaders in this country or world as we know it anymore. Maybe it is time we all became our own leaders in the end. Since the stream of information is so confusing, YOU have to determine where the buck ultimately stops in your own life. There is no “Big Daddy” in this game.
So as of today (knock on wood) we are still symptom free. I haven’t called the distress helpline, my temperature is normal, the Ativan is put away — I can breathe deep and hold for 10 seconds without a cough. And we are headed to the “final six” that culminates in Passover!
We already ordered our Seder dinner to be delivered. I feel we will make it outta Egypt complete with a celebratory Matzah balloon.