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My COVID Diaries

Well, 2020 was off to a great start! Paul’s quadricep tendon was healing great after his Christmas surgery (in spite, as his doctor noted, of him ignoring everything she told him to do) and I was in a groove both in my professional and personal life.

As he was starting to feel a better – as in, able to cruise up the stairs from his man cave downstairs with significantly less groaning – Paul got a little antsy, so I figured it was a good idea to book him a ticket to go see his old buddy, Bob Seward. Paul hadn’t seen Sewey since he helped him drive the U-Haul to Florida back in September. And these are two grumpy old guys who have known one another for so many years that they are like an old married couple.

So I dropped Paul off at the airport at noon on March 4. On the way there, I got word from my Mom that family friend Ben Sonntag had been killed when a reckless teenager driver hit him. Ben was a pro mountain bike rider from Germany who lived in Durango and has been good friends with Chris and Emily for decades. Ben’s death was totally unnecessary and a reminder to all of us that we have a duty not to be an idiot when we get behind the wheel of our car.

Since January, there has been increasing news coverage of the new coronavirus ravaging China, and then Italy. For the most part, the social media response had a good bit of humor.

But it seemed like a problem for “them” – not us. Right up until it wasn’t…

I remember that news being a strange feeling. For the first time, going to the grocery store or Walmart seemed a little risky – but only risky enough for me to think about buying some Clorox wipes so I could have them in my car with me when I went places.

I had to go to a planning commission hearing in Vail on Monday, March 9, where I hung out with 20-30 others for five hours or so. I didn’t give it a second thought – which now seems so totally inconceivable and irresponsible. I mean, we all touched the microphone at the podium and we passed the clicker amongst us to get through our PowerPoint! AGH! What were we thinking?!

But at the time?

I got done with the hearing and stopped by WalMart on my way home. If only I had known then what I know now… But no, I went on with life as though it was business a usual, blissfully ignorant of all that was about to change.

I went to the local title company and signed documents with a pen from their communal basket of pens. My eyes pop out at the thought of shared pens now! I remember talking to Nick, who notarized for me, about his scheduled cruise and whether he was going to go. I think we both had a “What’s the worst that could happen?!” kind of attitude. It was largely still a “them” problem until, during prime time on Wednesday, March 11, President Trump announced a ban on all travel from Europe.

Wait one minute! I can’t get to my sister and she can’t get to me? There was the predictable refining of the initially broadly stated rule, but thinking back, it should have been a flashing red light to me of what was soon to come.

A couple days later, I went to the bank, shook hands with my banker, and used the little pen on the touchpad to confirm all the information for the wires I needed to send. I remember using COVID as an excuse to see if they would let me authorize the transfers by phone – but I think that was more about me not wanting to actually have to change out of my yoga pants than it was real concern about COVID. I did, however, take a Clorox wipe with me – but I don’t remember actually using it for anything.

And then things started to get real and change FAST. Later on Friday – Friday the 13th – there was confirmation of community transmission here in Eagle County. I could no longer tell myself that I was fine as long as I wasn’t traveling overseas. Eagle County issued its first public health order, limiting gatherings to 50 people or less. Then Eagle County Schools announced that they were closing for three weeks.

I remember talking to good friends on Saturday morning – they were going skiing. We laughed about how they invited a friend – but the friend’s wife told him that they were not leaving the house for two weeks. We laughed at how silly that was… I laugh now thinking how naive we were then… I talked to them later, and they said although the snow was great, the mountain was deserted to the point where they felt they were doing something wrong by just being there.

By Saturday night, Governor Polis had issued one of his first COVID executive orders suspending all downhill ski operations in the state for a week. That was huge, given that we were just getting into the time of the ski season that is so important to our local economy. I remember still taking it all pretty lightly, posting a funny picture on Facebook about how Gus and I had had to have a talk about no more drowning rolls of toilet paper given the current panic-fueled buying frenzy of TP – for no explicable reason.

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But then, Sunday morning as I was laying in bed waking up and checking in on the world, I learned that friend Rod Powell was fighting COVID for his life in Denver.

Oh, how I used to enjoy those afternoons that Paul and I would go skiing and then stop by Pepi’s for happy hour to listen to Rod. Rod always had a special smile and a nod for me while he sang some song that reminded me of life on Poet Warrior with the sun, the sea and the sand. I so loved having him entertain us while we laughed with friends or just sat at the bar loving on one another back in the young years of our relationship.

I can’t remember how I spent Sunday – probably in a funk from news that someone I knew and always had a hug with when I ran into him at Walmart was really sick from this virus. COVID wasn’t abstract any more – it wasn’t just on the news. It was killing a friend who shouldn’t be laying in an ICU alone in Denver, dying. I distinctly remember sitting at my kitchen table, to the ding of an arriving text message from the kind, good and smart executive assistant to one of my clients:

Anyone who has even been in Eagle County in the past week should minimize all contact with other people??? I remember calling my client who has spent four years making the addiction treatment center in Cordillera a reality and he said to me, “So they are working from the assumption that you have all been exposed.” I hadn’t thought of it that way – until he said it that bluntly. Sunday was a sobering day. I remember getting on my treadmill and working it all through as best I could.

That was the day it all changed.

It seemed like the only sensible thing there was to do was to go straight to the grocery store and panic shop. The shelves were wiped out – I was too late.

I suppose the humor is that you learn what your hidden conscience doesn’t want to run out of. By the time my panic shopping was over, I had three 2-pound bricks of cheddar and three flavors of coffee creamer. I got literally the last bag of flour in the store – but of course there was no yeast, baking powder or eggs to bake anything out of it with – and had to settle for purple organic popcorn kernels.

Thanks to the quarter of a Scottish Highlander cow that I have in my freezer, I wasn’t worried about my food supplies. Although I only had 30 eggs and I realized that I was going to have to ration eggs … or maybe find myself a hen…

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I remember talking to my parents that night. Dad wanted me to come down and stay with them, and I remember saying, Dad, you aren’t listening to me! There is a good chance that I have been exposed – and if I have been, there is a good chance that I will kill you if I come. And I don’t want to kill you!

Then on Wednesday, Eagle County issued its next major public health order: suddenly all restaurants, bars and gyms were closed. And later in the day, I remember reading the statement from the CEO of our local hospital: “Not tomorrow, but now.”

On Friday, as I was spinning more miles and stress away on my Peloton, I remember opening an email to more news that COVID was strengthening its grip on my little space here in Happy Valley.

How many happy hours have I spent in the Mayor’s bar – the infamous Vendetta’s where legend has it Paul Testwuide once rode his horse right into the bar one night? The Mayor has always just struck me as one of the good guys – a hard working, reasonable guy who usually has a smile for me. Ugh… (And then it occurred to me that I had just spent Monday afternoon in the Mayor’s office building when I was there for the long planning commission meeting – where I touched the community microphone and clicker for crying out loud!)

And then Rod passed away on Saturday morning. Thinking back, it seems like that was the last news in all of this that felt like a punch in the gut. The last news when COVID developments still seemed like news, rather than just the inevitable.

In this new world where social distancing became an overnight phenomenon, my day-to-day has been relatively unaffected I’ve always had my home office and I am fortunate to have a great home gym. My business is not affected. I don’t really watch televised sports and I rarely go out to a bar or restaurant. And without kids home from school, my life just goes on normally for the most part. I will say, however, that I feel INCREDIBLY fortunate to be part of the Peloton community, which is saving my sanity!

Although I do laugh when Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline comes up on a ride playlist:

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you… Sweet Caroline..
. *
NO! NO! NO! NO!

It does not escape me that I have it better than Emily and Chris – who (by the rules anyway) are confined to a 1km radius around their house. They have to have their signed and dated attestation with them any time they leave the house, and the risk major fines and arrest if they don’t.

Paul got home on Sunday the 22nd – but only after he had four flights cancelled. He said there were a total of 9 people on his American flight from Dallas to Denver. In the meantime, I’ve just been here entertaining myself with Gus. Who has taken to stealing a green bean from me each night when I start dinner. He plays with it until Hailey discovers it and eats it … at which point he looks at her with a look of surprise like, What’d you do that for???

And Gus is the king of evening cuddles.

Who likes to dig up my daffodils.

And we discovered during my quarantine binge eating that he LOVES baby marshmallows.

And my spring flowers are growing beautifully. So really, all is pretty normal in the world – even when it so isn’t.

At this point, more public health and executive orders seem inevitable. On Wednesday the 25th, Governor Polis announced a statewide stay-at-home order, which would have been totally inconceivable a mere month ago…

Yet admittedly, the exceptions for essential services are so broad, they seem to swallow the rule. To the point that I felt totally law-abiding when I kept my appointment to get my winter tires swapped off the next morning.

As I’ve written this – which covers just a period of just over three weeks – I’m shocked as I remember what life was like before. It was just three weeks ago that life was normal? Will we ever go back to a time when I don’t think twice about using a shared presentation clicker?!

Numbers released this afternoon, which reflect reported cases thru yesterday (Saturday the 28th), say that Eagle County has 187 confirmed cases. We have the second-highest per capita infection rate in the state.

While everything shuts down around us, one unexpected positive has been for my client, the All Points North addiction treatment center. Business is GREAT. Apparently with the furloughs and total shutdown of the economy, this is a great time to go to go to rehab. Go figure… Silver linings…

I think about how I will remember this time months or years from now. It seems important to memorialize the progression of my thinking and emotions. I wonder often how this will change us as a society, both personally and professionally. For the better or for the worse?

Alas, my COVID diaries will be continued. It looks like this could be with us for a while…

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* Just because I can’t hear Sweet Caroline and not think of this…

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