Sheltering in Place–a Pictorial

I heard on the political podcast Left, Right, & Center that some millennials are referring to COVID-19 as the “Boomer Remover.” Of all the horrible things this virus has created, at least it has inspired someone to create a funny joke about it. I like that–and I’m one of those Boomers. I am one of the lucky ones: I’m a civil servant whose executive management has directed me to work from home. I’m not spending my days trying to get through to the Employment Development Department; monotony is the main challenge I need to overcome.

As bad as things are in this country right now, I see an opportunity for positive change. A few things have to happen first to create this opportunity. First, we need a new president. Bernie Sanders would have been perfect for this opportunity, but we may have to settle for Joe Biden–a neoliberal. Second, we need more progressive lawmakers. Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Katie Porter are not enough. Third, we need to vote out the egregious politicians like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Steve King, to name only a few. If we can achieve this in the next three elections, we could create a new America that would fix the economy, creating new initiatives, much like how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) helped usher in over 30 years of prosperity. The change could be/should be the death of neoliberalism and the resurrection of the long-dead benevolent government that lasted from FDR through Richard Nixon. (Yeah, I know those past administrations were racist and sexist ones, but the new one doesn’t have to be.

We can re-enact the Pre-Reagan 70 to 90 percent marginal tax rate, bring back the estate tax, and put teeth in Ocasio-Cortez-Markey Green New Deal. It was the Great Depression that shook this country up and resulted in a government that addressed the needs of its people. Now is the time for significant change. Now it is critical. The only thing that needs to change is the lawmakers and a catastrophic event to make it happen. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the novel coronavirus epidemic.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we get four more years of Donald Trump. (God, it hurt to type those words!) We may not have discovered, mass-produced, and mass distributed a vaccine for the virus until Trump is well into his second term. In the meantime, we will have to be vigilant by following what is now become as common sense as not running with scissors: practice social distancing, wearing personal protection equipment (PPE), using hand sanitizers, sheltering in place, if you can, and if you feel sick stay home. Below is my own experience over the first 53 days of sheltering in place.

My teleworking office complete with washer, dryer, incessant dog barking, some unused yoga gear, and located way too close to the TV and kitchen. Did I mention the barking dog? With me working here, I can think of four coffee houses, one nutrition store, a cookie shop, my credit union, and a half-dozen restaurants that would usually get my business that now does not. Multiply that by thousands of people no longer supporting the downtown economy, and you can see how serious this adds all of those who have lost their jobs. It’s not hard to imagine how devastating this situation is for Downtown and Midtown Sacramento. Now, multiple that by 26.5 million-plus across America who are unemployed thanks chiefly due to the pandemic, and it is genuinely tragic.
Shelter in place has allowed me the time to walk my dog every morning, instead of just the days that I have off, but unlike most of my neighbors, who appear to love walking their canines, I have never enjoyed it. When Vivian (I didn’t name her!) was young, walking her was more like a perpetual tug of war. She would take off after every dog, cat, and squirrel that came near our route. Now, at 12, she has lost a lot of that vigor, but she still wants to mix it up with most dogs and every cat and squirrel she sees. Now, on weekday walks when I’m struggling with her, all I can think about is my cozy cube and a cup of java. Damn this Coronavirus!
I’m exercising less and eating and napping more. Not good for an overweight, out of shape old man! I used to commute to work on my bike (11 miles total in a day) and practiced yoga three times a week. Those activities were never enough to combat my overeating and sedentary ways, but when my club closed down, and I started to work from home, I began to put on the weight.
I’m a bit of a YouTube junkie. (I say “a bit” because there are real YouTube junkies out there that are scary. Check out the New York Times podcast Rabbit Hole to get an idea of how dangerous this phenomenon can be.) In pre-Pandemic times, I would spend most of my lunch breaks eating and watching Democracy Now!, The Rational National and The Hill’s Rising. Now, it’s a struggle to watch no more than an hour a day. What am I going to do when I retire?

Back to work—sort of. My office is easing into returning to work. Right now, only one person from our analyst crew are allowed on-site, so we are rotating. My building is a frigging ghost town. My office is easing staff back into work. As of this posting, each of us is only putting in one day of office work. Not at our desk, but a post, no one likes but receives a lot of traffic with long gaps of inactivity. It’s a challenge trying to stay busy at this post at this time. Ironically, it reminds me of the first week of teleworking. What’s worse, I cannot leave this post. (This isn’t my usual job, nor is it my cubical. I don’t know when I will be able to return to my regular job.

On my break, I notice the coffee house that I used to frequent isn’t open yet–maybe it never will re-open. In early April, when the shelter in place commandment was in full swing, whenever I would ride through town, it looked like a scene from the Walking Dead except there were no cars in the middle of the road helter-skelter. (There were simply no cars at all.) It looked like the homeless had successfully overrun the town, and now they owned it.

Sacramento has one of the worst homeless problems in California, but you don’t know just how bad it is until you remove everyone else. Returning to work five weeks after the initial stay at home orders, I see more workers milling around and more cars on the street, but it is only a fraction of what would be typical. I’m sure this pandemic initially won’t help the homeless crisis. It will make it worse for them. More people—the people who could barely make rent and feed themselves—will end up on the streets. I say “initially” because I hope and believe–especially if we can replace the person in the Oval Office and some of the legislative representatives in Washington, we can usher in a new egalitarian society that will care for the least of us.

In the meantime, we will go through a series of shelter in place orders, followed by the opening up of businesses, followed by another spike in COVID-19 cases, followed by another shelter in place order, who knows how many times. The fastest time we ever created a vaccine and available to the public was for Mumps, and that was–wait for it–four years! Currently, labs like Johnson & Johnson are cutting corners to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of this novel coronavirus) that causes COVID-19 (the disease). Still, there are no guarantees the labs will find a vaccine that works any faster than four years or that doesn’t have horrible side effects.

But let me close with some good news, something I touched on in the beginning of this post. After the Great Depression and World War II, not only did the economy bounce back, but the legislation that was passed into law in the dark days of the 30s and the 40s created the greatest era in this country’s history:

  • The Social Security Act of 1935 gave all American workers 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.
  • The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (aka the GI Bill) gave needed assistance to veterans coming back into the marketplace.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provided workers a minimum wage to an untrained workforce.
  • The Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934 for families needing assistance getting back into homes after losing theirs in the Great Depression.
  • Americans needed affordable health care and almost received it in 1945, but the GOP and the American Medical Association prevented the bill from becoming law. The fear at the time, as the Cold War began, was that it was a step towards Socialism. However, in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid. (Perhaps this pandemic would have been administrated more efficiently if the nation had a single-payer health system. As it stands now, people of color are the most adversely affected by this pandemic.

As challenging as this pandemic is, I like to think we have a chance to make some positive changes to our country after a vaccine is found and administered. In the meantime, stay vigilant, stay inside if you can, practice social distancing, wear a mask when you should, sanitize your hands, and praying wouldn’t hurt.