While the news from China and Italy was increasingly scary the week before we left, the President of the United States insisted that the novel corona virus (COVID-19) was just like a bad flu, and that people should continue to go to work if they weren’t feeling too sick. There was no real talk of social distancing, and very little advice about avoiding exposure to the disease.
We’d been looking forward to our trip. After over 30 years of being controlled by tax deadlines, I could now travel any time of the year. We figured that if the first event on our schedule wasn’t cancelled, we’d be fine if we showed an abundance of caution. Our pre-travel purchases included hand sanitizer gel and spray, and a big container of disinfectant wipes.
Early on a Friday morning, we hit the road. We made sure to wash our hands thoroughly after every stop and used hand sanitizer liberally. When we checked into our hotel, we wiped every surface down with the disinfectant wipes, especially doorknobs and faucet handles. We proceeded to the event to find a long line of people standing close together and waiting for the doors to open. When we got inside the room it was crowded. There was less handshaking and hugging, but there was no really noticeable change from previous years. In retrospect those days, just a couple of weeks ago, seem like a distant, more innocent, past.
We continued our trip and met up with some family members, one of whom has a chronic illness. We continued to use precautions, handwashing and sanitizing, as well as staying away from people who seemed ill, but restaurants continued to seat patrons close together, and standing in line still meant being close to strangers.
By the end of that week our country was being impacted by a global pandemic. We cut our vacation short and headed home. Except for a few trips to the grocery store, we’ve been staying in our house ever since. In the last week the Coronavirus has caused life to grind to a halt. Social distancing is a widely understood, if sometimes ignored concept, and in several states, including ours, people have been ordered to stay home. Travel, sporting events, and schools have all been cancelled, businesses are closed, and the economy is crashing.
Meanwhile, as is typical these days, the government response has been mishandled, and has been stalled by partisan bickering. There is still very little testing being done for the virus in the US, and the priorities of the Executive Branch are questionable.
As for me, I am still worried about the cost of our innocent vacation. If the event we attended had been scheduled for a week later, it would have been cancelled by government restrictions. If we’d been given the facts by our government, instead of lies about the disease being under control in the US, we might have decided to cancel the trip ourselves.
I am sitting out in my backyard on a beautiful spring day in Southern California. The sky is blue, there’s a slight breeze, and my dogs are snoozing in the sun. But instead of resting my mind I worry. I worry about healthcare workers who don’t have the supplies they need to stay safe. I worry about my parents, who are in their 80s. I worry about my family and friends, many of whom are in fragile health. I worry that even though we were cautious, and have no symptoms, we may come to regret taking our trip. And, I worry that we can’t trust our government to put the health and safety of every person first.
But within all this worry is determination. I am determined to make sure that we learn from this debacle. These times have given some leaders the opportunity to shine, while others have displayed their ignorance and incompetence.
I resolve to do everything I can to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to vote in November, whether in person, or by mail. I hope everyone who reads this will join me in making sure that the truth gets out about how this crisis was handled, so that in the future we elect people who know how to lead, and who truly care about the people they’ve sworn to protect.
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