It’s crazy to think that in mid-March we really thought that we’d only be Sheltering in Place for 3 weeks. Here we are over 4 months later, and things are actually worse than when we originally shut down. It’s nearing the end of July 2020, and 3-4 weeks ago businesses started opening back up in the Bay Area. Doing so caused a spike in COVID-19 cases, so some businesses are retracting and closing back down again. Was America really ready to enter phase 3?
Sheltering in Place, wearing masks, and social distancing is the new normal. But when I look back on the timeline, it wasn’t always like that. This new “normal” took some getting used to. It really does blow my mind how 2020 took such a turn so quickly. I started hearing about COVID-19 talk around December 2019. Of course I knew what was going on in China, but I never thought it would be as big as it is now.
As I mentioned in previous blog posts, it wasn’t until I came back from Massachusetts in late January that I started to see the severity of the situation at hand. I swear, I left for Boston on Thursday night, January 23, 2020, and returned back to San Francisco that Sunday afternoon, January 26, 2020. It was like I came back to a different world. In Massachusetts I heard side conversations of COVID-19 and people fearing that it will be a problem in the U.S. I was naive. I really didn’t think that COVID-19 would explode in America, or anywhere outside of China, to be honest. I thought maybe a couple hundred cases total worldwide aside from China, but this thing isn’t going to be a big deal. I couldn’t be more wrong.
When we stepped out of the plane at SFO, everything just felt different. There was news of planes coming in from China the same time we were at the airport. I started being aware of what I was touching, and avoiding touching anything at the airport. It’s like we left the Bay Area for less than 3 days, and came back to news of people panicking. One of the Ubers we got into, the driver was in a mask and wearing gloves. He was straight schooling us on facts about COVID-19 and how China basically fucked us all by trying to keep the outbreak hush hush. He explained how it’s going to come to the U.S. and how life for us is going to change. He told us to get masks and cleaning supplies while we can. I thought he was being overly paranoid. But what he was saying shook me up enough to think “…Maybe he’s right?” But I still had the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
It wasn’t until about mid-February that I realized, Yeeeeeah… that Uber driver that I thought was trippin’… what he was saying… he’s right, this virus is spreading around… And it started to get real. It’s like my eyes were glued to the news. Slowly, different states started reporting their first confirmed cases of COVID-19. I had constant anxiety knowing eventually it would make it’s way to California. All of a sudden I was slapped in the face with reality. What I thought was very unlikely – COVID-19 turning into a pandemic – was a hard pill to swallow. At the end of February and early March I would wake up everyday to get ready for work and think, I can’t believe this is for real. By this time the cruise ship with COVID-19 patients were docking in Oakland.
By March I was completely paranoid. I take public transportation to work everyday. I started fearing for my health and thinking everyone and anyone had it. Colleges, high schools, grade schools started to slowly shutdown in the Bay Area. Sports gatherings, events, concerts, started getting canceled. What the actual fuck was happening? I really couldn’t believe it. Everything was happening so fast but it was like I was experiencing everything in slow-mo. The 2nd week of March, my boss called it. Friday, March 13, 2020 would be our last day in session, then we would be shutting down for 3 weeks to be safe. I never thought that would happen. I really thought we’d be back after the 3 weeks. You’d think at this point my guessing would get better, and I’d realize that this was a big deal. Nope. Naive! I really thought 3 weeks we’d be back at work.
Those first couple of weeks of Shelter in Place were tough. I’m a home body, and I usually like staying home anyways. But it’s a different story when you’re told you can’t go outside. All of a sudden you get antsy, even though it’s something you would’ve preferred anyways. It’s all mental – wanting what you know you can’t have. After the 3 weeks, it was finally April, things were supposed to reopen after 21 days. Instead, the Shelter in Place got extended. By this time it was mandatory to wear a mask or face covering whenever going in public areas. It was like everyday was the same routine. I would wake up and think, holy shit, it’s really a pandemic right now, and go upstairs to watch Gov. Gavin Newsom give his daily speech and updates. I was hooked on the news. It’s all I wanted to watch, even though it was making me stressed.
New cases, hospitals overcrowding, not enough ventilators, New York getting hit the hardest, essential workers quarantining from their loved ones, people dying, people losing their jobs, unemployment sky rocketing, toilet paper and cleaning products clean off of the shelves, not making testing available to all, people refusing to wear masks, this was the new reality. Nobody would’ve expected 2020 to be like this. I felt like I was in an episode of Black Mirror.
Towards the end of April, everyone was antsy. Would the shutdown extend until May? Yes. And it did. And people were upset, refusing to wear face coverings and protesting. People wanted to go back to work, and they were upset that Newsom kept extending the order. But by this time, I was used to Sheltering in Place. In fact, I was scared of readjusting to life after the pandemic. I was getting used to the routine of working from home and straight chillin’. The first 3 weeks of Shelterting in Place and shutting down was the hard part. Everything after that just reminded me of my summers back in the day when I didn’t have a job and didn’t have anything to do. I enjoyed doing nothing.
But obviously this situation was a lot different than my lazy boring summers back in the 2000’s. People are dying. The world is battling something we can’t see or control. It’s a whole pandemic. I feared for those I know, but especially my Tatay who just turned 97 this July. We were extra cautious to not see him or come in contact with him. He doesn’t really understand what’s going on pandemic wise, and that makes it all the more sadder. Does he think we’re just not visiting him? Is he getting weaker? Will we get to celebrate his 97th birthday with the whole family? (We didn’t). What if we never get to see him again? Stop. I didn’t want to think of it anymore. Because it seems like these are all valid possibilities, especially with how long this pandemic is being dragged out.
Towards the end of May, Gov. Newsom revealed the “phases” California would take to slowly open back up the economy for Californians. June 1st I was back at work because I was part of phase 2 reopening. It felt weird being back at work and taking public transportation. My hands are cracked from how often we wash hands at work. We are working wearing masks our whole 8 hour shift. This is the new normal. Since I’ve been back at work for almost 2 months, sometimes I forget that we’re in a pandemic. I’m so used to wearing a mask now, that it’s almost second nature. When I take bus home is when I am reminded – we’re still in a pandemic. The MUNI buses are significantly less crowded, traffic is not as congested, the SamTrans buses’ fare is free because they aren’t letting passengers in through the front door, BART is a ghost town, and nobody sits next to you. I’ve gone back to a semi-normal routine again since being back at work, but I forget that majority of people are still working from home.
When California started its phase 3 – the opening of restaurants, gyms, malls, in mid-June, it didn’t take long for the stats to come in showing that the COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing again. Meaning, the 2 and a half month Shelter in Place order that started mid-March was basically for nothing since California reopened prematurely. California is in a shittier spot than when we originally shutdown. And I’m a little surprised that a second mandatory shutdown hasn’t happened yet.
It’s crazy to think that more than half of 2020 is already over. At the end of 2019, no one could have guessed that this would be our reality. With the pandemic, upcoming presidential election, and civil unrest, America is showing it’s true colors. When I go on social media and see videos of Karens and Kens being ultra mega racist, it makes my blood boil. But I know that these incidents been happening, and the only difference is people are starting to record. It’s crazy how Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 became political issues.
From the get, people believed COVID-19 was a hoax. And we have the idiot president to partially thank for that. He foolishly took the side of entitled Americans who put their own wants and needs over what is best for the country. All the while calling BLM supporters thugs. It’s disgusting. COVID-19 really brought to light everything that is wrong with America. People have to prove why others should care about black lives, we have to encourage others to care for their neighbors, we have to deal with idiots who don’t want to wear masks.
The people who don’t believe in wearing masks or COVID-19 as a whole are the same people that believe wearing a mask makes you a conformist. These are the same selfish people that believe that wearing a mask and Sheltering in Place is “taking away our freedom.” I can’t help but laugh. How fucking entitled and privileged is that 💀🥴?! These are the same people that talk down on the BLM movement and argue that if these “thugs” just comply with law enforcement, there wouldn’t be a problem. Yet here they are not complying with mask orders. Ok.
Selfish. That’s all I got to say. It’s frustrating because things aren’t getting better because people act as if there’s no pandemic – not wearing masks, not taking precautions, not getting tested- because they believe this is a joke. But at the same time they want to complain about not going back to work. This pandemic really put into perspective what this country values, and that is self.
It’s “please comply and follow the rules,” until it’s a minor inconvenience. Then it’s “well this is taking away my freedom and my rights.” Please have a thousand seats. People are so selfish and will only care if it’s someone they know. And that’s why America is taking so long to recover from COVID-19. We have a weak leader that refuses to see the weight of this issue. He turns a blind eye to the information, data, and experts. He refuses to comply because he doesn’t want to seem like he’s going back on his previous statements. So, some follow his lead.
I don’t care if you think COVID-19 is a crazy conspiracy theory. The truth of the matter is : REAL PEOPLE ARE DYING. Regardless of how COVID-19 came to be, people are losing their lives. And the fact that some people are refusing to wear masks in an act of defiance is truly pathetic. If wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose is “taking away your freedom,” I’m not sorry to say that you’re privileged, selfish, and entitled. And describing wearing a mask as “taking away your freedom” is so insulting to those in this country whose freedom is actually in jeopardy.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for the day where I don’t have to wear a mask anymore! They can be uncomfortable, I can’t get fresh air, and it’s definitely hard to talk and teach to little ones. BUT they save lives. And no matter how uncomfortable it is, wearing a mask 46+ hours Monday to Friday (don’t forget that 1+ hour commute back home), I’ll continue to do it because I know this pandemic is real, I know people are dying, I know I’m doing my part. So, do your part and wear a mask, asshole.