Day 39: Normal

May 5, 2020

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m writing today, as I have every day lately, from my dining room table. Behind me is a window twice my size, that looks out onto a world I more observe than inhabit.

But the opening is coming! So I read in the papers. So I see in the news. We’ll get back to business, our President promises. “Normal” will return again.

“Normal,” hand in hand with the coronavirus. Whatever that looks like.

I have no idea what the right path forward is. California’s governor is inching us into more economic activity, and that may be a good thing. As I wrote yesterday, I don’t know that we can live like this forever.

But here’s the conversation so many of us aren’t having: what are we willing to accept in exchange for a paycheck? In a swap for profits?

I just read an op-ed in the New York Times that wonders if our response to the continuing pandemic will come to resemble our reaction to gun violence fatalities.

“The coronavirus scenario I can’t stop thinking about,” wrote Charlie Warzel in the Times, “is the one where we simply get used to all the dying.”

It’s not such a fantastical scenario. The Times reported today that the Trump administration is discussing winding down the White House Coronavirus Task Force; as Trump himself toured a mask manufacturing plant in Phoenix, wearing safety goggles but no mask (like his VP, when he toured the Mayo clinic last week); and where he responded to a reporter’s question about the task force’s possible demise by saying, “”I think we are looking at Phase 2, and we are looking at other phases” of the pandemic.

Of course, Trump is only leading the way. From Florida to Georgia to Iowa, states are lifting quarantine orders. There’s also a cresting frustration in conservative swaths of this state. On Friday, a 24-hour fitness studio called the Gym, in Victorville, Calif., opened for business in defiance of the state’s mandate, with an 8-foot by 10-foot printout of the Constitution posted by the front door.

“This virus is political,” the Gym’s owner, Jacob D. Lewis, told the Los Angeles Times. “It comes down to our civil rights. There’s one thing that people in power forget, one thing that makes us all the same, and that’s the Constitution.

“They can’t force us to shut our doors,” he continued. “We did it voluntarily in the beginning because they hyped it so much, but guess what? They lied to us.”

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide continued to climb. And Riverside County, which contains Victorville, has the second-highest caseload in the state. At 4,354, it’s a fraction of the 28,000-plus cases in Los Angeles County, but more than double the 1,760 cases in San Francisco.

I can imagine an alternative path, one in which we continue to expand testing and demand people wear masks in public while staying home, in private spaces, as much as they can. Meanwhile, we ramp up our contact tracing abilities and invest in a great antibody test, like the one produced by Roche. Once our case numbers come down to a level officials deem acceptable, then we open up, slowly, testing for antibodies so we know who is safe to wander about, while continuing to test for new infections, and then tracing down and quarantining those who came in contact with the ill person.

It’s not a perfect solution, not by a long shot. Even if we have the best antibody test possible, we still don’t know what those antibodies mean. Do they confer immunity? If so, for how long? Also, we’ve burnt up so much precious time this winter and spring not investing in testing, not producing enough masks or hand sanitizer or PPE or any of the other items we need to prevent virus transmission, that we arrived in May hobbled by an economic crisis unlike any I’ve seen before in my lifetime, while here in LA and around most of the nation, more and more people are falling ill. I don’t fault our mayor or our governor, who did the best they could with the tools they had. But it’s also true that the people have been patient, and thanks to bungling at the highest levels, we don’t have enough progress to show for our sacrifices.

I realize I may be ruffling feathers here, and I’m sorry for anyone I’ve upset. But my husband is a doctor, and if we as a nation decide we’re not going to worry about the coronavirus, well, he won’t have that luxury. It’ll be in his exam room and in the ER and in the hospital. He will be exposed to it again and again and again, in a way he’s so far avoided thanks to the quick and decisive actions of our state and local leaders.

And anyway, I don’t know if any of us have that luxury. I just read today about a Ralph’s supermarket in Hollywood where 21 of the 158 employees have tested positive for the virus. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be in much of a hurry to shop there now. If we loose our controls, if we turn our backs on this virus, return to life as we used to live it, the virus won’t just creep away. It will creep inside us. That’s what viruses do. And then where will we be? And how will we function?

Day 13: Georgie

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Because the coronavirus and all that surrounds it is hard and distressing, here is a story about my dog.

We’re that kind of edgy around here that even little changes make us jump. So when I was putting away laundry in my closet on Sunday, and I heard our labradoodle trying to get up in the hallway, her paws unable to find purchase on the hardwood floor, I ran out of my room.

“Georgie?” I called. “Georgie?”

I saw her tail whisk around the corner. I raced into the family room to find she’d planted herself in her brown doggy bed and was sitting there, wide-eyed, shaking slightly.

I looked up and down the hallway. Was there some small creature who spooked her? (she can run short on canine instincts) But I saw nothing.

I asked my daughter, whose room was right there, if she’d dropped something that might have startled the dog. Nope.

I went back and stared at Georgie. She was lying down now, her expression an indecipherable mix of alert and Zen. Her head bobbed back and forth, an odd kind of palsy. But otherwise, she seemed fine. I returned to my laundry.

An hour and a half, one long phone call and a bad migraine later, I walked past the dog on my way to the bathroom to get some medication. She was in the same place she’d been 90 minutes before. Not just in the same bed, but in the same, exact position.

Huh.

After I took my migraine pill, I lay down on the living room couch and I waited for the meds to work. Georgie’s just sedentary, I thought.

But she’s not that sedentary.

I called to my daughter, and asked her to take the dog on a walk. Usually, those words alone are enough to pop our pooch to her feet. But I didn’t hear any movement.

My daughter got the leash, called the dog’s name. Georgie wouldn’t move. I got up, stumbled into the family room, called to the dog. She just stared at me, her head doing that same Jello-wobble. My daughter and I looked at each other. Then, since it was Sunday and the regular vet was closed, I called the animal ER. Bring her in, they said.

The boys lifted her into the car and my daughter and I took off, Georgie slip-sliding back and forth across the floor of the minivan. Her legs seemed like they couldn’t quite bear up underneath her. But she didn’t moan, or cry out in pain. She didn’t actually make any sound at all.

When we got to the veterinary ER, we called the front desk and a broad man in a black face mask came out and carried her in the building. The last glimpse we had was of her tail, wagging lazily, as the sliding doors closed behind her.

Five minutes passed, then ten. “Do you think it’s kind of bad?” I asked my daughter at last. “Or just bad? Or really bad? I think it’s only kinda bad.”

“Mom!” she said, turning to face the car door. “Stop it! You’re stressing me out.”

Finally, my phone rang. It was the vet. She asked me to repeat the story of how we got here. After I did, she asked a question. “Is there any chance,” she said, “that there’s marijuana in your house?”

“Um…” I started to grin, picturing the two young men we’d welcomed back this month from college. “Maybe?”

The dog, she said, was showing “classic signs of marijuana toxicity.” But not to worry, Georgie would be fine. Leave her in a dark room. Let her sleep it off.

“She’s just high,” the vet said.

I started to giggle. My daughter asked what was going on. I put the vet on speaker, asked her to repeat the diagnosis. A smile spread across my daughter’s face. We said goodbye to the vet, then the two of us laughed until we just about cried.

When they brought the dog back to the car, my daughter, still giggling, covered her in kisses.

“Stoner dog,” I crooned to Georgie. “You’re just a stoner doggie, aren’t you?”

As for what she ate, apparently it was a cookie with more than just flour and sugar to recommend it. One person left the cookie out on the counter in someone else’s room. The person whose room it was failed to throw it out when the night was over.

And in the morning, when no one was looking, the dog’s excellent sense of smell led her to discover what others had overlooked.

It’s Tuesday, and Georgie seems to have forgotten any of it ever happened. And look, these are stressful times. The dog feels it, too. She’s got that little limp coming and going, the one that always shows up when she’s tense. But for 24 hours or so, the limp disappeared. It wasn’t intentional, and we don’t plan to repeat it, but for a little while, Georgie got to chill, as if none of this coronavirus stuff was even happening.

The edibles, I’ve been told, have been put away. Hopefully, far, far away.