The Clear & Present Petri Dish

Earlier this week I was sitting in my living room watching on live TV as a cruise ship, with 21 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, docked in the Port of Oakland, a port normally devoted to the arrival of freight. There were large screening tents set up close to where passengers would be stepping off the ship.

The plan was to gradually disembark all passengers to a handful of quarantined military bases throughout the U.S. For the ship’s non-symptomatic crew members, however, it wasn’t clear where they would go next.

I’m a member of all 3 high-risk groups: I’m over 60, I have compromised upper respiratory function, and a compromised immune system. Woohoo!

I’m not panicked. But am limiting my social contact. Already, events I was planning to attend are being cancelled or postponed…indefinitely. Thank goodness for Skype and Zoom and other forms of video communication.

My cupboard is stocked with canned soups, canned fruits and oatmeal. There was enough room in my freezer for a few frozen meals. I have an old bottle of Purell from my cancer days, but there isn’t any in the stores and there hasn’t been for weeks. I have Advil and Tylenol, but pharmacies are out of Zinc lozenges. I drink water throughout the day, and wash my hands often. I haven’t shaken a hand in weeks. I keep touching my face though; I need one of those dog cones.

My housemate is a nurse. The hospital where she works has already treated Covid-19 patients. She comes into the house through the front door and lives upstairs; I come in through the garage and live on the ground floor. We don’t share a bathroom. The kitchen is the only room in the house we both use. I regularly use Clorox wipes to clean surfaces we both touch: cabinet knobs, the counters, the refrigerator and microwave handles. I think we’ll be fine, but we check in with each other every day for signs of symptoms and an update on the situation in the hospital where she works.

The lack of truthful and consistent messaging from the federal government almost makes me more nervous than the disease itself. Trump’s oval office message did nothing to allay my anxiety. If outright panic and/or widespread contagion occur, I think we can safely lay the blame at the feet of our “leaders”, who initially downplayed the risk, prepared abysmally for an outbreak, restricted testing and then took too long to disseminate more tests, and outright lied to us. Containment has failed. That’s just a fact. We’re now into a “mitigation” phase: slow the rate of contagion so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed.

We have already lost Americans to this disease; there are undoubtedly more to come. What’s happening across the globe is quite alarming. Italy is closed. This virus does not mess around and – like every virus in history – ignores national borders.

None of us knows when “our number is going to come up,” but we can behave responsibly and with concern towards our fellow citizens. No need to panic; just behave sensibly.

  • Stay home if you can. The virus spreads from person to person. Reduce, limit, restrict contact.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. With soap. And hot water when possible. For at least 20 seconds.
  • Stop touching your face. (Easier said than done, right?)
  • Sneeze/cough into a tissue if you can, and throw it out immediately. Next best thing: sneeze/cough into the crook of your elbow. NOT your hand. But know that the virus remains viable (and transferable onto your hands or the hands of someone who touches your clothing) for hours.
  • Keep your throat moist and stay hydrated. This means a few sips of water every 15 minutes.
  • If you have symptoms (dry cough, fever, shortness of breath), get tested.
  • Do NOT just show up at your doctor’s office or an emergency room. Call first, and ask what their protocol is to get you tested while limiting contagion. They may ask you to come in through a special entrance, for instance.

Even without a fatality that affects you personally, this is a loss for all of us. A loss of trust in our government (although it’s not as if that wasn’t already a problem), and a loss of safety in doing what we are wired and inclined to do: connect with one another.

If we find ourselves in Italy’s situation, it is going to be a massive departure from “business as usual.” But drastic measures such as these may be the only way to slow the spread of this virus. We should be doing it already, if you ask me.

But who am I? Not even a president with a hunch.



  1. It is very frightening to read even a portion of the news stories about what is happening world-wide. I know our Prime Minister and our government’s doing their best, but it is a situation nobody has encountered in the recent past, at least not here in North America. There are so many unknowns.

    Please stay healthy and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.