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Dispatches from Coronavirus America – The American Prospect

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As part of our Unsanitized series, I have solicited our community of readers to send in communications on how they’re dealing with this complete upheaval of our everyday lives. The emails I have received have been extraordinary: some sad, some uplifting, some just bluntly expressing the realities of life in a time of coronavirus.

In fact, I’ve received too many to fit into my everyday coverage. So here’s a sampling of reader dispatches. And if you wanted to tell me how you’re coping through as well, email me at ddayen(at)

First up, reader HB checks in from Wisconsin:

My wife and I, both just over 90, live in a CCRC in Madison, WI (the state capital). The state is pretty well locked down by order of the governor. In our 2-building complex, all events (e.g., the daily movie, concert, or lecture in the largest common room) are shut down. (The movies are streamed over the complex’s own TV channel, as are the weekly schedule and other information.) No more meals, served or buffet, in the lunchroom or dining room. You order online (hopefully before 8 AM for breakfast and lunch, before 5 PM for supper) from the list pinned to your apartment door. The meals are delivered, mostly by the same people who used to wait on tables.

No visitors unless we’re terminally ill. But nothing keeps us from leaving the building, either by foot, in our own car (in the garage), or in someone else’s. I believe we can still be delivered to and fetched from medical/dental appointments as usual.

The university nearby is locked down. Now that the week’s spring break is over, everything is online; only those with special permission (e.g., they have to keep their lab equipment running) can enter any building. There’s talk of using the empty dorms for overflow from the hospitals if necessary. So far we’ve walked briefly outdoors but are otherwise hunkered down.

I think the better comparator is which politicians are taking action, and I think there will be plenty of examples on both sides of the aisle where things could have been done better, no matter the letter after a person’s name.

Here’s LK in Ohio with a corrective for yours truly, who noted in an earlier Unsanitized report “the difference in action and results between neighboring states Kentucky, with a new Democratic governor, and Tennessee, with its Republican government”:

Ohio and Michigan offer almost the opposite contrast. Our two states have taken similar actions, but in each case, Ohio’s Republican governor, [Mike DeWine] acted just a bit sooner and a bit more stringently than Michigan’s Democratic governor [Gretchen] Whitmer. 

Most significantly to me, as someone who had a 30-year career in infectious diseases lab work, is the stark upswing in Michigan’s cases 9 days after they held their in-person voting.

As you know, there was a significant stink made about DeWine postponing Ohio’s elections, with Symone Sanders, Biden‘s spokesperson, going on CNN to tell everyone it was safe to go to the polls. I’m no Republican and I can’t stand my governor but he absolutely made the right choice in postponing our March 17 elections to June. And the Ohio Dem party sued him for it. But look at the numbers in the above story and it looks a lot more like he’s been making the right decisions all along.

So, to sum up, I know it’s de rigueur to make political comparisons all over the place with respect to coronavirus, but I think the better comparator is which politicians are taking action, and I think there will be plenty of examples on both sides of the aisle where things could have been done better, no matter the letter after a person’s name.

DP in New Mexico wants to highlight food system flexibility:

My wife and I are retired and at higher risk age cohort for COVID-19.  We therefore have self-isolated. In searching for food options, we’ve found some local businesses (Santa Fe, NM) who are innovating in order to maintain their employees:

1) New Mexico Harvest—a CSA that delivers weekly or bi-weekly delivery of to pick-up points or directly to homes.  Short supply chain to local farmers (reduces handling and other supply-chain issues), eliminates visits to grocery stores (eliminates needless risk of exposure/transmission).  Recent newsletter from them states their membership has grown 50 percentd in one week.  They are therefore expanding their member farms.  It takes ~15 members to support a single CSA farm.  Impressive growth!

Compare this with traditional food sources like Trader Joe’s, where both staff and customers are exposed, the store itself becomes a hub for transmission to the local community, and delivery or curb-side pickup has been rejected by TJ’s as infeasible.  As you may know, TJs employees are whistle-blowing about unsafe conditions and there is an ongoing unionization effort now, due to COVID-19 hardships being experienced.  

2) Example of a local caterer who has had to change their business model in order to keep their staff.  Given there are no gatherings in Santa Fe to cater, they now prepare and deliver (or curbside pickup) prepared meals throughout Santa Fe.    

3) Produce wholesaler now selling to laid-off/stressed individuals within service industry, due to bar/restaurant shutdown in the state: $25 for a box of produce.  

Generally speaking it’s impressive how quickly local food suppliers are evolving and expanding, somewhat mirror image to your reporting on Amazon.  

PC in California is someone who may slip through the cracks of our relief efforts:

You asked about our experiences, so here is mine.

I own [name redacted] with my biz partner.  It’s my sole source of income (aside from selling vintage, which is a cash side biz).

We are a once-a-month flea market. We have over 299 sellers, and thousands of shoppers, so it’s hard to say when we will be able to hold a market.  During the month we work hard to sell the spaces and I do marketing to get the shoppers to come, plus operations, bookkeeping, etc.  

We hire a crew of about 12 people on the weekend of the show.  They are mostly 1099.  So we don’t have any employees, and we just pay ourselves “a draw” as we go.

So as far as I understand:

• I can’t claim unemployment

• I won’t get small biz loan that is qualified by me continuing to pay employees cause we don’t have any

• I won’t get sick leave if I get sick.

• My sons and I are on MediCal, but since my landlord let me buy the house from him by carrying the mortgage (at same monthly amount as my rent was) the SNAP worker decided I didn’t qualify.

So how will I support myself and my 2 kids if this lasts longer than my 2 or 3 months of savings? (I am a penny pincher plus we were saving for a trip, so, yes, I actually have enough for now.) Should I talk to my owner/lender about postponing payments? 

I think the gift card idea of Rep. [Rashida] Tlaib is the best option.  KISS is my mantra, and Roosevelt is my idol.  The Dems need to lead with being like Roosevelt.  We are both at war and in a depression

Finally, here’s an incredible report from SS in Washington state (and best wishes to her):

I’m 74 and I live alone. I’d been living in Georgia for couple of years, and decided to move back to western Washington last fall to be near family.  I bought a small motor home, drove across country, and have been living in a long-term combo camp/RVpark/LakeResort with monthly long-term arrangements for full-timers.  It’s about 20 miles southeast of Tacoma on a lake. They also stock fish for visitors and have nature trails, so they get daytrippers and in the summer overnight tent campers and they rent cabins.

Their monthly rates are reasonable, so there are a lot of older people living here full time. My thought was to stay for the winter as it was close to family, and then find a property in the area in the spring.

That all went out the window in February here. I’ve been fortunate all my life to have good health, but I got a cold which morphed to a sinus infection and then to walking pneumonia just about the time the very beginning of the Coronavirus hit here.  I realized I was ill, and thought, “could I have this stuff?”  

I ended up in an urgent care ER facility near Tacoma and they did a flu-check, which was negative. They took temperatures, asked if I’d been to China, took blood and then a chest X-ray and pronounced me with a minor case of pneumonia, prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler and sent me home. I asked them if they checked me for COVID-19 and they said that at that time only people that they admit to the hospital can have the test. Then they said that now that I had pneumonia, I was at higher risk and should stay home.

Great! I’ve tried to stay home but it’s hard. My little fridge doesn’t hold much and I have to shop for food once a week, up in Graham or Puyallup. I tried using the online order feature where you order and then you park and they bring it to your car, but they are so swamped now that you have to order 4 or 5 days in advance and big chunks of your list will likely be gone anyway.

They are running out of everything. Of course, there has been no hand sanitizers or isopropyl or wipes or even bleach for weeks but now everything else is running out.  The only sanitizer is on the wipes you can get at the door and even that is running out now.  I don’t know what will happen when the food runs out. Will we all be out in the woods foraging for grubs?

Back at the RV camp, it’s crazy. Schools are all out now and kids are acting like it’s summer vacation. I am amazed at what is going on at this camp. Our state is in the middle of a shutdown for the COVID-19 crisis, the governor has ordered all recreational activities to stop and asked people to stay in their homes, schools and most businesses are closed—yet everyone is coming here now to play! Playing basketball, horseshoes, riding bikes and skateboards. Picnicking by the lake, playing on the large jungle gym!

I am a retired field biologist and I know that if this kind of behavior is going on all over Washington it’s only a matter of time before our hospitals are overrun.  I don’t know why so many people are not taking this seriously, many are, but not enough. If this continues I see some real tragedies brewing here.  I just hope I’m not one of them.  

Hanging on and trying to self-quarantine in the woods.

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