I’m sitting in the Los Angeles International Airport starting my transit from son Jacob’s house in Huntington Beach, CA, to home in Durham, NC. LAX is nearly empty. There are eight United flights operating out of here today. Half are international. I’m connecting through Denver.
My thinking was to get to NC while air travel is still very light, the airports are empty, and while NC Governor Roy Cooper (D) has a stay-at-home order in place until May 8. Calculating all the risks, this seemed like a reasonable decision. I was to be on a one-week visit with my son, from Oaxaca to NC on May 12. Having mom for a roommate long-term was not in the plan! But we did pretty darn good.
There is lots to update you about our Oaxaca Mask Project. We are distributing to many more villages and continue to make masks there and send some from here. But this will need to wait until I get safely through the day and settled in to the Durham apartment.
It’s after noon here. I’ll get home after midnight. It feels strange, after having spent the last seven weeks plus two days with my boy.
The strangest is that my first encounter at LAX was the unmasked TSA agent who came over to inspect me after I sent the alarm off at the security machine. True to form, I stopped her in her approach. My son would be proud.
Where’s your mask? I asked. You can’t inspect me without a mask. She went off and someone else took her place. The bins where I was told to put my carry-ons, unload my computer and laptop, place handbag and back-pack, jacket, shoes, were dirty. Everything got a thorough spray with alcohol before I unloaded them and put them on. I sprayed carry on bag, too.
I’m taking no chances.
Everyone, all 17 of us in the boarding area, is not wearing face coverings. Maybe 15% aren’t. I guess that’s a pretty good percentage, even though we hear that people here don’t have fear — just like in Mexico. Flight attendant passes. Her face mask is hanging from her chin. I just can’t be the coronavirus police.
Stay Safe at Home. Today, on Good Friday, I immediately think of the 1964 Simon & Garfunkel song, The Sounds of Silence, knowing that the traditional Semana Santa celebrations in Oaxaca and my town, Teotitlan del Valle, have been cancelled. For religion to be cancelled in Mexico, this is a very serious time!
On April 8, the Oaxaca Public Health Service (on Twitter: @SSO_GobOax) reported 37 positive cases of COVID-19, one death, and that 17 people who were diagnosed recuperated. These numbers are probably misleading since testing is not in place, just as the numbers are inaccurate in the USA, too. Reporting from remote villages is spotty at best. Comments on the Twitter feed note that numbers do not specify particular Oaxaca regions, like the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, for example. People are questioning.
The over-arching message is #STAYHOME.
Oaxaca celebrates Good Friday in silence. This is usually a big day, one of the biggest on the annual religious festival calendar. A traditional day of processing through the streets to re-enactment the Stations of the Cross journey of Jesus to Mount Calvary along the Via Dolorosa — the Way of Pain.
In Teotitlan del Valle, the community radio station broadcasts in both Spanish and Zapotec, the indigenous language of the village. It is the first language for most. Everyone is urged to stay home. All public celebrations related to Easter here have been canceled, starting with Lunes Santo (Holy Monday) and the church is closed. I replied to @TeotitlanDValle on Twitter that this was very good news, indeed.
I have family and dear friends here. I want them to be safe.
My friend Shannon published a post today, Silent Good Friday, with her collection of past photos of the celebration in the city. You might enjoy seeing these.
Saturday, April 4, 2020–I’ve been here for over three weeks. Jacob and I have been in quarantine since Sunday, March 29. We will be free on Sunday, April 12. That is, if we continue to show no coronavirus symptoms. So far, so good. How and why?
This virus is spreading like wildfire. Much closer than six degrees of separation. More like, one or two degrees of separation. Let’s just say that someone close to us may have been exposed. May have is the operative word here. The one who may have been the transmitter showed suspected symptoms but fully recovered after a three-day series of antibiotics. Is it coronavirus? Who knows? They weren’t going to waste a test on the 12-year old without him presenting with severe respiratory breathing difficulties.
Meanwhile, we aren’t taking any chances, so we are in isolation, me and Jacob, the someone close to us, and the other someones close to this person.
Let’s go back to What does free on Sunday, April 12 mean? Just in time for Easter? Despite misguided national direction, not science, services for the masses inside a church are just not going to happen. Just in time for Passover? Not around a Seder table in real time, for sure.
I have begged my son to be let out to make a quick sweep through Ralph’s supermarket or CVS Pharmacy, just for the social connection [before we went into quarantine]. No, mom, he said. I am obedient. And, I know how to grouse. Please note: This is not a bird.
For now, my interaction is virtual. Likely yours is, too. I’m visiting with: Ralph’s. Amazon. INDIO for incense. MINNA for home goods. Office Depot. eBay. QVC. The Sock Maker by Melanie Koenig. Face masks from Hikawa Studio LLC. Hi, how are you doing today?
I need FOOD. The delivery of FOOD to the front door. Perishables (like steak and cottage cheese and almond yogurt and lettuce. Yes, God, please, something green.) A book: Bless Me, Ultima. A Leonard Baskin Haggadah (we will use rice crackers for matzo, salsa for charoset). A microwave oven to replace the one I broke on Day Four with fastest delivery from QVC. A printer for mailing labels. Fitbit batteries. Jewelry making supplies (stay tuned).
And, of course, to improve the aesthetic of a bachelor pad, cozy sofa pillows and a faux wicker side table for the deck (ordered with bachelor review and agreement, lest his mother take over).
My North Carolina girlfriends are having a standing weekly cocktail hour. In the age of social distancing, we are learning a new form of relationship, five of us on-screen, each a minuscule square, drink in hand, each taking a turn at the wheel, so to speak. (I’m rationing my mezcal.)
Sometimes, it feels like we need a moderator! It’s never like that in real life. But this is real time, if not real life. The rules of social engagement are changing. We are learning how to navigate a virtual world that is pioneering. En masse, we yearn for burgers together at Alley 26 and ramen at Dashi.
What are we learning from this?
For me, being on-screen with friends and family is a privilege, a luxury, because we have access to technology. But, it does not substitute for human, face-to-face interaction, a hug or a kiss, the comfort of being close.
What do you think? How are you coping with isolation and distancing? How will this change us?
Back to, What does free on Sunday, April 12 mean? We are practicing the ritual of isolation. I am getting used to it now. Not much will change. Jacob will return to seeing his girlfriend. I may buy a plane ticket soon to get to North Carolina in mid-May — if, the virus outbreak there has flattened like it has here in California because of early social distancing and face covering mandates. Thank you, Governor Newsom!
The last four snowbirds left this morning. Four of us remain, says Kalisa Wells, who has a home in San Diego and spends most of the year in Oaxaca. She lives in a large apartment complex the residents call Holy Crespo in the historic center of Oaxaca, within sight of Basilica de Soledad. Soledad is the patron saint of our city.
I asked Kalisa to be my eyes and ears on the ground for this issue. Here’s what she says.
Today (March 25, 2020) was very quiet. It is early and it’s Wednesday, and for sure there are less people. There are kiddies’ fun rides set up in the Zocalo now. It wasn’t there last week. South of the Zocalo, there are lots of permanent vendors set up, and ALL the stores and businesses were open. All the churches are open, as are all the small family-style restaurants.
I’ve not been north of the Zocalo for some time. [This is the tourist area along the Andador Macedonio Alcala, the principal walking street.]
There is a long line at the bank and everyone is standing close together. The Santander [bank] on the corner across from the Cathedral has reopened with multiple ATM machines. I was the only customer. Be assured, I don’t talk to anyone or touch anyone. I’m home now and all scrubbed up!
My life in the city is tranquil, and always has been. I focus on solitude, nature, cooking, reading, studying, listening to Beethoven in the mornings. I cherish this kind of existence. Right now, I’m reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.
My concerns? That Trump has many followers and this will not just magically go away, even with him not being re-elected.
What am I afraid of in Mexico? The same thing; that the leaders have self-interests and the poor people will be further trampled on, maybe without knowing it. I read from many gueros living here the concern for the poor, the daily wage earner. What can she or he do? The billionaire government of Mexico must step up and feed the people … no one should be living as they have left them even before the virus.
My friends who live in the same building are respecting our distance. That’s the only way we can protect ourselves now.
Tomorrow, we will hear from Mitla weaver, Arturo Hernandez. Then, I will re-evaluate if I continue on this thread or shift to another topic. Tell me what you think and want to hear about.
Here in Huntington Beach, California, my son Jacob and I talked this morning about narcissicist-sadistic personality disorder as described by Eric Fromm and related to our nation’s leader. He is a creating a national reality show in which states and health care organizations compete for scarce resources, deriving pleasure in watching who will lose and who will win. I cried. Feeling helpless is just one step away from feeling hopeless. Time to re-read Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
This is my 14th day of extreme social distancing after flying from Oaxaca to Orange County, California, through Houston. So far, no symptoms.
I’ve just subscribed to Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American. You might find it valuable. Thanks to Mary Davis and Margaret Sherraden.
Meanwhile, here’s a message from a physician that could make you cry. I did. It’s what prompted me to call my senators. Share, if you wish.
The CDC is recommending hospital staff use bandanas when masks run out. Hospitals are asking the public to sew masks. Here is a physician responding:
Please don’t tell me that in the richest country in the world in the 21st century, I’m supposed to work in a fictionalized Soviet-era disaster zone and fashion my own face mask out of cloth because other Americans hoard supplies for personal use and so-called leaders sit around in meetings hearing themselves talk. I ran to a bedside the other day to intubate a crashing, likely COVID, patient. Two respiratory therapists and two nurses were already at the bedside. That’s 5 N95s masks, 5 gowns, 5 face shields and 10 gloves for one patient at one time. I saw probably 15-20 patients that shift, if we are going to start rationing supplies, what percentage should I wear precautions for?
Make no mistake, the CDC is loosening these guidelines because our country is not prepared. Loosening guidelines increases healthcare workers’ risk but the decision is done to allow us to keep working, not to keep us safe. It is done for the public benefit – so I can continue to work no matter the personal cost to me or my family (and my healthcare family). Sending healthcare workers to the front line asking them to cover their face with a bandana is akin to sending a soldier to the front line in a t-shirt and flip flops.
I don’t want talk. I don’t want assurances. I want action. I want boxes of N95s piling up, donated from the people who hoarded them. I want non-clinical administrators in the hospital lining up in the ER asking if they can stock shelves to make sure that when I need to rush into a room, the drawer of PPE equipment I open isn’t empty. I want them showing up in the ER asking “how can I help” instead of offering shallow “plans” conceived by someone who has spent far too long in an ivory tower and not long enough in the trenches. Maybe they should actually step foot in the trenches.
I want billion-dollar companies like 3M halting all production of any product that isn’t PPE to focus on PPE manufacturing. I want a company like Amazon, with its logistics mastery (it can drop a package to your door less than 24 hours after ordering it), halting its 2-day delivery of 12 reams of toilet paper to whoever is willing to pay the most in order to help get the available PPE supply distributed fast and efficiently in a manner that gets the necessary materials to my brothers and sisters in arms who need them.
I want Proctor and Gamble, and the makers of other soaps and detergents, stepping up too. We need detergent to clean scrubs, hospital linens and gowns. We need disinfecting wipes to clean desk and computer surfaces. What about plastics manufacturers? Plastic gowns aren’t some high-tech device, they are long shirts/smocks…made out of plastic. Get on it. Face shields are just clear plastic. Nitrile gloves? Yeah, they are pretty much just gloves…made from something that isn’t apparently Latex. Let’s go. Money talks in this country. Executive millionaires, why don’t you spend a few bucks to buy back some of these masks from the hoarders, and drop them off at the nearest hospital.
I love biotechnology and research but we need to divert viral culture media for COVID testing and research. We need biotechnology manufacturing ready and able to ramp up if and when treatments or vaccines are developed. Our Botox supply isn’t critical, but our antibiotic supply is. We need to be able to make more plastic ET tubes, not more silicon breast implants.
Let’s see all that. Then we can all talk about how we played our part in this fight. Netflix and chill is not enough while my family, friends and colleagues are out there fighting. Our country won two world wars because the entire country mobilized. We out-produced and we out-manufactured while our soldiers out-fought the enemy. We need to do that again because make no mistake, we are at war, healthcare workers are your soldiers, and the war has just begun.
Mostly written Saturday, March 21, 2020 — We are all likely in the same circumstances. If we aren’t, well, we should be. Physical isolation is necessary … and difficult. Here, in Southern California, where I’ve been for over a week with my son, I have no real time social contact other than with him, an occasional visit with his girlfriend Shelley (who is clean), and a weekly invitation from her mother Holly to come to dinner. Holly has had no contact with anyone other than Shelley this week. I have to assume she is clean, too. Yes?
Governor Gavin Newsome was the first to order Stay at Home. This is why I’m happy to be in California now. There is strong leadership here. When I arrived, my plan was to continue on to Durham, NC, for a while. Life changes fast.
Today, I went for a 10K step walk in the wetlands along the Pacific Ocean. The trails were busier than last weekend. I actually had to stop and ask people to maintain a six-foot distance from me, move into single file. I moved off the trail regularly so others could pass. No one did the same for me. One guy joked that he was only five feet away. I said, Not funny. Next time, earlier and not on weekends!
Saturday, March 21, 2020, my friend Winn is reporting from Oaxaca:
“Oaxaca grows quieter every day. Yesterday, I strolled my ‘hood’ just to get out of my house for a while, to see who’s still out and about, which restaurants, stores, and coffee spots remain open. Lo and behold, a wedding in the church! The same vendors awaiting the wedding party with tamales and jugos [juice]. The city officials have mandated no gatherings, and police will politely ask any groups to simply go home. I’ll go to the park tomorrow morning, but don’t expect to find my tai chi pals there. I do my 10-second breath test and check my temperature every day, and check in with neighbor and friends also holed up at home. This quiet solitude is both welcome and nerve-wracking. Even if I decided to just go home [to New Mexico], the travel itself is now a big obstacle. Thank goodness for WhatsApp calls, Netflix, and eBooks. Just finished bingeing Money Heist, and started a good book.”
I’m looking for Reporters from Oaxaca to include a personal take on what you observe. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We went to the market. That is, Jacob went food shopping and I waited at the far end of the parking lot on a bench, face to the sun waiting for the 10 a.m. pharmacy opening. But, I needed to pick up an Rx transferred from NC, plus, you know: blue shampoo for my platinum hair, Biotin, Tylenol PM, soap-free face wash, toothpaste. Usually I ride in the car where I wait. Like being on House Arrest. He’s protective. He won’t let me go in.
At home, I sprayed all this with isopropyl alcohol, along with six wine bottles, two lemonade jugs, three jars of pasta sauce, bags of pretzels and chips, cleaning sponges, olive oil and ground ginger. Everything someone else would have touched. All the fresh fruit and vegetables soaked for 30-minutes in Microdyne colloidal silver. [Read HERE about disinfecting food. It’s not just for Mexico anymore.] There still was no TP. We are getting close to using paper napkins and reverting to disposal Mexican style — in a receptacle by the side of the toilet.
Across the back parking lot, the neighbors are on Day Two of a three-day estate sale. There are estates here, just not in this neighborhood. It’s Orange County, which only recently turned Blue, sort of. Lots of Trumpets live here who still believe the world is flat. Looking out the dining room window I see a push lawn mower, discolored upholstery foam, spindly lamps with gold fringed shades a la Marie Antoinette, a lonely black office chair with sunken seat cushion, plastic storage bins that need a good 409 cleaning, a turkey fryer, assorted boxes of used clothes. I didn’t see anyone pull out their hand sanitizer.
The chicken soup is on the stove, simmering. Jacob went to Shelley’s on an overnight. I’m feeding the cat and will figure out the Direct TV wand to either watch a movie or get more news. I’m certain I will hear a regurgitation of the lack of Washington leadership. Did I say it? We still have no toilet paper.
Every time I cough, I wonder. I’m hoping my sniffles and occasional cough are seasonal allergies. There are no thermometers to be had. So far, no fever.
Jacob and I have talked about which hospital to take me to if I get sick. He researched it and sent me a link. We all need an Contingency Plan.
How are we coping? Living online. Using Zoom. A daily ritual with my sister.
Our social connection is the Internet. In addition to Zoom, I’m using FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and email (last resort).
Thirty years ago, I started following Sherry Turkle, sociologist and psychologist, when she got her MIT computer science department appointment to study and teach about the human factors of technology.
Here’s a article in Politico about our dystopian world and what all this social isolation translates to how we live our lives next, in which Sherry Turkle is one of the experts quoted.
Get out and walk!
Sunday Morning News Flash: Jacob just walked in with a 12-pack of Cottonelle he bought at Target. Gold. Un milagro!
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