As of 12:01 AM this morning, a shelter in place order is in effect for me and 6.7 million San Francisco Bay Area souls. It’s 6:28 AM now, so we’re 6 hours and 27 minutes in. The quarantine will be in place for (at least? up to?) three weeks. There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear for all of us right now. By writing about it, I hope to take the sting out of the fear, and some of the uncertainty out for those of you who aren’t here yet, and worried that you may get here.
Getting the news
I watched the press conference live at work yesterday. I hear the words “shelter in place” and my stomach drops. “Shit.”
First feelings: fear, shock, dread. First thoughts: It’s really happening. Vague, untethered images of my kids, my family, empty store shelves.
While the public health directors of six counties give what I image is the most bizarre speech of their lives, I start calling people. My rational communications plan created 2 weeks ago forgotten, I call at random. First I try calling Sal, and get the “your call cannot be completed as dialed” message. I try texting. The first one also to Sal: “Call me right now.” (He does not “call me right now.”) The texts go through fine, so I stick with that for a while. After the initial flood of texts to my usual list, I look through my contacts and focus on people who don’t work for a public office, who may not know about this yet.
The next few hours
We have until midnight to do…what? Escape? I guess some people can do that. People with houses in remote areas, those kind of people. Buy essentials? I had already stocked up for 2 weeks (including toilet paper, thank God). Go for one last “non-essential” drive? I need something to do. I decide on preparing to work from home. I call Best Buy to see if they have desktop monitors: “No, sorry. All the Best Buys in the area are out.”
I finally get hold of Sal. “I’ll pick a monitor up for you at the thrift shop,” he offers. “They have tons of them.”
“I called them yesterday. They’re out too.”
“Ok. We can prop up your laptop, no problem. Just bring home your keyboard and mouse.We need milk, I’ll pick it up on the way home.” He is calm, cheerful. I feel annoyed and better at the same time.
So I grab all my files, keyboard, mouse, desk snacks and tea, some books. I stuff it in my car in loads. I return to the office to say goodbyes, borrowing my friend’s line when she left to telework: “See you on the other side.”
Traffic is light. I listen to music. I wonder if the radio will still work. Then I remember that media is an “essential service.” So yeah, radio should work. This is an exercise Sal and I will go through the rest of the night, asking questions and re-reading the order: Can I send a letter? Will Amazon deliver stuff? Can my mom go on a walk with her sisters?
In the garage, I spend a few minutes staring into space. Then I plug in the car and start unloading my portable office to my little desk in the bedroom.
The kids are watching Toy Story 3, borrowed (now indefinitely) from the library. I ask the four-year old if he will miss his friends at school.
“I will see them in three days!” He says.
“Three weeks,” I correct him. He stares at me, trying to sort out the unfathomable length of three weeks. He looks back at the movie.
“They were out of milk. I got goat milk,” Sal says.
“Goat milk? You’re drinking that.”
“It’s just another animal, what’s the difference?” He starts pulling food out of the fridge. “Are we having stir fry?”
“Let’s do pasta,” I reach for the “red lentil” swirls, the last box of pasta left on the shelves yesterday. But then I remember.. “Hey! We’re in a quarantine. We can now use the Quarantine Supplies!”
Sal gets the box of spaghetti from our Quarantine cabinet.
After dinner, kids in bed, Sal and I with our devices on the couch.
“Hey! Let’s do face masks!”
Sal looks at me and chuckles. “Ok.”
I creep upstairs and get the “his and her” face masks that Sal bought us for Valentine’s Day. Sal puts the charcoal mask on in streaks, like camo paint.
I sit and read up on my Emergency Operations Center manual and check my email. It makes me feel better.
“It’s easier to digest for kids than cow milk,” Sal says. “Especially for kids over 1 year old.”
“Are you researching goat’s milk?” I laugh. I had assumed he was reading news on the shelter in place order. “I’m lucky to be in quarantine with you.”
I think of my dad, for the millionth time since this whole coronavirus thing started. I can hear his voice scratchy with tobacco smoke, smell the wood burning in his stove, see the earnest look in his blue eyes. “If you need to get out of Dodge, you can come right here. I got everything here. Plenty of room.”
I realize that he’s the reason I have two weeks of supplies in my cabinet, but not more than that. Why I bought mushrooms for their antiviral properties. Why I encouraged my colleagues, my friends here, to get ready – get ready – get ready. It’s coming. It was my dad’s scratchy voice in my head.
One of my friends sends us a list of questions to use during this quarantine. One of them is: What am I grateful for today?
Today I am grateful for my family, and the spaghetti in my cabinet.
Order of the Health Officer of the County of Santa Clara
ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA DIRECTING ALL INDIVIDUALS LIVING IN THE COUNTY TO SHELTER AT THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENCE EXCEPT THAT THEY MAY LEAVE TO PROVIDE OR RECEIVE CERTAIN ESSENTIAL SERVICES OR ENGAGE IN CERTAIN ESSENTIAL ACTIVITIES AND WORK FOR ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES; EXEMPTING INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS FROM THE SHELTER IN PLACE ORDER BUT URGING THEM TO FIND SHELTER AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO PROVIDE IT; DIRECTING ALL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES TO CEASE NON-ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS AT PHYSICAL LOCATIONS IN THE COUNTY; PROHIBITING ALL NON ESSENTIAL GATHERINGS OF ANY NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS; AND ORDERING CESSATION OF ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
DATE OF ORDER: MARCH 16, 2020
Source: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/DiseaseInformation/novel-coronavirus/Pages/order-health-officer-031620.aspx. Accessed 3/17/20 at 6:55 AM.