Locking down on Covid

Its not until after dinner that night that I finally get time to sit and just absorb the current news to understand the state of affairs. California isn’t a hotspot anymore. The whole country is shutting down. One episode of Rachel Maddow and another segment of Democracy Now and my head is spinning. Its an earful of urgency and drastic measures by local hospitals to get citizens to sew masks, and the first tent hospitals are being set up in sports fields to prepare for the onslaught of sick patients. The Fed’s are holding off on ordering thousands of respirators and Trump is telling people to go to work while Amazon is telling employees to share their sick time with each other. I roll my eyes, I hit my head against my flatmate’s shoulder, I dive into the oreos but at the end of 1 hour of news, I’m exhausted.

That same day, Jacinda addresses the nation. She is announcing Covid alert levels, 1–4. We are currently in level 2. So we make one last run to the grocery stores and stock up for while the stores are stocked. This will be the last farmers market. Countdown is being ransacked. New World has put out everything they have, and stocked boxes of canned food and toilet paper onto the aisle ends. We stock up on all the most important things — extra cheese, beer, fancy salmon for bagels, coke, a whole rice bag worth of brown sugar a years worth of supply of tooth brushes. So we are ready. On Sunday we rearrange our spare room upstairs and I fashion a cozy office space and decorate it with team spirit unicorns.

I find that I am actually quite entertained with our whole setup. For using table chairs and side tables we’re setup to ergonomic perfection. Messages flow down from Bank leadership to be patient with ourselves and a daily check in is set up on our freshly rolled out video conference platform. We are all a little late to the first department meeting online. Jacinda addresses the nation every day going forward at 2pm. And today, March 23, she announces to us all that effective immediately, we are in Level 3 and have 48 hours to prepare before the nation goes into a month of level 4 lockdown. All non-essential businesses will be closed. Restaurants will not serve take-away meals. All public places and schools will close. Shop normally she asks and look after your neighbors. Individuals who live alone can expand their bubble to include one other contact but our service to the response is to act as though we have Covid. Grocery stores and pharmacies will always be open and give time for the grocery store workers to restock the shelves. I run to work and drive by our local grocery store on the way home but there is a line outside the door already — a socially distanced line.

We take a walk that evening on the trails behind our house. People seem to struggle to make eye contact. No one is neurotic about distancing the mood has definitely changed, and people are starting to feel protective of their 6 foot bubble.

I start to think about all the things I will do with the time out of community circulation. But I choose to focus on the positive opportunities and enjoy the prospects. My morning commute is now 5 steps. I get to wear PJs 24/7. Breakfast is homemade and an order of magnitude more luxurious than before. I get a good round of post-it window games going with the neighbors. Between dog walks for the SPCA dogs, exercise jams with mom, flatmates, friends, journal blogging there will be plenty to keep busy with. Should I learn the deep breathing exercises in case I my lungs fill with fluid if I become a dangerous case?

On Wednesday the Emergency Alert is distributed to everyone with a phone. Its an incredible thing to turn ones life upside down and change all your routines to accommodate for a global pandemic. On one hand, maybe this will generate some incredible leanings about climate change and living local. But the tidal wave of change is also overwhelming. Even though I am being positive over all the negativity of the world outside is starting to drag me down with it.

On the flip side, the home country seems to be dangerously floundering in its response and the ridiculousness of it all is jaw dropping. New headlines flood the media stream, that dozens of senators sold off their personal stock shares before the stock market crash. Governors are rationalizing the self sacrifice of American grandparents, not for their grandchildren, but for the sake of their future economy! Weinstein tests positive for Covid and it prompts the undeniable reality that prisons are going to be unavoidable cesspools of the virus and the best thing they could possibly do to combat the outbreak is let hundreds of thousands of criminals go. Health care workers across the country are getting desperate for PPE. Where they should be switching out masks per visit per patient they are being forced to work with one mask for the whole day and then wash it for reuse next week. Shipments of expired masks from the national stockpile are arriving in minuscule amounts to various hotspot hospitals around the country. But the kids won’t let their spring break get interrupted in Florida. All in the matter of about two days!

At the same time, my flatmate, who works in public health, outlines the new process being put in place for in-patients. They will run through a series of questions via intercom before the doors will automatically open and the individual will walk to the bathroom to wash their hands before proceeding to a table in the hallway where they will take their own temperature before seeing their doctor. Doctors will have PPE and a change of clothes while coming in or going out.

By Thursday, I am exhausted. Even though the commute is short, the number of phone calls and safety checks are more than I can keep up with. The work is spilling into overtime and people are getting snappy. It takes at least an hour every day to absorb national and international news headlines and my head is spinning a bit numb from all the change. I’m loosing track — of the most pivotal, world changing life altering event of our lifetime and its week one and I’m not even doing anything!

I catch the negativity bug. By Thursday morning I’m hiding tears. Mom confirms that there is no toilet paper, no eggs, rationing of tons of household items, false cures and preventative treatments are polluting the airwaves from the top to the fringes. Don’t worry about not being able to get home, hospital visits aren’t allowed for COVID patients anyway. By the evening I get a bit messy.

Luckily, my antidotes kick in to save the day — beer, a group hug, balloons and the critical ingredients to make whipped cream. And in our bubble I’ll be blessed with a household and experience that fill my cup with warmth, optimism, balance and security beyond what I would have been willing to desire. Widen the angle and I have a job that I love, team members who I respect in a country that is setting a gold standard for COVID response on the world stage.

Positivity is restored and Friday closes out without a hitch. I rearrange the living room, fix my dragon staff and have top the evening off with some my first girls night via zoom meeting. In 7 days, Mar 21–28, New Zealand COVID cases spiked from 52 to 451 but at home we reset to make good on quarantine week two. Perfect the flow toy, plan the perfect home office, begin the morning exercise routine. Well treat ourselves to the finest of fondue dinners and give ourselves a break from the news.

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Open Letters

Open Letters

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Slow Traveler, Tree Hugger, Flawed, Productivity Enthusiast, telling my story