Is The Coronavirus Freaking You Out Too?
And How Can A Girl Get A Couple Face Masks?
When The Coronavirus First Personally Affected Me
So, I think when the Coronavirus started to feel frighteningly real for me, was the day when some close family friends, The Hopland’s, who had been happily cruising along on the Diamond Princess were suddenly quarantined on the ship. It was eerie to see the cruise ship anchored in the ocean like that, knowing everyone was forced to stay inside their rooms. I couldn’t imagine. A quiet cruise ship… People crammed into those tiny staterooms, some without so much as a window, waiting to see if they or their loved ones had been infected.
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My heart went out to everyone on the ship but we all agreed that quarantine was necessary. Everyone hoped it would be an effective quarantine. But Dr. Hopland started saying very early that he did not think appropriate measures were being taken. And it turned out that he was right.
The day the Hopland’s were set to be flown back to the United States for a new try at quarantine, they were met at their cabin door and turned right around. Jeanie had tested positive. Eventually, they were forcibly separated when she was removed to be taken to a Japanese hospital. The couple spent their final moments together frantically downloading language apps to their phones. Then they took her away.
This whole experience felt a little too close to home. After all, Dr. Hopeland and his wife Jeanie are very close to my father-in-law. Dr. Hopland and his family are a part of our life and our community.
A few years ago we toured his new houseboat on Watauga Lake. As I watched the story unfolding on the news I flashed back to that day and the way his family happily gathered around him to celebrate that fourth of July. I teared up. I couldn’t imagine if this was my parents or my grandparents, or my family, how would I feel?
And what if it was me and Mr. Wonderful? It’s hard to imagine being separated from my husband for even a weekend. But for week after week. And in a foreign land… Plus a positive test for the coronavirus! It’s terrifying to try to take that in. Right now, Dr. Hopland remains isolated in a little dorm room on a university campus in Japan. Miles away, Jeanie remains hospitalized. It has to feel so lonely for both of them. And so wrong. Plus, it just keeps going on and on. I’ve been praying for them daily.
It was in seeing their faces on the National News that I first felt that chill crawl up my spine. Don’t scenarios like this belong on Hollywood screens? Not here in reality and on the nightly news?
Diamond Princess is a British-registered cruise ship owned and operated by Princess Cruises. It began operation in March 2004 and primarily cruises in Asia during the northern hemisphere summer and Australia during the southern hemisphere summer. It is a subclassed Grand-class ship, which is also known as a Gem-class ship.
So, it was in seeing their faces on the National News that I first felt that chill crawl up my spine. Don’t scenarios like this belong on Hollywood screens? Not here in reality and on the nightly news?
Today I Tried To Buy The NIOSH Approved N95 Face Masks
Today I had another one of those icy fingernails clawing their way up my spine moments…
This morning I was sipping my coffee and watching the news reports about how twenty people were arrested in Italy for selling face masks that they were claiming offered 100% protection from the virus for about $5500 each. The news report continued to tell us that the total number of infected had risen above 84,000 worldwide and six new countries had reported their first new cases. You can see the current numbers right here at worldometer. It was frightening. But by lunch, the new alert was that someone in California had tested positive and had no known contact with anyone who had traveled to China or been cruising on the fated Diamond Princess. And that’s when the tone changed a bit.
The Alert Level Raises
WHO – The World Health Organization raised its alert warning to its highest level. I watched as a wide-eyed reporter spoke to an expert from the CDC about how people could protect themselves. He mentioned that everyone should remain calm (while looking rather excited by the whole situation himself) but he also mentioned those N95 masks that were NIOSH approved.
I had read several times over the last month or so about how people were using these useless basic or sometimes homemade masks that didn’t provide any protection at all. There was supposed to be a slight possibility of disruption of the spread of infection in cases where the infected person was wearing the mask. Possibly. But generally, these basic face masks like the ones they give you in the doctors’ office during flu season, can not protect you from getting this virus. Everyone agrees. So what was this he was saying? N95?
I went to Google. I looked them up and Lowes, Harbor Freight, Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, Target, all carried them. But the snow was pouring down so I went onto Amazon and watched as prices rose. I couldn’t find anything with Prime delivery and people were asking as much as $20 in shipping for a pack of three. These face masks, previously selling for two or three dollars apiece were now an absolute steal at $15 and typically selling for about $40 each. I noticed expected delivery times were getting farther and farther away as I scrolled. Most were not available until late April.
None of the chain stores had any available to ship. So I decided to take my chances with the snow. My local Lowe’s showed a limited availability on their site. Off I went. I felt a little sheepish asking where the masks were. I wondered if I was overreacting. Scenes from Doomsday Preppers flashed through my mind. My cheeks turned red and I felt them warm as I asked the rep about the masks.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold, though rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19 can be lethal.
Am I Coming Off As Paranoid, I Worry…
“Can you help me please?” I asked with a bit of a squeak. “Your masks? I can’t find them. The site says aisle 16.”
“Oh no we have been out for days,” he answered. “And we have no idea when we may get more but it sounds like it is going to be a few months a least.”
He didn’t even ask me what masks I was wondering about. He knew. No worries I thought, I would just run over to Sherwin Williams. So I went back out into the cold and drove through the pouring snow. Not a single car was in the parking lot so I expected my chances to be good.
The two people at the back came out and looked at me expectantly.
“I don’t suppose you have any of those face masks left do you?” I asked. “The N95 ones?”
“Nope,” the women answered, “Sherwin Williams has sold out nationwide. It’s going to be a long time before anyone can get more.” The guy beside her nodded somberly. “We sold out days ago here. Sorry.”
As I started my car to head a few doors over to Tractor Supply the surreal quality of the situation kind of sunk in. Here I was working my way through the snow -from store to store – looking for these masks because… was I actually afraid of a worldwide pandemic that could put my family at risk? That’s when the chilling claws up my spine attacked again. I was doing exactly that.
History lessons of plagues from the past came rushing to the front of my mind. I thought of the videos on youtube I had seen of frantic nurses begging for help in China. Of body bags. Of those two mothers being dragged from their homes and forced into vans. And then news clips of abandoned cities sent into an apocalyptic silence as entire communities were sent into quarantine.
“Do not panic,” the voice of the CDC rep tried to yell above the rest of my memories.
This is silly, I told myself. The flu is far more dangerous, I insisted in an effort to gain back some peace. Not a single person has died in the United States from coronavirus, I reminded myself. But almost 3000 people will not come home again. Almost 3000 families are in mourning. I teared up again. Then bowed my head and sent a prayer for comfort and peace to the families and friends of the victims. I cleared my throat and made my way into Tractor Supply.
Tractor Supply and Our Mini Church Service
They had baby ducks in there. These sweet, fluffy, precious baby ducks were making these delicate little chirping sounds as they bounced around their boxes. I almost forgot about the impending worldwide pandemic for a few seconds, but then I heard voices coming from the boots section. Two women were talking about whether or not they should stock up on canned food.
“Did you see that video out of China where the woman said they couldn’t get any food at all?” one voice asked the other.
“I heard that they expect shelves right here in America to be empty by the end of March,” the second voice answered.
I hurried over to the paint section. Guess what? Yup, they were out of masks. I went up to the checkout and asked the cashier if they had any in the back.
We live in East Tennessee and these towns are deeply cut into the heart of the bible belt. So naturally, my request about the mask had everyone in Tractor Supply suddenly discussing End Times. Was this the pale horse riding in with its pestilence and death, one shopper wondered? Before we knew it, we were quoting scripture. All that was missing for a full-on Sunday Service was a worship leader. The ducks quacked their baby quacks in the backgrounds, a choir of sorts.
We were relieved to learn from one shopper that there had been no recordable increase in the number of earthquakes, however, the conversation also highlighted that billions of locusts were at that very moment decimating food supplies in East Africa. Famine? We were unable to reach a decision about the probability of a near-future event before my phone dinged and I excused myself back out into the storm.
My husband had sent me a text. It was a number. It began with a negative. It was our stock situation and it had taken a vicious hit. The markets are definitely scared of coronavirus too today.
Back out to my car I decided to save some gas and started calling around instead of driving from store to store. No one had any. No one would. I was at least two days behind the crowd. I found a drastically overpriced set of three on eBay and went ahead and ordered.
The snow stopped falling.
Am I Losing It?
So I ask you, did I panic today? Or did I make a reasonable attempt to be prepared for the likely possibility that these masks may help out our family? Just in case. Is it best to be prepared? And am I alone here? Obviously not, because it appears at least half of the country beat me to the masks? Did you get masks? How is everyone else handling this? Am I alone in my being haunted by the images that have come out of China? And how do they get all those videos deleted? Should I be stocking up on canned goods too? What about bleach and Lysol?
And why is it scarier to me that everyone is starting every report with the words, “Don’t panic!”
Yes, the coronavirus is clearly freaking me out. What about you?
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