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November 18, 2020

Dear America, We Can Survive This. Love, California.

We all know the statistics. The Covid-19 rates are rapidly rising each day, including hospital admissions and deaths. Similar to any crisis, human responses fall into a few categories: head-in-the-sand; take some precautions and all should be fine, and take bold action with follow-through. The United States, unfortunately, has been a hodgepodge of the three responses. We can stand around pointing fingers but that does not get us anywhere with a virus. Statistically, we know that only the last response has shown any degree of success.

California is amongst the states that have been struggling with the Coronavirus the longest. This makes sense when looking at air traffic. JFK has the most international routes in the US. Early on New York was hit the hardest. Miami is second, and we all know what has happened during the last year in Florida. LAX is third. California’s governor saw the writing on the wall and was the first to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. For some of us, life would never be the same.

During the last nine months, my family of four (my husband, two teen daughters, and myself) has learned to live in an alternate reality. We live in a suburb north of Los Angeles. Masks, takeout, and on-line school/work are now the norm for us. Only recently were we released from the heaviest restrictions. What a feeling to have a haircut! Going to the mall is like going back in time – except no slushes to drink and standing in line (six feet, please!) to get into Bath and Body Works. The news that Governor Newson has pulled the “emergency brake” to limit activity for much of the state changes little for us. We’ll be sad if the next level sends us back to being unable to eat at restaurants outside or going to California’s beautiful beaches. However, we will weather through this just as we have for the last nine months.

For those of you who are now in the true grips of the virus, as well as coming to terms of how to survive it, I have a list of things to help you keep your sanity while protecting yourself:

  • Masks! Yes, masks really are essential. The easiest option is disposable masks. Buy in bulk, keep a box in each vehicle, and a box next to the door. But if you want to be fashionable, the internet has an endless variety of styles from sports teams to name brands to fun designs. Of course, the local vendors at the Walmart parking lot are a good resource as well. The three for $15 is a good buy for a knockoff Gucci or St Louis Cardinal’s design. If you can’t stand breathing through the material, I’ve found washing the masks every day with a little essential oil mixed in the detergent relieves the struggle. Lavender is my go-to fragrance for walking around the grocery store.
  • You will find lines in our city. Again, six feet, please. In the beginning, the grocery stores had lines outside and inside every day. Same at Target and Walmart. You will still see them at specialty stores, such as Trader Joe’s, and at outdoor restaurants. Only once in a great while will hear a grumble that the line is long. We understand the need for space, and for patience.
  • Before the pandemic hit my extended family joked that we went out more than we stayed home. It was true. I personally hate to cook. But our city has remained under a “no indoor restaurant policy.” Fortunately, our city has made a push to save our local restaurants by promoting takeout and delivery. Grubhub is my new best friend (my friend likes Postmates better and I’ve heard Door Dash is pretty great, too). I have discovered new restaurants and realized that Grubhub is quicker than sitting in a drive-thru.
  • Students at home. My children, and all of their classmates, have been at home learning on-line since March. Were we happy? No, of course not. But as my 15-year-old said, “No, Mom, teenagers are not going to wear their masks between classes. How are you going to stop boyfriends and girlfriends from making out in the halls?” Life has not been easy for my daughters or their friends. Internet goes out (both ours and the school’s), teachers allow students to not have their screens on, teachers do not know how to effectively teach via distance learning platforms, students sleep during classes, are unable to ask questions through the platform, etc. Yet, there are many students who are doing well, even better than expected, including my friend’s two sons. The key: relax. Next year the teachers and schools will know this was a difficult year for everyone. Colleges will remember this was a difficult year. Focus on support. Continue to connect every day with “tell me about school today,” but less on grades.
  • Working from home. My husband is an engineer. His work sent everyone home almost immediately. All four of us are in the house, every day, 24/7. At first, it seemed fun. Lots of movies, cooking together, games, and activities. Now, we barely see each other. My daughters are in class, my husband works, and I have projects. Other families with teens also report everyone is alone, even though everyone is under the same roof. If this becomes you, don’t despair. Make a point of keeping a schedule in a sea of “no end.” Have family time in the evenings. Do different activities on the weekends.
  • Make a pact with two sets of family/friends. In this time of isolation, it is important to have a support system that can be relied upon, both physically and psychologically. We have two sets of friends that we have agreed to hang out with, exclusively as a group. These are our friends if we need someone to watch our daughters for any reason and we do the same for them. But it’s more than that. We watch TV together, have barbeques, and celebrate birthdays and holidays.

We as a country can fight this virus together but we have to choose to take bold action and follow through. The follow-through part is the tough part. It takes determination and a lot of patience. Here’s to doing it together: Cheers!

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