We’ve reached Day 20 of our isolation, and I’ve been keeping track of the things that have happened. It’s interesting to look back and see how quickly things progressed (and they will only continue to do so).
The following is a blog about my personal experiences during the past few months. I have tried to include relevant information to the best of my abilities. Much of the information has my personal opinions included. This is a warning for those who decide to read this, even though I think it is simply ridiculous to feel as though I have to include such a warning. Either way, you’ve been warned. Personal thoughts and opinions follow.
December 31, 2019: China notifies WHO of several unusual cases of pneumonia in Wuhan.
January: News begins trickling in about the virus. We are skeptical, and it doesn’t seem real because it is so far away. My parents share their concerns about our upcoming travel plans, and we brush them off.
January 7, 2020: Officials announce they’ve identified a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family.
January 20: First case confirmed in the U.S.
January 22: Trump says he is not worried about virus and that we have it totally under control.
January 30: WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency. Trump blocks travel from China. Holds a campaign rally in Iowa and says everything is under control.
February 11: New virus is dubbed COVID-19 by WHO.
February 24: Stock market plummets.
February 28-March 2: Trip to NYC.
Beginning of March: Toilet paper hoarding has begun, and we laugh about all of the people who are silly enough to hoard TP. Then we begin to worry that perhaps we won’t be able to find TP if we need it because people are so stupid. Stores are beginning to implement a “2 per household” limit or even one-per, in some places. “Social distancing” becomes the new catchphrase. Andy lost a lot of money out of his 401k, and I was too afraid to check mine.
March 6: Minnesota confirms first case of COVID-19.
March 10-11: Sore throat begins.
March 11: WHO declares coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Broadway usher has confirmed case of virus.
I am really upset about the virus and our inability to travel or the fact that our future travel is unknown. 2020 was supposed to be our Year of Travel! I cry. I’m disappointed. I try to tell myself that people around the world are dying and I’m over here crying because I can’t travel. I tell myself how selfish I am being, how spoiled and bratty it is, but my feelings remain the same.
March 12: Dry cough starts. I wonder if I caught a cold on the airplane or something. I normally feel a little sick after traveling. We get news from a family friend that we should go into isolation for the next 14 days in order to “flatten the curve” of people getting sick. We have finally started to take this seriously.
Friday, March 13: Stock up on groceries in the morning. Shortness of breath starts in afternoon. It is nothing like I’ve ever felt before. I pay attention to the difference in feeling between anxiety and what I am feeling now. It feels completely different. Now I begin to wonder if what I am feeling is more than a cold, if perhaps I caught the virus on our trip.
I see a post about how we have a full moon, Friday the 13th, and a virus outbreak all at one time. I laugh at how strange it all seems.
Trump finally declares a national state of emergency after spending weeks denying it was an issue and blaming it on the media and democratic party. Minnesota governor Tim Walz announces peacetime emergency.
March 14/Day one of isolation: I contact local urgent care for advice on my symptoms. Breathing worsens in evening. It feels like someone is putting pressure on my chest and no matter how deeply I breathe in, I cannot catch my breath. It’s scary and the feeling is causing my anxiety levels to rise, making the breathing even worse. The pressure from the illness is higher in my chest than where my anxiety sits. I know it is a separate thing. I can clearly feel the separation.
March 15: REI announces it is closing its stores until March 28. I feel relieved that I won’t need to use all my PTO to stay safe. I call Teladoc, who recommends the emergency room if breathing worsens or persists. I go to the ER later that night for my breathing problems. They cannot test me due to shortage of tests and not falling in the parameters (my travel wasn’t overseas, and I did not have contact with a confirmed case). I now have a prescription for an inhaler, cough suppressant, and ibuprofen.
Andy cancels his work for the week.
Minnesota governor announces schools must close by Wednesday, March 18. Minnesota detected first confirmed cases caused by “community spread,” those not linked to overseas travel.
Day 3/Monday, March 16: It feels like a long, weird weekend just happened. Many schools elect to close today. We make a loose plan for the week, including some work from home with time for taking the dogs for walks or playing with them in the yard.
New York mayor closes bars, theaters, and cinemas. Minnesota announces closure of bars, restaurants, and public gathering places. Italy has been hit hard and the country is on lockdown. Videos of Italians singing together from their balconies brings a beautiful moment amidst the craziness.
Day 4/March 17: I think maybe I’ll enjoy isolation. I like being away from people anyway, and I’m used to working from home part of the time. This may not be so bad after all. We are staying away from my parents and FaceTime with them instead. I am working on my writing from home. Andy is working on projects throughout the house.
MN Governor Tim Walz orders all restaurants and bars to close. Trump asks everyone to work from home, if possible, for the next 14 days, postpone unnecessary travel, and limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. All 50 states have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Day 5/March 18: Minnesota schools must close. I feel mildly productive since I have been working a bit from home for the Journal. It gives me a few hours of satisfaction, while the rest of the day is mine. Our sleep schedules have shifted. Normally I’m a morning person, but we find ourselves going to bed late and sleeping in late, beginning our “workdays” around 1 p.m. after a nice breakfast. I have only needed the inhaler once today. My breathing is much better, though I still have a sore throat and cough.
Day 6/March 19: Some people have now started hoarding milk and eggs, which confuses me because these things expire. I’m a little worried about not being able to find eggs as they’re my favorite thing to eat on a regular basis and the two of us can go through a dozen eggs in a matter of days. No inhaler needed today!
Day 7/March 20: It’s hard to remember life before the virus. What was it like to go out for dinner or drinks? What was it like to hang out with our friends and family? So much has happened over the past week, and we are on information overload. We realize it has only been 7 days, but it feels like weeks. Later that night, we Facetime with Andy’s dad, sister, and bro-in-law to play Monopoly (using the Rento app). I win my first-ever game of Monopoly.
Tiger King is released on Netflix and quickly becomes the #1 show and a source of many memes. I wonder if the world has gone crazy.
Day 8/March 21: We decide to take a break from social media and the news to reset for the coming week. We use Zoom for the first time to chat with Andy’s family. A woman contacts me about buying our buffet table from Facebook Marketplace, and I’m worried about how to make the sale safely. We move the buffet table onto our deck and Andy helps the guy load it into the truck while maintaining as much distance as possible.
Minnesota announces first confirmed fatality due to COVID-19.
Day 9/March 22: Global death toll surpasses 13,000 with more than 311,000 infected.
We hear Trump might declare a nationwide “shelter-in-place” ruling and that the National Guard is being deployed or has been deployed in places to prevent looting and rioting. This would mean that we cannot leave the house for any reason except essentials (groceries, medical, etc.)
We decide to make a grocery store run. I am in a near-constant state of panic at all the people not keeping their distance from me down the aisles — a woman buying coffee, a man looking for pasta, and many others that I held my breath and moved away from. We plug in our spare refrigerator so that we have extra freezer space for additional meals. We are planning to cook extra meals this week.
Day 10/Monday, March 23: Ted loudly exclaims that he does not like the smell of bleach while I’m cleaning the toilet. In an act of rebellion, he decides to follow me into the shower and gets all wet. My sore throat and cough have noticeably improved.
Trump makes statement that U.S. economy needs to open back up, despite health experts’ warnings. He wants it open by Easter (April 12). REI announces extension to store closures, through April 10. We learn that Governor Tim Walz says he is not ready to make a statewide ruling of “shelter-in-place” at this time.
Day 11/March 24: My husband has decided he cannot stand my breathing — I mustn’t exhale too audibly, or he will take it as a ‘sigh’ and a personal attack on him. We may have found our tolerance limit is 11 days. I decide it is time to start writing stuff down and begin to realize how difficult it is to remember specifics from each or any of the days.
We “splurge” and spend $35 for a yearlong state park pass. We hike at Lake Maria State Park. We see a ton of wildlife: bald eagle, muskrat, American kestrel, sandhill crane, trumpeter swans, deer, pheasant…
Selfish thought: why can’t the ice be off the lake so I can go kayaking every day through all of this?
We make a liquor store run. At the store, a guy swerves really far away from me. I’m momentarily confused until I’m reminded of the social distancing rule of 6 feet. Flashes of nights at the bar or dancing at a club go through my mind, when people are pressed with their backs against strangers. How strange and distant that life seems now.
We have taco and beer night. Things between us have been restored, in a way that only tacos and beer can accomplish.
Minnesota has 287 confirmed cases. 400,000 cases worldwide with nearly 49,000 cases in the U.S.
Day 12/March 25: It’s gray outside today. The forecast says rain. We set an alarm for 9:30 to make sure we wake up at a reasonable time. We’re supposed to get a new washer/dryer delivered. I don’t have any specific writing to do, but I figure I should find something anyway. “Now is a great time to finish my book,” says every writer everywhere as they turn on Netflix.
This afternoon, Governor Walz announces an order for Minnesotans to stay at home, meaning everyone should stay at home except essential employees who are exempt and for leaving your home for supplies, medical care, and outdoor activities (shortened for brevity but I read the entire executive order).
Day 13/March 26
Day 14/March 27: In celebration (?) of Day 14, we decide to head up to Banning State Park for a day of hiking. We pack a bag of snacks and water, load the dogs into the Subaru, and head north. When we get there, the parking lot is FULL of cars, and more are following us in. After letting the dogs go to the bathroom, we hop back in and decide to veto the plan. Instead, we head to Duluth. We are only 50 minutes away, so why not go for a drive? It is a sunny day, perfect for driving.
I get chills all over my arms as we come into the city and the skyline and lakeview open up below us, the same way I do every time I come into Duluth. The water is a deep, beautiful blue. We stop by Bent Paddle Brewery and pick up some beer. The precautions they have in place are impressive ¾ only one person in at a time, sanitize in and out, stations for keeping socially distant during ordering, and even separate cups for “used” and “new” pens.
Before leaving town, we drive down to Canal Park so that I can touch the water. I climb down on the rocks and let a wave splash over my hand, the ice-cold water sending another chill down my spine. I get a little teary-eyed as I look across the endless blue water. “Thank you,” I whisper. “Thank you for making me feel better…” the way only Lake Superior can make me feel better.
We head home, a little disappointed in our lack of hiking but happy about the beer and getting to see the lake. We park in a parking lot near our house, get out of the car with the dogs, and head straight into the woods to explore a new patch of untamed land.
After coming home, we mix ourselves some gin & tonics and FaceTime with some friends. For 5.5 hours! A good end to Day 14.
Day 15/March 28: FaceTime with Alex and Monica in Romania and learn what’s going on on the other side of the world. Hang out at home during the day. It is a rainy day, perfect for not doing anything. Start a puzzle. FaceTime and played online Monopoly with Anita at night. Earth Hour tonight. We set up candles and turn off all the lights in a symbolic gesture to the earth.
Day 16/March 29: Another rainy day. We relax together with the dogs, continue puzzling and watching TV. When the rain stops in the evening, we go down to the water to watch the sunset. We determine that there is enough water on the lake to kayak from our house toward the boat landing, certainly enough to warrant getting the kayak out of storage. We set up a rope from the shore to help with getting in and out of the boat, since the dock isn’t in, in preparation for the coming days when I’d want to get on the water.
Trump announces an extension of coronavirus guidelines until April 30. Number of global cases surpasses 750,000 with a death toll over 36,000. More than 2,800 deaths in U.S.
Day 17/March 30: We wake up to sunshine. It is beautiful. All of my plans to “get caught up on writing” go out the window when I decide none of it is important enough to give up a few extra moments in the sun. We go for a walk in the woods with the dogs, and the sun is shining through the trees. Andy says, “Fine, I won’t work today either. We’ll go kayaking.” Excellent choice. And kayaking is amazing. The icy water glimmers and you can hear the ripples in the water hitting the ice. Andy says they called it the “chandelier” stage, because that’s what it sounds like. Later that night, we do our first workout of a 5-day challenge we decided to do with some friends.
Day 18/March 31: Look at our upcoming bills and debt for the first time since this started. Decide to take advantage of the sunny day and go kayaking again. Very sore today but manage to do Day 2 of workout. We break down and begin watching Tiger King. I question our own sanity.
Day 19/April 1: Wake up at 5:30 this morning, worried about my future job. I can’t sleep and cry when I think about what might happen and what that would mean for me. I find an article that doesn’t directly relate but it makes me feel much better. It talked about not putting too much pressure on yourself to be productive. The world is changing in profound ways. Back is too sore to do anything other than rest, read, and yoga. And I guess get a little work in from the comfort of my couch. That whole “separate workspace” idea went out the window pretty quickly.
We finish Tiger King in record time. I don’t know what I’ve just watched.
Day 20/April 2: It has been 20 days. As I roll out of bed at 11 a.m., stretching my entire body in a leisurely fashion, I yawn and ask Andy how I am ever going to work a normal job again. Then I shower, start a pot of coffee, fire up the computer, and start my article interviews for the day. Very little stress and with a clear mind after more than 9 hours of rest. I don’t know what the future holds, and I’m a little worried about finding out that answer, but we can only take this one day at a time. Some days, you just have to take time for yourself. Other days, you have to find the motivation to do something, anything. Take a walk, go for a kayak, clean out your car. We have a list of projects we intend to get done, and they’ll get done eventually. For now, we are just living each day how we feel like it. We’ll need to make a grocery store trip soon, so that’ll probably add some additional anxiety. We’ll see how it goes. Made it to Day 20 and I don’t feel insane at all — so I’ll call that a win.
5,601 deaths in U.S. as of today, more than 50,000 worldwide