My Pandemic Year

I started keeping a journal this year shortly after losing a parent in January, not realizing how historic this year would ultimately become. As we near the end of 2020, I am committing those handwritten pages here, in hopes that this journal will become part of the social recollections of one of the most momentous years of our lifetime.

I am posting those journal entries in blocks by month, separated by a photo, with the most recent month at the top of this page.

April 1, 2020 – All I do is sew

I read news way too late last night, which led to a meltdown, and finally falling asleep blanketed by cats. But I wake up badly, and with a sore throat that I would treat with ice cream later in the day.

It’s Payne and Marie’s wedding anniversary today. Newspapers cancel April Fool’s stories. Trump is now going after drug cartels for some reason. Some news sources seem to indicate Congressional backtracking on a COVID-19 relief package. Stay at home order is extended to April 30. Trump seems more somber this week.

Today’s news is also focused on PPE and medical equipment, which hospitals warn will soon be in short supply. There are reports that Trump sent nearly 18 tons of medical supplies to China last month. He boasts of a 1 ton shipment of supplies arriving from China today. We sent a 1 ton shipment to Thailand, which confused them because they had just shipped us the same amount. Things are pretty screwed up on the supply front.

The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard figures for today:

  • World cases – 932,605 / World deaths – 46,809
  • US cases – 213,372 / US deaths 4,757
  • NYC deaths – 1139 / King County deaths – 150
  • China cases – 82,361 but has leveled off. But they forecast a second wave.
  • US forecasts 100,000-200,000 fatalities (I think by Christmas, maybe by January, I failed to record the timeframe)

I pick up a little steam and then the ground seems to drop away. Anger from yesterday morphs into depression today. I need to figure out how to stop over-reacting to everything.

April 2, 2020

I make my 100th mask today. The very next mask results in an injury when I try to sew through my finger for the first time ever…

  • Global cases today – 1,013,157 / deaths 52,973
  • US cases today – 243,453 / deaths 5,926
  • NYC deaths – 1,562 / King County deaths – 175
  • Seattle stay-at-home order extended to May 4

April 4, 2020

  • CDC now recommends that people wear masks when they are in public, and are pushing homemade cloth ones to ease the strain on surgical and N95 masks which are now in desperately short supply.
  • World cases – 1,141,900 / deaths 60,960
  • US cases – 278,942 / deaths 7,174
  • NYC deaths – 1857 / King County – 188
  • US case count is now significant. The next closest country is Spain with 124,736 cases and 11,744 deaths. Our cases are not as lethal as Europe, but twice the numbers of China.

April 5, 2020 – Palm Sunday

  • Global cases – 1,274,923 / deaths 69,479
  • US cases – 337,620 / deaths 9,643. We now rank 8th in the world.
  • NYC deaths – 3,048
  • NYC expects to run out of ventilators in the next 48-72 hours.
  • The Feds are not assisting in any capacity in procuring PPE and equipment.
  • Congress continues to backtrack on financial assistance, and stimulus checks may not arrive until August-September.
  • “Fire Fauci” trends on Twitter today, thanks to the InfoWar / anti-vaxxer / MAGA crowd.

My concerns are mostly economic, as I watch for a dramatic increase in homelessness if evictions ramp up in 3 months. I have nightmares about Trump declaring war in the next few months, and wonder if he will try to declare martial law in order to postpone the November elections.

April 7, 2020

I’m working with Charlene’s group to fill a request for 350 masks for a naval destroyer. The crew is in quarantine, they have no PPE and they deploy next week. It feels really weird to be working as a civilian volunteer to supply PPE to a military unit that should be getting PPE from the government. Ultimately my masks didn’t arrive in time, so they will be shipped off to the next group in need.

There are more shakeups among White House staff today. Every day is a new drama.

April 9, 2020

My daily routine is very routine – I wake up at about 6 but don’t get up until 7:45. At 8 AM I’m at my desk, forwarding the Seattle and New York E-Times to staff to signal that I’m at work. At 8:05 I feed the cats and make coffee. And so another day begins.

KNKX Radio (whom I have done business with) and my bank call to see if I need anything, which was pretty cool. Fewer people are checking in on me this week, but I think that 30 days in, we’re all settling in to the “new normal.”

I close Mom’s bank account in Yakima, an easier process than I anticipated. I lose a little steam today but recoup later in the evening and start a batch of masks for the Fred Hutch Cancer Care Alliance.

  • Global cases – 1,502,618 / deaths – 89,915
  • US cases – 432,554 / deaths – 14,829 (Spain cases are the next highest at 152,446)
  • King County – 244 deaths. Cases are still on a significant upwards trajectory.
  • US unemployment rate is now at 15% – 16 million people are out work, it’s worse than 2008.
  • Drivers’ license renewals have now been extended by 90 days. It looks like we’ll be on lockdown for longer than we first thought.
  • The Saudi / Russia oil war is pushing crude prices up to compensate for the dip in global consumption. The US considers applying tariffs in response.
  • Hospital staffing is down because they are starting to sicken from COVID-19. NYC hospitals are now being staffed by volunteer medical personnel.
  • NYC death toll is 4,571 and now exceeds the death toll from 9/11.
  • Staffing shortages are also affecting the IRS, which is delaying tax refund checks and other business. It’s a mess.
  • Trump wants to mine the moon and thinks it’s part of Mars, which he also wants to mine. The news that isn’t awful, is so ludicrous that I just have to laugh.

April 11, 2020 – Holy Saturday

Trump had wanted the country to be open by now, with churches filled for Easter services tomorrow. Churches and sports continue in spite of recommendations by CDC and Dr. Fauci, so I’m now setting my clock for another spike in cases in about 2 weeks. We have now surpassed Italy and Spain in both cases and deaths. The Hopkins dashboard shows a continued upwards trajectory with no sign of leveling off.

  • Global cases – 1,776,157 / deaths – 108,804
  • US cases – 529,740 / deaths – 20,602 (Spain cases – 163,027 / deaths – 16,606)
  • WaPo reports that 1 in 10 middle-aged people don’t survive their hospital stay.
  • Relief monies are still stalled in Congress.

Distribution systems of all sorts are not working. PPE is sitting in warehouses and not getting shipped. People are hungry while farmers are dumping milk and produce because they can’t sell it. Some food is getting to food banks but we lack federal and state systems to match supply to need, and to transport it to where it can be used.

COVID-19 is unmasking a plethora of issues. I have a bad stress headache and nausea, and can barely focus. All I can do is make masks and try not to get too angry.

April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday

Today marks my first major holiday as an orphan. Mom would have turned 90 tomorrow. It’s a dark blessing that she is gone, it would have been heartbreaking to not celebrate that milestone with her.

I make my 200th mask today and return to hatmaking between masks. I anticipate the need for masks will continue as they are now required in a few cities.

Trump declares that he is the 1st president in US history to sign emergency orders in all 50 state. He seems to think that is a victory / win / good thing which completely baffles me. Every time I turn on the news today, another 500 people have died. The Guardian cites the global death toll surpassing 110,000. Nursing home deaths surge to 3,321, up from 10 days ago when that count was 450.

April 13, 2020 – Mom’s birthday

I’m not as depressed today as I expected to be. I had planned to write a blog about Mom, or pay taxes, but became absorbed by an epic on-air tantrum from President Man-Child, during which he rebuked a NYT in-depth report detailing his failings in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Governors on both coasts made pacts to work together on a re-opening plan. President Man-Child claimed total authority over those decisions in spite of telling states that they were responsible for most everything else (including PPE procurement and lockdown guidelines).

Hatch Act and 25th Amendment start to surface as topic in media banter.

April 14, 2020

Today Trump compares himself to Captain Bligh from Mutiny on the Bounty. Tantrums, denials and blaming continues. A Twitter user wrote in words what I was thinking – he knows he’s losing so he now wants to destroy as much as he can on his way out. It’s hard to imagine how much worse he will get before someone, anyone, in the Senate will stand up and do something.

Also in the news yesterday were reports that the Feds are now confiscating PPE shipments from the states, and at least one state is now sending military escorts to meet chartered FedEx planes in order to safeguard shipments arriving from China.

Masks that usually cost less than a dollar are now selling for $7. I’m shopping for PPE for our office and am aghast at both the prices and the lists of things that are out of stock (hand sanitizers topping that list). States are suffering price gouging while the White House does nothing.

April 17, 2020

Days have become tedious. I wake up. I walk 10 paces from my bed to my desk and open my laptop, where I sit until 5 PM. I close my laptop. Then I make masks. Or I eat compulsively. Or I drink. Some nights I just give up and curl up in bed with the cats and watch a movie.

Vicki and I went grocery shopping on my lunch hour. QFC was a little scary, most (but not all) shoppers were wearing masks, very few checkers were wearing masks, and social distancing was difficult. It was unexpectedly exhausting.

President Man-Child (PMC) now turns the state re-openings over to the governors after being informed that he isn’t actually King. The governors on both coasts continue to work to form regional coalitions, and are redefining what “these United States” actually stands for. PMC cedes both authority and responsibility after issuing 18 pages of vague and useless guidelines, and announcing we are “past the curve”. Except that we had 5,000 deaths yesterday and our mortality rate is now over 4%. Nursing home mortality is much higher.

  • Global deaths – 154,215
  • US cases – 701,610 / deaths – 37,055
  • Seven weeks ago, our death count was 0. We now have the highest mortality rate in the world.

And now, PMC tweets for three Democratic states to be “liberated” and mentions Second Amendment Rights in all caps. Still no one in Congress is interceding…

April 19, 2020

A fairly productive day today. I’m now alternating between making masks for the Cancer Care Alliance and the Masks4Millions project, and am looking at scaling back in May so I can return to some outstanding commissions.

Today there are right-wing protests against the lockdown orders in Maryland, Texas, Ohio, and also Olympia, WA. “Fire Fauci” and the “Liberate” tweets from PMC are the themes, PMC has expanded his tweets to elude to a ‘loss of gun rights.’ More protests are scheduled in the coming weeks. So again I set a clock to check for an uptick in COVID-19 cases in 14-18 days from now.

  • US cases – 759,696 (1/3 of the global total) / US deaths – 40,683

April 20, 2020 – Oil goes negative

At the beginning of 2020, US oil price was $60/barrel. Today the price is $2/barrel. There are no buyers and no place to store it. At 2 PM today, the price drops to -$15. It now costs more to store it than it is worth. Your Move, Mr. PMC…

April 21, 2020 – Immigration ban

All immigration is banned by Executive Order – which is mostly moot since Canada and Mexico have also closed their borders, and most flights are cancelled.

Seattle is still on track to re-open for business May 4. I will need a wardrobe of masks by then.

So, I’m sitting here, listening to “The Doomesday Book” by Connie Willis, written in 1992. It’s about time travel in the year 2050, and transporting a historian back to 1348, the year of the Black Death. And as I listen to the details about a virus that is passed on by respiratory droplets and physical contact, and we’re several weeks into COVID-19 quarantine, and I’m making masks for friends, hospitals and non-profits, I start to wonder if all this is actually happening – a new “surreality”.

I’m not hearing accounts of corpses on US streets (as was common during the plague in medieval Europe) but reports from hospitals are bad, and we’re losing bus drivers, doctors, and parents. Elsewhere (Afghanistan and Brazil), the COVID-19 dead are buried in mass graves, and NYC is now burying bodies in city parks because the morgues are full.

Wise governors are refusing to lift stay-at-home orders and are subjected to protesters waving confederate flags and carrying assault rifles. Not-so-wise governors are lifting restrictions for “essential services” defined as barbers, golf courses, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors. What the absolute f***.

I only worked 4 hours today, took the rest as vacation because I just could not function. I keep stress eating my way through boxes of crackers, knowing that I need to get a grip and figure out how to deal with whatever this is. I will remember April as a month of lost time and nearly continual meltdowns.

April 24, 2020 – Disinfectants and anti-malarials

  • US death toll is now 50,024 – double what it was 10 days ago.
  • Trump suggests people ingest disinfectants (Lysol or bleach) to kill COVID-19. Both the makers of Lysol and the medical community immediately issue warnings that doing so could be lethal. Notably, Dr. Brix did not respond during that briefing. (Trump would later walk back his statement, citing that he was being sarcastic).
  • Trump has also been pushing anti-malarial drugs which has prompted the FDA to issue warnings that hydroxychloroquine has killed people. Rumor has it that the Trump family has invested in this drug and pushing it will increase their profits.
  • Trump is sending ventilators to Latin America in spite of our continued need for them. “States need to find their own stuff” he says, and hints that Democratic states are not faring as well as GOP states. Everything is political 😦
  • Trump announces that he won’t fund USPS unless they quadruple their postal rates on packages, he aims that at Amazon (USPS delivers ‘last mile’ for many carriers).
  • Businesses in 16 states reopen, but now people have no money to spend and many are too fearful to leave their homes.

April 26, 2020

Washington State cases are now 13,000 / deaths now 723.

I reconcile myself to this new normal, this surreality, and that I need to plan accordingly, starting tomorrow with a walk through the graveyard and the residential areas I used to traverse on my way to visit Mom at her nursing home. I need to do taxes tomorrow (the IRS extended the deadline for filing to June 15). I need to get back to making hats by May 1. I was making a dress for Kate but her trip to Greece is now cancelled. I still need to finish it, and make a plan for my galleries.

April 28, 2020 – One Million Cases

US cases pass the million mark today, 1/3 of the global total, deaths pass 57,000. We’re still Number 1 😦 Rural cases start to rise now. With restrictions having been lifted in 16 states, a spike is anticipated within the next 30 days.

I spend 3 hours gathering every brocade in my sewing room, and make plans to start selling couture masks on my website as a fundraiser for food banks and meal programs aimed at medical staff and first responders.

April 29, 2020

I take another vacation day and finally finish taxes, which took half the day. I’m waiting for the Friday announcement of a continuance in the lockdown, which I suspect will be extended for another 30 days. A friend sends payment for masks in the form of a 24-count box of dark chocolate Hershey bars with almonds. I do my best to ration them, although rationing them, or vodka, or in fact anything, proves futile.

Walks are helping. Getting back into creative work is also helping. I spend the evening making couture masks and ponder a catchy name. Covid Coutures? Remnants of the Plague? Fancy Masks? I settle on “Fancy Face Masks”.

  • Global cases – 3,194,663 / global deaths – 227,681
  • US cases – 1,039,909 / US deaths – 60,966
  • We had expected to hit 60,000 deaths in August…

April 30, 2020

Panic attacks continue to rule my days and insomnia my nights, though for the sake of brevity and reader sanity, I have not detailed most of those here. I’m waiting for the next extension of lockdown, the next gang of AK47s to ‘demonstrate’ inside a state capital building, the next BS to tumble out of the mouth of the PMC. Why is No One In The GOP Stopping His Spewing I Wonder.

My brain is a maelstrom today. I toss around the idea of early retirement. I think about doctor visits that are overdue but which I don’t want to schedule. An appointment with my financial advisor. The memorial for Mom in Yakima. Travel anywhere. The fact that my galleries are now closed for the remainder of this year, which effectively shuts down my hat business. I rethink and double-think and end up in mental paralysis.

Make it stop…

March 10, 2020 – thus starts my Decameron

Covid has arrived in Seattle. The epicenter is a nursing home in Kirkland but cases are now confirmed within a few blocks of our office downtown. We have spent the last 2 weeks preparing for staff to work from home, and I have spent the same amount of time stocking up on food and supplies. I spent the weekend testing a company issued laptop and VPN to make sure I could actually work from home. I still cannot answer the phone remotely but I’ll try to remedy that this week.

Today feels a little like the zombie apocalypse. It’s my last day downtown before I move my office home and become a telecommuter. Stress today includes having to close Mom’s bank account before I was ready, so now final disbursements are coming out of my account instead of hers. Taxes will be interesting in 2021.

And once again, s*** happens and hat production grinds to a halt. I’m having serious thoughts of bagging this business altogether.

March 11, 2020 – The Pandemic is Official

  • At 9:35 AM, the World Health Organization (WHO) declares coronavirus as an official pandemic.
  • At 11 AM, Governor Inslee bans public gatherings of more than 250 people.
  • Airports remain open but cruises are being cancelled.
  • Schools are starting to close (optionally rather than mandated).
  • Restaurants, grocery stores and theaters are still open.
  • City buses are being disinfected (fogged) twice a day.
  • My personal lockdown begins.

March 13, 2020

  • Schools across the state are ordered to close as of March 17.
  • Libraries and most community centers close.
  • Canlis – one of Seattle’s 5 star restaurants – closes but sets up a burger and bagel drive through in its parking lot in a bid to keep their staff employed.
  • Trump declares a national emergency for COVID19 which he described as a hoax two weeks ago.
  • Stock market dropped 2500 points Thursday but rebounded 2000 points today. Trump takes credit for the rebound but not for the drop.
  • White House continues its play of a thousand errors as governors and mayors take over the decision-making process.
  • Hope springs eternal that Trump has lost his re-election bid as cases and death toll rise.
  • I decide not to record a lot of detail here as the news shifts about every two hours, and historical archives and news sources will no doubt fill the gap.

Four days into working from home (WFH), I take half the day off today to manage my stress level. I move my office to my sewing room, where I can sit at a table and look out a window. It might be less stressful than standing in my kitchen, which is my least favorite room. I also resolve to take more breaks next week.

I threw caution to the wind last night, and went out to dinner with Marie. Indian food at the Masala on Northgate Way. It was a good break for both of us. (In retrospect, it will also be my last visit to a dine-in restaurant for the foreseeable future.)

March 14, 2020

  • As of last night there were 388 cases and 35 deaths in King County. Cases are now expected to double every 5-7 days.
  • National numbers are 1629 cases and 41 deaths across 46 states and D.C.
  • Death rate world-wide is 3.75% as of today, though more comprehensive testing would lower that statistical rate.
  • There is now a concern about the lack of testing, and confirmed cases overwhelming our hospital system.
  • Trump finally gets tested today, after days of refusing. His test would come back negative, which I’m sure is a relief to everyone he shook hands with this week.
  • Hatmaking resumes.

March 15, 2020

Washington State now has 769 confirmed cases, double from what we had 4 days ago, which exceeds the scientific predictions that numbers would double every 5-7 days. Gun sales soar. COVID19 takes out our elders, guns are the 2nd largest cause of death among children in the US. Looks like millennials will rule after this is all over.

March 16, 2020

We are now following the trajectory for Italy – but in the absence of adequate testing, we have not much info to go on. Governors are now taking the lead, shutting down all but essential businesses as of today. They are pissed off and are not fooling around.

  • Grocers, pharmacies and medical providers remain open
  • Restaurants are restricted to drive-through with pick-up at a socially distanced 6 feet.
  • Theaters, coffee shops, barbers, fitness centers are closed.

March 17, 2020

St. Patrick’s Day in the Time of Isolation. I do nothing to mark this holiday. I’m losing interest in hatmaking again. I doubt there will be customers this year anyway.

March 18, 2020

Today starts the second week of The Great Isolation. Things are better. I have established a new routine, starting work at 7:30 and immersing myself in projects that keep me off the news.

  • Europe COVID-19 cases are now in double digits.
  • US cases are 7,786 which is about a thousand more than yesterday. An hour later, cases went up to 9,345.
  • US deaths were 145 but went up by 5 an hour later. Washington State still leads at 68 deaths, twice as many as yesterday.
  • Economy is tanking at a rapid click. Mnuchin is now voicing the possibility of 20% unemployment by fall.
  • My boss checks in on me and offers to bring me whatever I need, which is super nice and unexpected. I’m stocked up for about 30 days so the only things I may run out of are fresh vegetables and vodka.

March 19, 2020

The president of the United States is a whiney b*****. He blames China. He blames the media. He can’t keep his stories straight. I had to turn off the radio during the Q&A of today’s press conference because his rhetoric became intolerable.

March 24, 2020 – Face masks begin

I posted to Facebook yesterday that I was thinking about making face masks, if only I knew where to send them. Up pops a recent customer within minutes… Charlene, who had recently received her purple phoenix hat, is the director of a non-profit in Stanwood-Camano. She asked for 450 masks for a hospital and 2 nursing homes in the Anacortes area. I expect to be working on those for the next month or two.

My galleries are now closed, hat sales are now zero.

March 26, 2020

POTUS is still blaming, arguing with governors and telling them they don’t really need all the things they’re asking for. He wants all the churches to be filled on Easter.

Today we have more confirmed cases than any other country, including China. Death rates are starting to climb. Governors have been locking down their states all week. PPE supplies for hospitals are trickling in and not coming close to meeting needs. Hillary Clinton was right. Trump is determined to kill half the population.

It looks like I won’t be going back to the office before April 8 at the earliest. Working from home is overrated and I don’t know how families are managing it. My routine now includes mask making every night, it’s a mindless task that keeps me from deep diving into the news cycle on the web.

As of today I’ve made nearly 200 masks for friends, coworkers, the Navajo Nation, NW Hospital, Skagit Valley farm workers, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and my local UPS store, who donated shipping boxes when I refused to accept payment. I don’t profit off of pandemics…

Mom’s teddy, horse pull toy and baby shoes

February 1, 2020First Journal Entry

Divorcing myself from the emotional impact of Mom’s demise is clearly not working. It was a very hard day at work yesterday after staying home in bed for 2 days with the cold I’ve had since January 6. So I went full-bore Victorian today, filling my patio planters with black feathers and draping black lace over my patio chairs — my equivalent of a black wreath or black drapes on my front door.

I’m angry that every time I gain momentum with my hat business, s*** happens. After a ridiculously busy fall, receipts total more than the previous year but I didn’t recoup advertising costs. Sales from my website more than doubled, but gallery sales are very low. I don’t think I will ever make more than supplementary income from my craft.

So I do simple tasks today. Laundry, and shredding mounds of paper that Mom’s medical providers produced, and organizing things that I usually attend to over the holiday break. And I wait for Trump to disband Congress and declare himself King at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, after the GOP failed to even pretend to hold an impeachment trial. I did not expect him to be removed from office, but the absence of any form of censure is startling. They have just given him license to do whatever he wants.

Palindrome Day – 02/02/2020

It feels weird not having to be anywhere today. So, since I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday this year with a movie, today is that day. 1917 at the Oak Tree Plaza. (In retrospect, this would be my first and last movie for the year…)

February 5, 2020 – Mom’s Life Celebration at Foss Nursing Home

Congratulations Mom, you finally got your roommate to leave her room. Everyone on your floor attended your Life Celebration today. I cried the entire time and couldn’t talk to any of the people who knew you. The chaplain did a really nice job though, incorporating almost everything that I gave him from your journals. You made people laugh and feel happy. You lived as full a life as you were able to.

Afterwards, I got a massage at Umalina Spa, and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I’m still exhausted. We scatter your ashes tomorrow in Kelso.

February 6, 2020 – Ashes to Ashes

On this grey and rainy day, Kevin and Heather, and Payne and I set out for Kelso, to scatter ashes at a spot where the Cowlitz River meeds the Columbia, which in turn runs out to the sea. It’s not Ocean Park but its the closest we could come in respecting your final wishes. Kevin thought to bring mud boots, so after Payne dropped Clara’s ashes into the water (Mom’s dog), Kevin waded out so he could drop Mom’s ashes into the current. Most of Clara’s ash sunk but some stayed on the surface. Mom’s ashes floated back towards us and touched Clara’s ash, before drifting back out again…

February 10, 2020

It’s Monday. I literally spent the entire weekend rearranging knick-knacks and sorting photos for this family history blog. I cannot tell if this continuing soul-crushing fatigue is grief, the lingering head cold, or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Whatever the cause, I hope it resolves soon. It’s pretty damn irritating to be so unproductive.

February 22, 2020 – First notes about coronavirus

I finally picked up a hat 2 days ago and am back in full production mode today. I think I’m mostly recovered from this cold that I have had for nearly 2 months. I’m still super fatigued and my temperature is still pretty low (95-96) but my coughing has finally stopped and I’m back to sleeping 6-8 hours a night instead of 10-12.

  • Coronavirus is now at 77,000+ cases worldwide and is on its way to being declared a pandemic…

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