I can’t believe this is happening. Can you?
Sometime in January, the universe sneezed, our space-time continuum shifted, and our metaverse got switched with another. Somehow we got stuck in someone else’s pandemic novel. Or this is proof we’re all living a simulation, like Neo, and somebody with a warped sense of humor introduced a new glitch in the Matrix. I guess it depends on whether you like getting your stories from books or movies. I’m a writer. I like books. I also like cool sci-fi movies. Don’t make me choose favorites.
Not only am I having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that a deadly pandemic of biblical proportions has brought every nation in the world to its knees, but everyone is being ordered to adopt my reclusive lifestyle. Stay at home. Stay away from people. Don’t go anywhere. Limit your grocery shopping to once a week. Don’t go to Disneyland. Don’t visit your elderly parents. Check, check, check, check, check, check. I’ve been doing all this for years.
Back in January, I watched with both fascination and horror the proverbial slow-motion train wreck of Chinese authorities in Wuhan literally locking people into their homes in an attempt to stop of the spread of the virus. I remember thinking, wow, sucks to be them. I wonder if it’s going to come over here? I wondered the same thing when SARS and Ebola broke out. Especially Ebola. Dying from vomiting blood? No, thank you. Neither arrived in the U.S., thank God, and I didn’t think Covid-19 would either.
Boy was I wrong.
My first inkling that something odd was happening was sometime in February when I was at Vons late one night buying last minute ingredients I needed for a recipe. A couple was waiting in line in front of me with a shopping cart full of gallon-sized jugs of water. When they reached the cashier, they bought up the entire display box of Kind® snack bars intended for single purchases. They didn’t have any toilet paper. No one at that time knew how precious a commodity toilet paper would soon become.
Then the first U.S. death from coronavirus was reported in Washington state on Feb 29th, 2020.
Four days later, on March 4th, California’s first fatality was reported, and California declared a statewide emergency.
Then the stock market took a nose dive.
On March 11th, during the 6 p.m. (PDT) live broadcast to the nation, President Trump declared a travel ban on flights to and from Europe. That’s when it hit me, the surreal feeling that our metaverse got switched, and we were now living in a pandemic novel. Or a simulation.
I mean, come on—Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States? The glitch in the Matrix probably happened back on November 8th, 2016 when a real estate mogul and reality star become President and Commander-in-Chief. Let’s stop denying the obvious—we’re living in a simulation. Or an alternate reality story line in a different metaverse. Hard to tell the difference when you’re stuck in the middle of it.
The next day, on March 12th, Disneyland closed. And when Disneyland closes, you know things are bad.
The day after that, on March 13th, San Diego Unified announced schools would close the following Monday, most likely for the rest of the school year.
(My younger son was thrilled when he heard this announcement. He’d asked to be homeschooled for years, joking how great it would be for some catastrophe to happen that would force the school to close. He got his wish. In fact, it seems a little too convenient. Too coincidental. It makes me suspect he conspired with his brother to hack a top-secret government computer and trigger the glitch in the Matrix.)
Then this happened: panic buying at Vons.
Life as we knew it is over. As of May 16th, according to the John Hopkins COVID-19 map, 88,230 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus. Toilet paper, flour and sugar are still hard to find. Now stores are limiting meat. Just the other day, Souplantation, Nordstroms, and JC Penny announced they’re are all going out of business. We’re becoming a nation of germophobes and agoraphobes, obsessively washing our hands, hiding behind masks, and avoiding people for the foreseeable future, because doing otherwise will kill us.
And this is only the beginning. We still have another year to get through, and that’s assuming we’ll have a vaccine by 2021.
As for me, I’m doing fine. My routine hasn’t changed all that much since the lockdown began. I’m an introvert, a natural at “social distancing” before it had a name. I’m still spending every morning writing (and still not making a penny doing any of it, but I’ll save that for another blog post). I start feeling a little cooped up between two and four in the afternoon, but it’s nothing a few hours outside won’t take care of—taking a jog around the neighborhood; or pulling weeds, trimming bushes, and futzing around with drip tubing for my drought-tolerant yard.
My kids tell me they’re fine. They seem okay. They’re introverts like me, and appear to be content staying at home, away from people, doing their homework online, staring at a computer screen all day long. But who knows how they’re really doing. I have noticed their internal clocks shifted to a different time zone. My older son switched to the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone, and doesn’t emerge from his room until ten in the morning. My younger son’s internal clock is further west, ticking somewhere on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, just shy of the International Date Line, getting up at 1p.m. This means I still get three to four quiet hours of quality writing time every weekday morning if I set my alarm. Or it means I’m not doing my job as a parent. Probably both.
I feel bad for my kids, especially my older son, a senior in high school. His identity as a high school student disintegrated the day school shut down, and so did his connection to friends and a larger community. His varsity swim meets all disappeared. The culmination of everything he’s accomplished as a student in the past twelve years will be reduced to a single piece of paper handed to him by a masked school administrator—if he’s lucky. If not, he’ll watch a district Zoom commencement address, and his diploma will show up in the mail.
What a letdown. I can’t imagine.
As a speculative fiction writer, I feel like I should be taking notes right now, since I’m living—so help me God—through a pandemic of biblical proportions in what feels like an alternate reality timeline. Except I’m pretty certain I’ll never write a pandemic novel, ever. But maybe someone else will someday. So here are some notes and news headlines, most of them from my local paper (San Diego Union Tribune), mixed with a few of my own journal entries. It’s a work in progress. I’ll try to keep it updated.
Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy, wear your face mask, and get plenty of sleep.
And for goodness sake, stop hoarding the toilet paper.
Covid Pandemic Timeline, February – May 2020
Updated May 16, 2020
Saturday, February 29
I went to Costco to stock up for the Coronavirus apocalypse. The parking lot was packed. There was one parking spot behind the building we (my husband and I) lucked out and got it. They were sold out of large jugs of water, and almost sold out of all water and rice. All the large bags of white rice were gone. There were a few bags left of Indian basmati rice. They were sold out of bacterial wipes.
First U.S. death from coronavirus reported in Washington state as California officials warn that the virus will spread. A person who was not among the previously reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. has died of COVID-19, say Washington health officials.
California’s first fatality — an elderly patient who apparently contracted the virus on a cruise — prompted the governor to declare a statewide emergency as six new cases were confirmed.
Miramar to host cruise ship passengers for coronavirus quarantine.
Nearly 1,000 California residents on board Grand Princess cruise ship will be quarantined at two military bases in the state.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 7.8%, its steepest drop since the financial crisis of 2008.
Italy imposes nationwide restrictions to contain coronavirus
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says he is restricting travel nationwide to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
(SD Union Tribune) 7:14 PM – San Diego County gets its first case of coronavirus. After weeks of negative test results, novel coronavirus made a sudden appearance in San Diego County Monday evening, with public health officials announcing the region’s first positive COVID-19 test at 7 p.m. Woman in her 50s had traveled overseas and is hospitalized in serious condition. She had traveled abroad about two weeks ago, tested positive after a local hospital admitted her with serious symptoms including fever and respiratory difficulties. Her infection, for the moment, is considered “probable” because it has not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During a 6 p.m. broadcast to the nation, the President declared a travel ban on flights to and from Europe for thirty days.
LA County reports its first coronavirus death.
March 12 – News
(Email from a college my son was accepted into: “Due to ongoing concerns and preventative measures regarding COVID-19, prospective student visits for college have been canceled”).
Miramar Marine tests positive for COVID-19. Case is not connected to the Grand Princess cruise evacuees, an official said.
SDSU, Mountain West suspend all spring sports; NCAA Tournament still up in the air. School also cancels all team activities for men’s basketball and spring football through the weekend
NCAA cancels basketball tournament; Aztecs season is over at 30-2
Div. II basketball tournament also scrapped with 30-1 UCSD men ranked No. 4
Disneyland, California Adventure to close for the rest of the month over coronavirus
Start of Padres season in question after state agency recommends ban on large gatherings to counter coronavirus. MLB games could be moved, played without fans, or start of season could be postponed over coronavirus concerns.
Major League Baseball suspends season amid coronavirus fears. Team owners decide to halt spring training, delay start of regular season for at least two weeks.
Worst day on Wall Street since 1987 as virus fears spread. The stock market had its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987 as fears of economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis deepened.
County announces 5 additional coronavirus cases, bans large gatherings amid coronavirus pandemic. Seniors, people with chronic illnesses urged to stay at home.
March 13: SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Officials with two of Southern California’s largest schools districts have announced closures effective Monday, March 16, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
First day of San Diego Unified school closure.
Dow dives 2,999 points on fears virus will cause recession.
The Dow industrials took a 2,999-point nosedive on Monday as fears deepen that the coronavirus outbreak will throw global economy into recession.
5:26 PM, WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday invoked wartime powers that could boost the manufacturing of medical equipment used to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom orders all Californians to stay at home.
COVID-19 claims first life of San Diego County resident.
So far there have been 25 deaths in the state from COVID-19, including one man from San Diego County.
More than 60 percent of San Diego County restaurants have completely closed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus.
May 9th – Little Richard died from bone cancer (not Covid). He was 87.