The Corona Chronicles
Part 1: This Just Got Real
As we face the challenges, changes, and impacts on the world in which we live in response to the pandemic brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I will be posting several blog entries to document the View From My Window, called the “Corona Chronicles”.
I will be sharing my personal experience as an American living abroad during this unprecedented time and hope to shed some insight on this topic from a street-level perspective.
Everyone in the world will have their own stories and experiences as we face this pandemic. This crisis will touch all of us in some way on varying levels. People will face sickness, hardship, tragedy, turmoil and financial impact and loss. My experience at this time (and hopefully in the future) will pale in comparison to that of many people, however, this is my story. My prayers are for the safety, health, and strength of us all during this time.
It was sometime in early February when I first came to learn about this thing called the corona-virus. I honestly did not give much attention to this topic at that time (and I assume that many of you might have acted the same). Then as the virus began to spread and attention grew in the media, it slowly became the topic of conversation at work and with friends. Nonetheless, I still did not have much concern about something I considered to be no more than a nasty flu.
I actually thought to myself, “this is a China problem and given the conditions of some of their cities and some of the things they eat over there, it isn’t surprising, and it was surely nothing for me to give a whole lot of thought to”. I continued to live my life as always, working, making music and spending time with friends. On February 19th, I purchased airfare to return to Detroit in April to attend my daughter’s college commencement ceremony (graduation). Everything in my little world was just as it always was.
In the weeks that followed, as the topic came up more and more with friends and family and I began seeing posts related to the virus on social media, I thought perhaps I better step out of my bubble and learn more about what was going on. (side note: just so you don’t think I am totally unplugged from the world or completely ignorant. I do not watch a lot of news. I like to get the facts and information on a specific topic for myself without someone else’s or a television networks spin on a topic)
So, it was “Google Time”. Hmmm okay, it was a virus, with symptoms similar to the flu, there was no known vaccine available, it may have started in China (with possible origins to bats (german = fledermäuse)……BATS really!!!…..I am not even going to go there), quite a few people had died from it in China and cases now were starting to be reported in Europe and Asia. Hence, my Google education was complete (NOT!). I thought that was all I needed to know at that time. The actual total number of cases was so small, I thought one might have a better chance of winning the lotto than contracting this virus.
Hence, I carried on as normal, except for checking in on this nasty little thing by searching the web from time to time, reading reports of it spreading into new countries as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continued to grow.
Then began what I will call “the Corona Cancellation Situation”. As part of my company’s marketing activity, we attend several exhibitions or trade-shows (German = Messe) every year to promote our company and technology solutions. The first of several cancellations for my company was a big event in Barcelona. Then my colleagues (Rene and Jakob) had an onsite appointment scheduled with a customer and before going to the customer's facility, they had to sign an affidavit confirming that they had not been in China in recent weeks. Then Stephan (the guitar player) told me that a major conference he was to attend in Berlin was canceled, then Tim (the Brit) shared that all of his upcoming business trips were canceled due to the virus. (now, this was getting freaky)
It was March 7th, when I received a message from my daughter (Emily) as she was returning from her spring break vacation:
[Emily] “Hi Dad we are at the airport getting ready to go home, I had a very nice trip. Hope you’re being safe and cautious, the corona-virus is spreading worldwide, I saw it was in the UK now. Love you”
[Emily] “Please be careful Papa. I’m worried you will not be able to travel to the states for my graduation”
Then came March 11th and reality “came a-knockin at my door”. I awoke as normal and was enjoying my morning cup of coffee and checked my cell phone for emails. I noted I had (2) messages. One message was from my daughter and the other was from my cousin (Pam).
[Emily] “President trump just suspended travel to and from Europe 😣 I want you home”
[Pam] “Hello, how are you? You are on my mind with everything going on. You stay safe and healthy. Love your cousin, Pam”
Once again, it was “Google Time” ……search: “video Trump corona speech”. Well, there it was, a travel ban on Europeans traveling from the EU to the USA. For the first time since I have been living and working in Europe, I felt like the door to return to the USA was closed. Although I have now been here for 9 years and weird as it might sound, I suddenly had a sinking and overwhelming feeling that I was stuck in a foreign land, with no way home.
BUT, there was a ray of hope!! American citizens were exempt from the ban and could travel back to the USA, subject to a secondary level screening before entry into the country. Now, what to do? Should I strap myself into an airplane filled with 200+ people (of which possibly, one person or more might be infected) to breathe recycled air for 10 hours? No, I was going to stay put for now.
On Monday of this week, my company ordered all employees to work from home. Additionally, all client meetings and business travel (domestic and international) are banned until further notice.
Additionally, on Monday the State of Bavaria called a State of Emergency (in German the headline of the article I read, was written “Bayern ruft den Katastrophenfall aus”…….calling it a state of Disaster. I prefer to use a State of Emergency, it just sounds better than disaster).
Here is a summary of the measures that have been taken in Bavaria to slow the spread of the virus: (translated to English)
1. All Events and meetings are prohibited nationwide. This does not include private celebrations in suitable, privately used living spaces, where all participants have a personal relationship (family, work). This applies from March 17 through April 19, 2020.
2. The operation of all facilities that do not serve necessary daily activities is prohibited. These include in particular sauna and bathing establishments, cinemas, conference and event rooms, clubs, bars and discotheques, game halls, theaters, club rooms, brothels, museums, city tours, sports halls, sports and playgrounds, fitness studios, libraries, wellness centers, spas, dance schools, animal parks, amusement centers, training and further education centers, adult education centers, music schools, and youth centers. This applies from March 17 through April 19, 2020.
3. All types of catering establishments (restaurants) are prohibited. This does not apply to company canteens as well as dining halls and establishments from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. The delivery of takeaway food or delivery are also excluded; this is permissible at any time. It must be ensured that the distance between the guests is at least 1.5 meters (~5 feet) and that there are no more than 30 people in the rooms. Hotels are also excluded, provided that only overnight guests are catered for. This applies from March 18 through March 30, 2020.
4. The opening of retail shops of any kind is prohibited. This does not include grocery stores, beverage stores, banks, pharmacies, drugstores, medical supply stores, opticians, hearing care professionals, branches of Deutsche Post AG, pet supplies, DIY and garden centers, petrol stations, motor vehicle Workshops, dry cleaners, and online trading. This applies from March 18 through March 30, 2020.
(I’m glad to see in section 2, they included brothels, as there might be a few other viruses creeping around those places other than corona)
I fully support the measures being taken globally. Social distancing has proven to help slow the spread of similar viral outbreaks throughout history. I will talk more about this in a forthcoming blog post, as I continue to chronicle these events during this pandemic.
In the days, weeks and perhaps months ahead, we all will face challenges and be impacted in many different ways as we seek to battle this viral ghost, that floats invisibly through the air, silently delivering sickness and destruction to our world. It is a time to stay calm, make changes in your life to support the measures being taken to slow the spread of the virus and pray that this will all come to an end soon.