This blog post was contributed by Mary Mulligan. It is part of a series attempting to share the many different stories of individuals as they experience the coronavirus pandemic. Please be respectful of the views and beliefs of others if they are different than your own. If you or someone you know have a story you would like to share (anonymously or not), please feel free to send me a message or comment here.
For us, Covid–19 is like a tornado that you watch from afar and wonder if it’s coming straight towards you or if it will veer off in another direction.
We began following the Coronavirus outbreak of Wuhan, China in January. It was unbelievable how fast the virus was spreading. The communist government ordered a lock down of the whole city. As the month progressed, we watched shocking news clips of the Chinese military dragging people from their homes to quarantine them. “Why would they object to being quarantined?” I wondered. “I would rather be quarantined than infect my family.”
At the end of January, President Trump banned any travel from China. This made sense to me if we wanted to keep the virus out of our country. Later a 30-day ban from all European countries except Britain was added.
In Feb., more than 3,600 passengers were quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, I felt so sorry for those people that were stuck on board. How awful to be expecting a wonderful, probably for some, once in a lifetime trip only to have this nightmare happen.
In the meantime Italy and Spain began having their own epidemic. We watched the nightly news in horror as their hospitals got overwhelmed, the death toll rose daily from 600 to 700, to 800, to over a thousand each day. We followed the news daily as truckloads of dead bodies; somebody’s mother, father, brother, sister or friend were being carted away from the hospitals. That seemed an overwhelming number of deaths for their country. My heart hurt for their unimaginable pain.
We continued following the news but felt fairly safe as the pandemic was overseas. Then a few cases began to pop up in the US. At first it was just a few people who had traveled from overseas. Then a nursing home in Washington state but we were told that it was mostly the elderly. Then those that had underlying health risks like heart problems or diabetes were the main ones at risk.
We had all of those factors in our home. My adult son has had two heart surgeries; my husband has diabetes and high blood pressure. I wasn’t concerned over my own health risk, but my alarm bells were wildly going off for my husband and youngest son. When you have someone in your family that is in a high risk category, you tend to take it much more seriously than those whose risks are much lower.
We started thinking about how this might affect our spring break plans. Our entire family including our adult children, their spouses, and our four grandchildren had planned a first time, week long trip to Orlando over spring break. We had already purchased our flight tickets out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, paid in full for an Airbnb house and bought our tickets for Disney World.
Soon, I received a call from my oldest son asking if I had considered how risky it might be for our youngest son, the one with the heart problems, to fly out of Chicago’s International Airport. International being the key word.
We began discussing alternative plans. My husband and I decided that we would have to drive separately with our younger son, even though it would mean taking 4 days out of the 8 days we had planned for the trip, and have to pay for additional hotels and meals along the way. The others would keep their original flight plans but bring lots of Lysol wipes to clean and disinfect the airplane seats, trays, light switches, etc. We had also heard there was a possibility that Disney would close. We decided we would go anyway, if for nothing else just to get out of the cold and gloomy Michigan weather. (We get very little sunshine during the winter months since we live close to Lake Michigan.)
Before we could put our plan into action, the virus began to spread astronomically: first in New York, then the Detroit area, and now Massachusetts. As we debated what we should do, the decision was taken out of our hands. Eventually everything was shut down. Flights were canceled, Disney closed, Florida was even restricting northern visitors to 14 days of quarantine. (Fortunately, we were able to get refunds and credit on everything.)
Then the school where I work closed for the rest of the year. My youngest son, who works at a store, immediately took a leave of absence. We did not want him to take any chances.
Because we have such high risk factors in our home, I began being very careful when I came home. I was washing my hands more frequently, using hand sanitizer every time I would even touch money, my face or when I came home from a rare trip to the grocery store. At one point I was even wiping down our groceries with Lysol wipes in the garage before I brought them in and letting them sit for the 4 minutes needed to kill the germs. I later found out that was unnecessary.
I wasn’t feeling panicked or fearful, but I was determined that I would take every precaution to avoid any risk that might bring the virus into my home which could infect my son and husband. Other people I knew were not taking this quite as seriously. Some were still gathering at parks, at friends’ homes, and going about their daily business as usual. But most of those, I noticed, did not have the high risks that we did. My husband who usually poo-poos these types of things and would normally not follow many of these stringent guidelines for himself, did, for the sake of our son.
More precautionary rules began to be added. Big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot were banned from selling paint or gardening supplies. Other stores had to rope off clothing and electronic sections so that only food and essential items could be purchased. People were forbidden to go to other parts of the state. People in the suburbs of the Detroit area, where most of the Covid cases were, wanted to travel north, many having summer homes there. However, many of the mayors of these smaller towns were afraid that they would be bringing Covid with them and the smaller town hospitals were not equipped to handle an outbreak.
Protests began breaking out. Health care workers and Hollywood stars began to show up on social media begging for people to stay home and take this seriously. Other protesters complained about their rights being infringed upon and they, by right of being American and being free, should be able to make their own choices. In one news clip, I saw a hospital worker, garbed in protective gear, actually stand in the street blocking a line of cars and unmasked protesters from moving forward. I guess you could call this a protesting of the protesters.
For me it boiled down to a matter of perspective. Those who are healthy and least at risk are more likely to be willing to take chances versus those who are or have loved ones who are at very high risk. One group wants their freedom to choose versus another’s freedom to live – literally.