Coronavirus furlough week diary: The path (not) taken

COVID-19 panic strikes. Is my daughter OK? Will Mom be fine at her nursing home? Should I clean my garage? This, too, shall pass.

Coronavirus furlough week diary: The path (not) taken


Wake up in a Motrin PM-induced fog. Turn on the radio. Listen to the latest coronavirus news.

So, no, it isn’t all a bad dream.

OMG, we’re all gonna die.

No, this too shall pass.

Prepare for first day of weeklong furlough from work.

Think about cleaning out the garage. Think about cleaning out the 3,243 unread emails from personal Inbox. Think about starting great American novel.

Decide to wash hands instead.

Help son file for unemployment benefits. After his company in Philadelphia shut down abruptly, he boomeranged back home and is monopolizing the big-screen Samsung.

This is the rare crisis, I observe, where it’s heroic to stay home and watch TV on the couch.

“I guess that makes me a superhero,” he says.

No, son, the superheroes are the health care workers on the front lines.


Run out of blueberries to eat with Special K. This requires … a risky run to Costco.

Pick a time when I don’t think the store will be crowded. Naturally, there’s a line out front. After a 10-minute wait, I’m in. The place has a night-of-the-living-dead vibe. Masked shoppers grimly fill their carts.

Get berries. Toilet paper is in stock, so I get that, too. And a few other essentials. Somehow, the bill comes to $266.34.

Tune in to the Andrew Cuomo show to find out the latest from New York, where our daughter lives.

She’s getting over a (thankfully mild) case of COVID-19. She tells us her sense of taste and smell are coming back. She’s young and healthy and we knew the odds were in her favor. Even so, it was hard not to panic.

Coronavirus guilt:Mom is alone in a nursing home with dementia, and I can't visit

Because her doctor told her to stay put in her apartment unless she had trouble breathing, she has never been tested. For every confirmed case, there must be five or 10 or more people out there like her who are presumed COVID-19 but not reflected in the official statistics.

Tune in to the Donald Trump show, hoping to hear the latest expert information from Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci. Turn off the Trump show, having heard nothing from Drs. Birx and Fauci.


Think about cleaning out the garage. Think about cleaning out the 3,489 unread emails from personal Inbox. Think about starting great American novel.

Decide to cut my toenails instead.

Wife says I’m looking shaggy. Look for the trimmer I bought when our dog was too old and sick to go to the groomer. Decide this is a very bad idea.

Discuss whether to get a puppy.

Assemble pressure washer I ordered from Home Depot.

Participate in a Zoom meeting of my investment club. Our portfolio is down more than 20% since our last get-together. Then, we were financial geniuses. Now, not so much.


Before power washing

Power washing is oddly therapeutic! Spray years worth of accumulated grime off the walkways and patio. Pretend the grime is coronavirus germs being blasted away. Take “before” and “after” pictures of my handiwork. No one seems terribly interested.

After power washing.

Drive by a friend’s house and honk the horn to wish him a happy birthday. He waves from the driveway.

Make a condolence call to a friend in New York whose mother died at a nursing home on Long Island. She survived the Nazis, but not COVID. Like cruise ships, nursing homes are incubators for this disease.

Ancient advice:Drinking at home during coronavirus self-quarantine

Get the latest update from my mother’s nursing home in Virginia. Several staff members and residents there have tested positive. Mom is 93 and wheelchair-bound. Haven’t been able to visit her for a month. Feel helpless.

Never drink before 5 o’clock, my retired friend Steve advises.

5:01 p.m.: Happy Hour.


It’s Friday. At least I think it is. Check cellphone to be sure.

Starting to get cabin fever. Feeling grateful to have a roof over my head and food in the fridge at a time when so many have neither.

HOTLINE:Share your coronavirus story

Think about cleaning out the garage. Think about cleaning out the 3,654 unread emails from personal Inbox. Think about starting great American novel.

Decide to shave instead.

Watch another episode of "Schitt’s Creek," then the nightly news. As fatalities in the U.S. surpass 34,000, Trump wants to “liberate” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.

OMG, we’re all gonna die.

No, this too shall pass.

Bill Sternberg is the editor of the editorial page. Follow him on Twitter: @bsternbe


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