December 2019. I’m in pretty good shape for a 69-year-old. Or I thought I was two days ago.
Planks, pushups, dips, pull-ups. I pop them off like I’m taking a walk.
Today, however, I can’t do nothing. I’m still tired from the last workout, I figure. Or just need more rest.
Am I suddenly getting old? Maybe my DNA says “Time’s Up.”
I’m so weak I quit the workout within 30 seconds of starting it. Everything else seems OK. Except for this cough.
I take a few weeks off from the gym but never feel rested. And I still have that cough.
After six weeks, I go see a doctor in mid-January. I’m told I have very high blood pressure, something I never had before. Ever.
The doctor has no idea what’s going on. That cough is not the flu. It might be heart-related. I get a heart x-ray. The heart is fine. Maybe x-ray the lungs. The lungs are fine. Maybe it’s stress-related. I easily pass a stress-test.
The doctor is baffled, says more testing needed. But it’s now been two months. The cough has disappeared. I’ve returned to the gym and have my normal energy.
Within a week of this experience, the news breaks that there’s a global virus that attacks your respiratory system. That means you can’t get the oxygen you need to keep going. Young people might get tired. But for anybody weak already fighting off disease or sickness, this could be fatal.
Suddenly everybody knows about Coronavirus-19. In the United States, there is a non-stop debate about what to do. By the end of January, President Trump has immediately canceled all flights from China. Mainstream media news attacks him for being overly-dramatic.
The debate continues. We are told that the disease is fatal and that it is transmitted from a person-to-person so all traditional interactions must stop immediately.
The places the hardest hit are in big cities where it is most crowded. The more crowded, the bigger the danger. In the U.S. that would mean New York and, in theory, Los Angeles.
I am not in a crowded big city. Just the opposite. I am living in Clover, South Carolina, a small town with a rapidly growing population of 6,683.
Before the Coronavirus became known and everything shut down in February, I would attend a monthly speaking club meeting with 11 others. And attend a social club meeting with about 50 persons in a hotel function room. I’d shop in a supermarket every week. But otherwise, I work at home as a writer and filmmaker to produce most output online. I have a gym in the back yard or I can walk 500 feet to a gym in a “downtown” made up of about 10 shops and a police and fire station.
So that is about the only contact I have had with other people. And yet in December and January, I experienced most of the known symptoms.
I live in a beautiful 100-year-old home thoroughly modernized with central air conditioning and gas heat. But I work in a stand-alone garage insulated that I turned into an office-studio. Only the office part is heated. So every morning in winter, I commute about 50 feet from a warm home out to the freezing outdoors and into a freezing indoor office.
It’s not unusual to cough until the heater kicks in. A lot of people catch a cold in winter and since I’m constantly running between the warm house and the cold studio, it almost seemed natural that I would catch a cold or a cough.
Back in December the Corona Virus had not yet made the front page news. But by the end of January, it was all over the front page news and on everyone’s mind.
We are now hearing word that this virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. As a career journalist, I generally don’t rush to conclusions until I’ve been able to confirm where rumors and stories are coming from.
We’re hearing it might have been part of a bio warfare lab experiment. We’re hearing that the virus came from a “wet market” where diseased bats were being sold as food.
I have lived and worked all over China, visited big cities and small remote villages. I’ve visited all kinds of markets and freely ate in restaurants three times a day for several months at a time and never once got sick. I was extremely skeptical that such a world outbreak would come from a ‘market, or that it was a deliberate effort. The follow up of what was done or not done to warn others of the dangers now affecting the entire world is another matter.
I read that many highly influential Americans were very familiar with the disease control laboratories and that the United States government prior to the current administration had been involved with financing the virus research laboratories.
They all need to be questioned.
One of the few things I do know about medicine is that to create a life-saving inoculation, you must first work with the killer virus, and eventually you hopefully create a safe way to inject patients with the virus poison so their system can develop an immunity towards it.
It’s very easy to imagine that one little inadvertent mistake in safety procedures could have dire consequences.
As the news of the virus now dominated the news daily, it became apparent that the disease could be transmitted by humans easier that one thought.
That implied that driving alone in your car would be safer than taking the bus, train, or airplane. It meant that any crowded public area was now a major health hazard: hospitals, nursing homes, schools, offices, meetings, movie theaters, sporting events, restaurants, etc.
None of this affected me much. I worked at home, built an outdoor training area in my backyard suitable for military use. I’ve done all my own food shopping and cooking for the past 30 years so I only need to go out a few times a month to buy groceries. My work is all digital so I worry more about my computer catching a virus than me catching one.
In April, my 90-year-old uncle, Harold Glazer, living in a nursing home was in a severe state of memory loss despite having once been a Ph.D. in mathematics and a master bridge player. During World War II he had been hired by defense the Department to work on missile and rocket calculations.
You know, he was one of those brainy types that could calculate how much energy, or thrust, or time these items would need to reach their destination with all kinds of variables.
Later, he was one of the first to work with high-tech computer companies. All those incredibly ridiculously difficult mathematical calculation, he could do that kind of stuff.
In his last day, if he went to the bathroom, he would forget he where he had been before he went. He recently contracted the Corona-virus and required breathing equipment. He had not left the premises and there’s no way to know where it came from; a visitor, a resident, a healthcare worker, or maybe it had been dormant in the area for months.
He had nurse supervision but was placed on “DNR,” meaning do not resuscitate. In other words, when the nature time comes, let it run its course.
As soon as that happened, the nursing home advised his family that it would be fatal because while the virus was new to the public, it was known to the medical community. He lasted a couple of weeks and died the week before his 91st birthday.
Considering the risk factors for family members to travel for the funeral, the immediate family decided that just his three children were allowed to attend the funeral outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
Most of my family members have been fortunate to live long, healthy and productive lives. And for better or worse, a number of them had a long, slow, decline in health. So in several cases, siblings have a decade or longer to prepare for the inevitable.
We were all informed about the possibility to use a live video to watch the funeral but the reception was bad and I missed it but we all got together and had a Zoom meeting later that same day. The “children” were now in the 50s and with a dozen or so of us all online together, it was a very pleasant experience. The only time we get together is every Thanksgiving during the cherished American holiday in November—so these Zoom meetings were not sad. We all told about our favorite experiences and my uncle’s eccentricities.
My relation with him was terrific. I was living overseas and every time I’d come into town, usually for the family Thanksgiving get together, he asked all kinds of questions about my adventures.
I am the oldest of all the siblings so it was ironic that I knew my uncle longer than his children did. In fact, we lived in the same three story apartment building when I was young.
By now the entire country had become familiar with live-stream videos and Zoom webinars.
Webinars have been around for 5-10 years but suddenly everyone has heard of and is using them. So the funeral was broadcast to us by video.
And afterward, our family all met on Zoom and we could see everyone’s face and we shared our memories of my uncle.
My speaking club in-person meetings were canceled and that too was switched to online Zoom webinar meetings.
The same for my other monthly meetings. Suddenly everyone is OK having meetings online and they’re OK with using technology that just a couple of months ago, most never heard of.
For sure, there are going to be winners and losers in the expansive use of this technology. My sister works in marketing and sales and this week she joked that since so many people are now working from home, sales for pajamas have increased by 30% while sales for brassieres have decreased by 30%. Take out delivery and soap industries are also up.
My 95-year-old mother who now needs a walker to move around sighed that thanks to Zoom she can now attend a funeral, lunch with the ladies, visit friends, and attend a wedding all in one day. She sees more people now than ever before.
I’m kind of lucky too. My business is making online courses. So finally more people understand what I do.
As more news about the virus reaches Americans, ironically the initiative and the politics have flipped. We are halfway past May and it seems that those who said shut down everything in January now says it’s time to open everything up. And those who said don’t worry back then, are now saying keep everything shut.
The entire country was dramatically scaled back on all activities. All national parks have been closed. All public schools have been closed and have switched to online schooling.
My granddaughter is 12 years old. It took the schools a week or two to completely adapt to holding all schooling from in-person to online.
So now, instead of going to school, she studies alone in her room with the door shut. You might expect a teenager to miss the socializing and she does. However, I get the feeling she prefers working at home alone. She is very smart and can go at her own pace. Before, she was always complaining about how boring it was listening to the teacher’s talk.
Since I have no idea if she is studying or goofing off, I insist that every evening she tells me what she learned that day.
“If I promise to get all A’s can we stop these meetings?” she complained.
It made me smile to know she can work alone and not goof off.
My wife works for a national hair salon. In January, they were so busy that she could work as many hours as she wished, even seven days a week if she wanted. She was delighted and worked six days a week at their two salons.
But in April, the salon cut back all business hours by half. And then they started letting workers go. They kept my wife but at the end of April, they closed all the stores saying they would reopen sometime in June.
The Trump administration wasted no time in helping citizens. In April, without even applying for help, we received a check from the US government for $2,400 to the two of us. OK, that will pay for the mortgage on our house for two months. It helps.
Our neighbor works as a clerk in a department store. She is now getting an additional $600 per week from the government, more per week than she was making before the virus!
My daughter is in nursing college, scheduled to graduate in July. All her in-person classes were canceled in April. They replaced that with an online “simulated patient” study.
That means she studies a human patient graphic, not a real person. It isn’t as good because first of all, there is no instructor over your shoulder giving you advice or answering questions.
And second, just like my speaking class, there is a huge mental difference between having to do something alone when no one is watching you and being under pressure when a group is staring at you.
So where are we today? It is almost four months since the U.S. first confirmed a serious problem. In mid-April, virtually all restaurants were shut down or had take-out orders only.
Now they have reopened but with precautions in place such as keeping customers inline-six feet apart or opening every other dining table. Businesses have reported a return to 30% from zero and are improving daily.
For example, several states have ordered close to 100% of all businesses to remain shut down. But voters have cooperated for almost four months and they can no longer afford to not work. So they are now protesting, suing, or ignoring the decrees by their governors.
Also, most of the country is spread out like where I live. Even on a normal day, we interact with few people compared to those who live in the crowded downtown areas of big cities.
And it is not clear what right the government has to dictate to a citizen that suddenly a healthy person cannot go outside or they must close their business.
Especially in the USA where citizens pride themselves on its 250-year-old constitution which clearly states that no government can pass any law which is not supported by its citizens. So when was that law passed?
I have a neighbor who rents U-Haul trailers. So his shop (which has remained open all year) customers are people coming or going from somewhere else.
He asks each visitor about the virus situation in the places they know. Not a single customer says they know someone who died from the Corona Virus.
Here in South Carolina, we never had any panic. We never had any crisis. Sure, stores closed for a while. They cooperated to do whatever they were told.
Many people wear masks when they go outside. And at the stores, they have put up a thin plastic shield to block any customer from spitting on them when talking.
Stores are much more careful to clean anything that a person may have touched. So stores close earlier to allow time to do more cleaning – every day. For example, at the supermarket, there is someone who cleans the shopping cart handles after every customer leaves.
Aside from my uncle who was already in the last years of his life, I do not personally know anyone else who has died from the virus.
However, there are still too many horror stories floating around of healthcare workers who were young and healthy who died from contact with those infected. My daughter’s nursing instructor has lost close friends.
And we have a family friend who is a healthcare worker in New York City. A few months ago, she warned that the situation was terrible there. Healthcare workers were not taking the threat seriously at the beginning and many nurses refused to work there.
Under orders from the Mayor, the city was bringing sick patients into nursing homes risking everyone there. and in Los Angeles, the Mayor turned neighborhood recreation centers into shelters for the homeless, bringing the disease with them into a crowded building.
We all seem to agree that it was better to have been over-cautious then but now it is time to realize that everything we do has some percentage of risk. I have spoken to the political campaign headquarters in 30 states. All of them consider the precautions worth taking but none of them says anyone other than the already sick and elderly is dying from this virus.
My mom is 95. She is fine. One of my aunts is living in Florida, she is 100 and she is fine. I have another aunt in Massachusetts who is 90. She is fine. I talk to colleagues in California, Washington State, Colorado, Nebraska.
On May 17, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Avar has reported that there has been no spike in coronavirus cases in the states that are reopening. It may be time to get back to work, or back to the gym as the case may be.