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Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 - notes from home

I have been avoiding the news, getting my updates via 15 minutes on NPR's podcast "Up First" or on the WHO website. I guess what I am trying to say is this post is not meant to alarm or overwhelm, it's not meant to start fear or increase panic.  It's just my thoughts, it's the details of the last few weeks before they slip from my memory. 

I was listening to the news one day in the car when the voice in the radio said something that really grabbed a hold of me.  I wish I remembered the station (probably NPR) but the person doing the interview wanted us to stop and really document life as we knew it at this point in time. 

What's going on right now.... this is new.  It's something we have never experienced and it's going to shape the world and the way we live in it.  And you?  You should be documenting it.  You should be sharing these feelings, jotting down life through these challenging times, you should be remembering these feelings and those tiny details.  You should do it all with pen and paper if you can.  And so, as someone who enjoys writing, I saw the beauty in that, in capturing the detail in the days and well, here we are. 

It's Sunday night, March 22nd and here's my recap of how we got here. 

Let me catch you up quickly.  November 17 was the first confirmed case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and January 20th was the first confirmed case here in the United States.  As we prepped for Disney at the end of January, the Coronavirus was just becoming a distant fear in Connecticut and we were conscious in Disneyworld while still making a plethora of bad coronavirus jokes.  We went to Disney loaded with hand sanitizer more for the norovirus and flu and common cold than anything else.  We got back from Disney and adjusted to life in my 1,000 SF house, sinking into the new month of March.  While we were traveling and going through the normal steps of life, the death toll was rising in China and we swirled into a mixture of dismissing China and mild panic.

The first step felt like it came from the colleges.  With the dire situation in China, colleges were quickly bringing back students who were studying abroad.  At about this time, hand sanitizer and wipes were flying off the shelf and it was instantly impossible to get your hands on those kinds of cleaning projects.   DIY hand sanitizers were the new Pinterest share and people were bringing it back from wherever they were traveling.  The new Instagram story was someone with a bottle of Lysol, packing it away into their suitcase to bring back home.

By early March, we decided to start looking at houses and get mine ready to put on the market.  The coronavirus in the States was real and we heard reports of outbreaks in towns and fear in the cities.  It wasn't close to home yet but it was here and it was coming.  By the second week of March, the Coronavirus was full-blown in the United States and it was the start of all the cancelations.

State colleges posted their cancellations and the news reported that colleges were going to be on-line only until at least the end of spring break.  We gasped, how crazy that these kids would be off for a month!  How lucky they were to have school canceled!  Students moved out of their dorms and spring breakers fled to Florida, business as usual.

Soon after the NBA canceled their season and the NCAA March Madness was canceled. Some Sporting events and political debates that were allowed to run were held without an audience.  Soon after, it was the elementary schools in the towns and cities where outbreaks had occurred.  Kids were going home and gearing up to finish the next month vis distance learning. 

With the kids home, tension was rising and so was the panic throughout some communities.  The grocery stores were being wiped clean and certain aisles were completely empty.  Newsreporters and social media showed the photos of empty shelves and grocery lines.  TP and paper towels were long gone and meat, pasta, rice and beans were also disappearing off the shelves faster than staff could stock them.

The next set of cancellations followed the NBA cancellations and covered all the larger events.  Adam's birthday Adam Sandler event was canceled and around the globe singers canceled their tours and large events were shut down.  Parades were called off and the cities were starting to really feel the heat.  New Yorkers were posting videos on the proper way to wash your hands.  Bloggers started washing their hands to songs and I learned a few new and improved habits (under nail scrub on your palms included).

Some aspects of life resumed as normal and parents were starting to panic as they tried to juggle home school and child care with their jobs.  Soon, all schools in Connecticut and virtually nationwide had closed down for the month and likely the rest of the school year.  Words like PANDEMIC and DISEASE were wildfire in everyone's mouth.  Weddings were being canceled, high school seniors starting to realize they may never see their graduation, we started to lose the privilege of spending time with the people we love.

While all this was going on, we tried to stick to our plan and our timeline as selling this house was already set in motion.   We started looking at houses and showings were getting canceled because of the virus.  At the houses we could see, we were greeted by realtors in gloves and wipes and asked not to touch anything, she would open any doors.  I walked around with my hands in my pockets, conscious of my now threatening presence in this stranger's home.

And then came the small events, study groups for my LEP exam, book club, doctor appointments and so on.  The toilet paper hoarding started and people were in full panic mode, hoarding supplies and masks and stocking up on essentials.

Restaurants started to feel the pressure and started using paper plates and utensils and sanitizing on a consistent basis.  I remember sitting at Buffalina Friday the 13th.  The tension in the air was thick and yes, you could cut it with a knife.  People were starting to be fearful and people were picking up to-go orders while delivering the local news.  I was conscious yet still so unsure.  I remember using a napkin to grab the pepper shaker and washed my hands before and after leaving the restaurant.

Individuals started to self-quarantine, even before orders came down from the State.  We started to take advantage of our time home and everyone started cleaning out their junk drawers and organizing their pantry.  We all became expert bakers and went to food for comfort.  Quarantine15 became the new joke as we ate our feelings while we watched the news.

I work for an environmental consulting firm and some of our drilling work was being canceled because the warehouses we were working in were closed or on lockdown.  COVID-19 disclaimers started to make their way into contracts and safety plans and we had to sign off that we had not been to a foreign country and did not have a fever.  COVID-19 was the message on large electronic boards on the highway, letting you know where to find information.

By St. Patricks Day restaurants and bars were mandated to close, with takeout service only.  We naively started to worry that our beloved gyms may close, completely ignorant to just how dire things were about to be.  I went to the town hall to get a permit for some home renovations and was shuttled into a separate room to fill out paperwork in isolation.  There was a physical barricade at the town hall, keeping visitors at least six feet away.  I left with this eerie sense of isolation while a voice from around the corner said they would call me to tell me just how much I owed.

The medical supply shortage also felt instant.  Nurses were working around the clocks and reusing masks and begging for donations.  The news stories started reporting on the lack of ventilators.  The medical staff begged us all to please, stay home.

Movie theaters, gyms and nail salons were ordered to close.  Small business' shut their doors and the financial hit was instant.  The stock market was closed by default just minutes after opening by circuit breaker as a self-check mechanism.  By the time Adam's birthday rolled around on Friday, March 20, we - were - in - it.  Italy's death rates were skyrocketing and we saw the coffins lined up in the news.  People were in day 7 of quarantine here in the U.S. while doctors in Italy decided who lives and who dies.  We started to see the pattern, fearing we were following Italy's footsteps, just a little bit delayed.

Social Distancing was the new catchphrase and the awkwardness of isolation hit us.  We walked around with the six-foot gap, awkward and nervous, walking around as if everyone is a walking talking source of COVID-19.  Countries around the world were closing their cities and sheltering in place.  It felt like the whole world was falling down together and no one was immune.  From Australia to my hometown in Connecticut, we were all starting to feel the severity of the situation. People were posting creative ways to entertain their kids and all the dogs were loving all this time spent home with their owners. We were getting creative with our online workouts and sharing our tears and our struggles on social media outlets.

People started posting about webcam happy hours.  We starting seeing photos of a few friends sharing a meal outside while all sitting at least six feet apart.  Instead of a birthday party for Adam, we had a four-person dinner to celebrate Adam's 37th trip around the sun.  I remember driving to my sister's feeling guilty.  It was just the four of us but we were breaking social distancing code and I was uneasy as we packed up dinner and headed there.  We had a lovely night, the perfect distraction from the chaos and driving home at 11 at night on a Friday,  we were in shock of the ghost town that was all around us.

By the time Saturday morning hit, nearly every store that remained open had a 6-foot mark with tape at the register or anywhere a line would form.  Drive-up testing was just starting to hit in my area and people started to call their doctors nervous with symptoms. The governor issued a mandatory closure for nonessential business per Monday night at 8 pm and everything started to close.  Grocery stores were to remain open and there were special hours for the 60 and over age group to ensure they were away from the crowds and able to get supplies.

Local barns were closing and sit started to feel like the year was just being cancelled.  People were flocking to the outdoors and we had to start closing down certain parks, begging people to avoid busy sections of trail.  The Appalachian Trail begged hikers to postpone their thru-hikes and we started to feel unsafe even in the outdoors, following the new advice of "groups of 10 or less".  The neighborhood was full of walkers, people trying to escape the madness of their house and week-long quarantine.  We watched cities like Barcelona with strict lockdowns and empty streets, thankful for our freedom to fresh air.  We watched the statistics of a life in isolation, cleaner air and cities, tanking economies and unemployment skyrocketing.  The day felt like an actual week and we all started to question a cough, take a regular temperature.... we started to panic over a sniffle.  We all agreed the world was such a strange and scary place, that these were "crazy times".  We ended our phone calls and emails with "be well" and in just a few weeks, life as we knew it had taken a sharp turn.  As we went to bed Sunday night we feared what the news was telling us, the worst was yet to come. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Utah Day 3 - Deer Valley and Park City, Utah

If you want a ski vacation with variety and easy access,
Utah delivers. 

This western state is so special because of it's easy access to so many different ski mountains.  You get to the airport and in less than an hour, you can be on the lift at one of Utah's ten resorts.  These ten resorts all have their different culture - a different flavor for different skiers or different moods for different days.   

So you just got off the plane in Salt Lake City, you grabbed your ski bags and your rental car and you are trying to figure out where to go.  

If you want that old school "simple is best" vibe on a world-class mountain, head to Alta.  If you want more of a local mountain with a lower-priced lift ticket and a night skiing option, Brighton is for you. If you want the open bowls of Mineral Basin and to ride the tram, head to Snowbird.  If you want fewer crowds and what I call the best run in Utah (Honeycomb Canyon) head to Solitude.