••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Surviving At Home
Author’s Note: Five years ago, I wrote a mostly fictional memoir, “The View From 85.” At the end of this year I’ll try to write a memoir, not fictional, “The View From 90.”
I’m now writing it month by month; this is April.
The View From 90: April Lockdown 2020
I wrote at the end of March that I wondered what the next month would bring. The answer was that it brought a full-blown pandemic upon the world and to the United States.
The numbers, which I looked up, tell the story. Worldwide the number of coronavirus cases went from 857,000 at the beginning of April to over 3 million at the end; the number of deaths went from 70,000 to 233,000. In the United States, the number of cases went from 188,000 to 3,400,000 and the number of deaths from less than 5,000 to 62,000+. This was despite the fact that most of the world’s nations, including the United States (except for a few states), were in lockdown, meaning people were told to stay home except for essential tasks; those 65 and over were told to stay home, period; and there was to be social distancing (at least six feet), sanitizing, hand washing and I don’t know what else, all meant to “mitigate” (another new word) the spread of the virus.
This wasn’t all. The country being pretty well shut down meant that the economy followed suit. Almost immediately the unemployment insurance claims soared, over 30 million nationwide and a million in California. Needless to say, California’s so-called Employment Development Department, better known as the Unemployment Insurance agency, couldn’t handle all these claims and the whole thing was a mess. As nobody was flying anywhere, the airlines were going broke. Nobody was buying cars so there went the auto industry. I think I’ve already mentioned that the food industry, with restaurants and bars closed, was virtually wiped out. The stock market, which had soared to great heights, the Dow Jones up around 30,000, took a plunge, down by over 1,000 one session, to around 23,000. A lot of people lost a lot of money.
In the meantime, those big stimulus checks were being sent out and I guess people who’d gotten a tax refund and who’d given the IRS their bank information were getting them. That’s what the IRS said anyway. As I had to pay rather than get a refund I wasn’t among the recipients. However, I was getting my social security payments by direct deposit so I thought that maybe the IRS could get my bank info by this means. Ha, ha. There was a website set up, IRS/gov, that supposedly told you about getting the stimulus checks and the first few times I was told nothing was available, just as expected from a government agency. Then I was told I could enter my bank information, but there was a catch. The IRS wanted to know my gross income and tax paid on my latest tax return. I put in the figures from 2019 but these didn’t match what the IRS had (they said) and I was told to try 2018. I did this, with the same result. I did some Googling and it seemed many people had the same experience. As with any time you had to enter a password for something it was automatically deemed “invalid” whatever figures you gave the IRS wouldn’t match. So much for what should have been a simple thing; I muttered a few curses and forgot about IRS.gov.
So now we had a health crisis and also an economic crisis as a result. But we still had the task force and its daily briefings to reassure us, right? Not quite. The President continued to reassure us that everything was going fine, which was suspicious in itself. There was a big thing about ventilators, which were evidently in short supply, but production was ramped up and at every briefing Trump bragged about how anyone who needed a ventilator was able to get one. Hope this was true. There was a similar to-do about masks being in short supply and this was supposedly remedied. Then there was the matter of testing, with Trump saying the U.S. was doing more testing than any other country although it’s obvious we’re still way behind what the health experts say is needed.
But the worst thing about the briefings was that the President held a kind of press conference afterwards and these consisted of exchanges with hostile reporters that went on forever. Viewers wanted the latest information about what was going on with the virus; who cared about Trump’s feud with the fake media? It was no wonder that his approval rating went down.
In mid-April something of interest to everyone was presented at the daily briefing, a plan devised to “open” up things in stages and state by state. First, Trump originally said that he was the final authority on opening up; then, in typical fashion, reversed himself and said everything, including testing, was up to the states. The stages included such things as a two-week decline in infections, hospitals able to handle cases, etc. This all seemed pretty reasonable at the time, but you knew that when it came for putting this plan in practice you knew things would be different.
The media first bashed Trump for assuming dictatorial powers and then for not talking responsibility and putting it all on the governors. The media also did their best to stir up a battle between Trump and Dr. Fauci but at the end of the month the doctor was still around. Another bone of contention was the matter of wearing masks. Health workers of course wore masks. At first, ordinary people were told not to wear masks, then the health authorities reversed themselves and said we should wear them. The media were greatly concerned about whether Trump wore a mask. If he didn’t, he was endangering those around him. If he did, he was taking advantage of his position to wear a mask that otherwise would go to someone else. His position, he said, was that he didn’t like wearing a mask but that other people should do as they pleased. This wasn’t to be the end of the mask controversy.
But the media’s main focus was on two other things. The first was on Trump’s endorsement of an anti-malarial drug called hydroxychloroquine for treatment. There was some anecdotal evidence that this drug did help in some cases and, in Trump’s words, if you were about to die anyway, “why not give it a try.” This led to the anti-Trumpsters disavowing the drug (if Trump endorsed it, it couldn’t possibly be good) with some doctors pointing out that in many cases it caused heart damage. * We now know Trump is self-treating himself with this drug and await news of imminent heart attack with interest.
The second was even more ludicrous. After a demonstration that some disinfectant killed the virus on surfaces (and that the virus didn’t thrive in sunlight) Trump wondered if that could do something if somehow it could be gotten inside a person’s body. No, he didn’t tell people to go out and drink Lysol. (Although some did) The media of course hopped on this, claiming the President was telling people to drink a poison.
This was all fun and games and maybe provided some amusement if the virus wasn’t killing a lot of people. Meanwhile, Beverly and I were battling the virus by being good citizens and doing what we mostly did anyway, staying home. We managed to get Apps for our supermarkets, Safeway and Raley’s, on our iPads, which was not easy, and ordered food and other items, not that easy either, for delivery. This became the highlights of our lockdowned life --- first the ordering, then seeing how long it would take delivery (in the case of Safeway three weeks), then waiting for the delivery, then opening up the bags when they arrived to see what we actually got and which items (always some) were not available.
We also decided we’d order take-out from restaurants once a week. We already had the Doordash and Grubhub apps and had done this before in “normal” times. Our retirement community had decided to re-open our restaurant for take-out so this gave us another option. We’d heard that people had a hard time calling for take-out but Beverly called and had no trouble ordering us hamburgers, which she then picked up at an outside window.
I also managed to get the App for my bank, Chase, onto my iPad, after only two hours or so, complete with user ID and password, which I immediately wrote down. This enabled me to see if my latest check from the Sun Senior News had reached my checking account; it hadn’t. The App was also supposed to enable me to deposit a check by taking a photo of it with the Pad. We’d see (below) about that.
Outside of doing all the ordering and App-getting, which took a considerable amount of time, we had to get out of our house sometimes so began taking a short walk to the pond (it was on our golf course) and back, once seeing a heron close-up and a few times a duck or two on the pond. We also went to what was called the “nature area,” which had a circular path and some benches to rest on. Our next-door-neighbor had made masks for us that we didn’t especially like to wear but we had them around our necks, ready to cover our faces if we came close to anyone. However, we’d see only a very few people, who kept their distance; none wore masks. At the time, masks weren’t the big bone of contention they were to become.
The monthly senior paper I write suffered from loss of some advertising but a new issue came out. My “Favorite Restaurants” column, as I’ve noted, wasn’t in it as all restaurants had been shut down. My “Observations” column appeared and it was, as might be expected, about the ever-present virus. The virus hit me in the pocketbook as my monthly income from the paper was cut in half. However, I did manage to get my reduced check into my checking account be using the bank App I mentioned above, one of the few times something on one of my tech devices actually worked.
Although confined, we weren’t completely isolated. We regularly exchanged phone calls with our two sons who lived nearby, one in Carmichael and one in Rocklin. Our son in Ireland, not so nearby, had been calling once every two weeks; now he began calling once a week to make sure the old folks were okay. We’d also Skype with him, his wife Flindie, our grandson Logan and our one and only granddaughter Stephanie. I called my sister Phyllis, who lived in Long Island, once a week, and Beverly exchanged calls with her two brothers. We also exchanged phone calls and e-mails with friends. Everyone agreed that after a few weeks we were tired of the restrictions of our new coronavirus age.
At odd moments of the day I’d have a feeling that something in my life was missing (something other than being able to go out to lunch with friends) and I’d realize that it was sports. Nothing of interest in the sports section of the daily paper, what there was of it. Nothing on television. No scores to check on at night. Would the NBA season, abruptly cut short, ever resume? Our Sacramento Kings probably wouldn’t make the play-offs but weren’t yet mathematically eliminated. Would there be a baseball season? I’m an old tennis player and looked forward to seeing more tournaments in which I could watch the Big three --- Federer, the master; Djokovik, the rubber man; Nadal, the fighter---try to fight off the new wave. Now there was nothing. No wonder I felt that something was missing.
I’ve noted before that the pandemic was politicized right from the beginning and by the end of the April the battle lines were clearly drawn. Those on the right, Republicans, were for opening up as soon as possible to try to get the economy back on it feet. Those on the left, Dems, said that premature opening up would create another wave of infections and deaths. The lefties attributed sinister motives to the righties: they didn’t care how many people died, they wanted the economy to recover so that their evil leader, Trump, would be re-elected. The righties countered that the lefties didn’t really care about human lives, they just wanted to see their man, Joe Biden, elected and Trump overthrown if not hung for treason and other crimes.
Wait a minute, was there still an election going on? Sometimes it was hard to remember that it was. Bernie Sanders, remember him? had conceded and the Dems had rallied around Joe Biden. Biden for his part was holed up in his basement, for the most part unseen and unheard, and this is probably why he led in the polls as the more Trump appeared the more people disliked what they saw. In any case, the election promised to be a repeat of the one in 2016, once again two horrible choices. The best that could be said was that if Biden won we’d be rid of Trump and if we could survive four years of Trump we could probably survive four years of him; if Trump won, we’d be spared four years of Biden and who knows what crazy leftist policies which would touted as making us more like Sweden but would make us more like Venezuela.
Oh yes, there was also that accusation of a former woman staffer that Biden, while a Senator many years ago, had sexually assaulted her, an accusation played up by the Reps and ignored as best they could by the Dems. The Dems had to contend with the position they all took when Kavanaugh was similarly accused: the woman had to be believed. At least we’d been spared the remainder of the Dem primaries and so far of any further campaign rallies by either side.
The pandemic of course was also going on all over the world and different countries were faring in different ways. New Zealand, which had established a strict lockdown, was close to keeping out the virus altogether, but their economy, dependent in large part on tourism, had suffered as a result. Sweden, on the other hand, had largely kept open so their cases and deaths were higher than comparable countries but the virus may be running its course sooner. It was something to keep an eye on.
There were probably a few other things going on that the pandemic was overshadowing. One was the revelation coming out as various e-mails came to light, that the FBI had set out to trap General Mike Flynn. Another was the item mentioned above, the sexual assault accusation against Biden. Still another was the flap over the condition of North Korean dictator Kim Fong Un, which seems to become a news item every six months or so. He hadn’t appeared in public for a while so the speculation was that he might have had surgery for something, that he was in grave condition or he might even be dead. Then he popped up at some event so the speculation was stopped for another six months.
So, as we headed into May, the big question was whether the states opening up would do so successfully or would their citizens start dropping like flies. For us, it was what our state, California, or maybe our county, Placer, or our city, Roseville, would do. And what, if anything, our retirement community, besides opening up the golf course, would do. And for Beverly and I, it was what things our next grocery order would bring and what we’d have to do without.
And I still missed sports.
© Martin Green May 17th 2020
Lockdown at 90
Martin Green 4.13.20
It had been three weeks since the governor of our state, California, had ordered that, first oldsters like me, and then everyone, choose your phrase--- shelter in place, self-isolate, stay home.
Uncle Pringle and the Kidnappers
“You’ve got to help me.”