James Walker: Fear? Coronavirus hits home

James Walker

While I work on upcoming columns that tackle subjects such as fake diversity, reverse discrimination, spies at the supermarket, politics and the real story behind the housing crisis, I wanted to share with readers a personal brush with coronavirus.

Until recently, it seemed like something happening to people far away in other parts of the world. But even when you feel immune, it is scary watching it jump from country to country while the number of deaths rises.

Still, at least to me, it was one of those impending crises you hear and read about and watch television for the latest news on — but one that is still far away.

That is, until it knocks on the door of someone you love — in this case, my sister Michelle, who lives in Rhode Island.

My sister is about as straight an arrow as you will find.

So when she emailed the family on Feb. 28 that the virus was now in the United States and she would follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare to shelter in place, we didn’t think much of it.

“While I am not panicking at all,” she wrote, “I think I’m going to take that warning seriously and start just getting some food into my house ... canned foods basically and staples,” she wrote.

Since she was headed to the supermarket, we were waiting for another one of her emails with a subject line like: “Ramen noodles are four packs for a $1? This is outrageous capitalism!”

But in an email on March 2, she told us it was a good thing she went out and stocked the refrigerator.

“Well everybody, don’t panic. But I have potentially been directly exposed to the virus. Those people that they are testing in Rhode Island ... one of them was a teacher at the school building where I was doing my acting gig. They have closed the school for two days while they are testing the third person. The other two have been positively identified as having the virus.

“I received an email from the school head (the one that hired me for the job) and she let me know early this morning that they’re advising that I stay home for today and potentially tomorrow.”

What do you say to an announcement like that when a virus is running amok, a cure hasn’t been found, and health officials are warning it will only get worse before better?

It is hard to explain that first stab of panic or the slow fear that comes with an email like that. If you keep up with the news, the virus takes its wrath out on the sick and elderly. And since she is the oldest, the spring in the chicken is pretty much sprung.

The idea that a disease from a foreign country would spread to personally affect my family was surreal.

“I feel fine but I have been barred from going into work for 2 weeks,” she wrote. “As a precautionary measure. I am not barred from public places. I’m sort of in a grey area. I am low risk but my age and blood pressure don’t work in my favor. The teacher was at the school. I don’t know if I talked to her or was near her because the Health Dept does not identify people so they won’t be harassed. The school has been closed for a couple of days. So…”

Like my sister, we were left in limbo, too. But there is not much you can do in a situation like that but wait for the results of the test and hope for the best.

But we are a fun family and since she felt OK, we launched into a series of emails poking fun at her predicament to lighten the mood, with subject lines like, “you still with us?”

She responded, “I’m gonna get sick so you all will be guilt-ridden forever.”

That only brought a response of, “You can get sick. Just don’t die.”

The fun emails went on until she wrote, “No respect for my position and rank” and wished “a pox on you all.”

Sometimes, it takes humor to show how much you really care.

On Tuesday, the test results were back.

“The teacher tested negative,” she wrote. “Not on quarantine but not sure if Brown (place of employment) wants me to wait the 2 weeks before I go back to work.”

She will have to wait about another week before she is home-free and can return to work.

The U.S. is good about alerting people to an impending crisis, but the big problem is we also know that in many cases by the time we get the news, it is generally much worse than being reported.

As I write this, the coronavirus has spread to 18 states and has reportedly infected 210 people. Twelve are dead.

And it is spreading. It’s in New York and New Jersey. It’s in Tennessee, San Francisco and Houston. How many more will it touch or, maybe a better question is, who did the infected come in contact with and who have those people been in contact with?

It hasn’t touched down here yet, but it is only a question of when.

My sister never left the country, yet she was potentially infected by the coronavirus by simply going to work.

It doesn’t get any scarier than that — or does it?

Fear? Corinavirus hits home.

Connecticut Media Group