A new era of uncertainty makes this an historic Wednesday, as the most transformative event in generations advances with rapacity. This morning (Pacific Daylight Time), and taking too long doing so, the World Health Organization officially classified SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—as a pandemic. This evening, President Trump announced an unprecedented 30-day European travel ban—excluding United Kingdom—starting at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday the 13th. How appropriately unlucky is that?
The goal: To limit the contagion’s spread from the Continent, where Italy is besieged and has essentially quarantined (e.g. locked down) the entire country. Earlier today, the government there ordered the closure of all stores, other than banks, pharmacies, and supermarkets. Yikes!
Eyeing What’s Ahead
The day after China quarantined Wuhan (Jan. 24, 2020), I started making personal preparations for global spread of what was then simply called the Novel Coronavirus. The initial implications were obviously bad, and they would only grow worse during the following 47 days leading to the WHO’s pandemic proclamation. I warned friends and family to expect supply shortages, seeing that the Chinese economy essentially shut down.
Some medical professionals didn’t share my sense of alarm. A retina specialist treats both of my eyes, with shots (yeah, don’t imagine it), for macular edema. On February 6, the doctor had good news: Photo scans showed a relatively normal right retina—meaning no obvious fluid leakage; he could switch to a treat-as-needed basis, rather than continuing shots every 12 weeks. I protested, asking for the needle, expressing my concerns about the Novel Coronavirus and supply shortages from China affecting pharmaceuticals. He rebutted that the risk of bacterial infection, one in four-thousand, from the shot was greater than any problems Novel Coronavirus might pose. I grudgingly acquiesced, but negotiated four-week follow-up examination.
Meanwhile, Anne and I debated the safety logistics of our apartment, which is somewhat exposed should there be civil breakdown or riots. My crazy concerns, or they should have seemed to any normally sane person, made more sense to her (and to me) as the days passed—and calamity spread within China and beyond its borders. We searched for a more secure, larger apartment—and found it unexpectedly on February 16 while out for a walk in neighboring North Park.
The 900-square-foot flat was perfect for our needs. Two bedrooms. Two entrances. Windows galore. Second-story, over garages along an alley, at the back of a lush courtyard surrounded by cottages. We loved it and rented it. The apartment would be a better place to “bug in”, should there be reason to quarantine or seek refuge from civil unrest.
But by February 27, day before signing the lease and taking the keys, we together realized that there would be ongoing personalty clashes with the landlord. I also recognized that the SARS-CoV2 crisis advanced faster than my expectations. Had the flat been move-in ready a week earlier, we would have been okay. There no longer was time enough to safely change households and to prepare for potentially prolonged period of self-confinement. We walked away, and the landlord kept 10 days rent from our deposit.
That freed us to settle some supplies before panicked people stormed stores and emptied shelves (something that is just now seriously starting). We also stocked up on medicines, personal hygiene necessities, printer ink, and anything else we might later want but might not be available because of shortages. Oh, and we laughed at shoppers scourging for bottled water and toilet paper by the cartload.
All the while, the virus spread to more countries—with the first U.S. community cluster breaking out in Washington State, turning Seattle into a “ghost town“. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter told hundreds of thousands of employees to work from home. One hundred colleges closed classrooms (and some their dormitories), moving classes online. Events galore were cancelled or postponed. Oh, and the stock market crashed. The list is way too long to continue.
Being in a high-risk category, because of age, my wife and I are on home lockdown. We venture out for several daily walks around the neighborhood but avoid going anywhere crowded—including the grocery store. We’re hunkered down for as long as we, or anyone, can last in an apartment located in a high-population-density area.
That said, we had to break out for the aforementioned follow-up ophthalmologist visit. This time I insisted that the doctor inject my right eye. Next appointment is in about 12 weeks, if the Coronavirus chaos allows.
I used iPhone 7 Plus to capture the Featured Image on Feb. 19, 2017, at a local hospital emergency room—where my daughter was treated following a scuffle at a dance club. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 40, 1/30 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 1:06 p.m. PST.