From OK to Oh Heck in Four Days

In the last week I have gone from thinking “Oh, I’ll be OK” to “Oh, heck. I need an escape route.”

There has been a rapid escalation in the number of cases of COVID-19 and, sadly, in the number of deaths both internationally and nationally. I have been following these trends but nothing has scared me more than the realization that the US didn’t have sufficient test kits to address this crisis.

person holding glass flasks
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on

This fear was worsened by the President’s statements about it being “just like the flu” and “This is their new hoax” and, most bizarrely, “They have to get their vaccines” when there is no vaccine and there won’t be one for at least eighteen months.

I had read enough articles from scientists to know that he was wrong, but too many people got the feeling that everything was in hand and nothing to worry about. That dichotomy, in itself, made me anxious. So, a few days ago I started to think I should leave the US.

man wearing face mask
Photo by Ian Panelo on

This has been a difficult few days for me because events began to change very quickly. Three days ago the US closed the borders to non-citizens arriving from Europe and two days ago Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. Canada began to enact nationwide protocols for addressing the problem, and I began to fear that they might close the border. I also feared that I might get sick and not be allowed to fly.

At the same time, I really want to spend time here with my sister and her family. I love being here and seeing them, and sometimes I am even able to help them out when needed. I had expected to be here until mid-May but within a week all that changed. I went online to see what the airline would charge me for a canceled flight and found that it would cost what I had paid because I didn’t get cancellation insurance. Also, I would have to phone them to make that happen.

After losing some sleep over this, yesterday I decided that I couldn’t afford to wait and see how things evolved. Since I am a senior, I am one of the people most likely to get and respond badly to the virus and my health care providers are all in Canada. So, after talking it over with my family, I called the airline to cancel my May flight and book a new one in the coming week.

black and white airplane in mid air
Photo by Matthis Volquardsen on

Not surprisingly, the airline had been overwhelmed with calls and was no longer answering calls or putting anyone on hold. The message told me to go to the website. By that time, the website had changed. Now I could cancel my flight, get a credit with the airline, and book a new flight, so that is what I did.

I found that if I flew out within the next week the flight would cost nearly $700 but if I waited a week it would cost about $250. I don’t know how they come up with these numbers, but I decided that I could hunker down here for a week and fly out next Friday. So, that is what I am going to do.

As soon as I had booked my flight I started to feel less stressed. Just three hours later, though, something new came up. My travel insurance provider emailed to let me know that their coverage for illness related to COVID-19 will last only for the next ten days. After that, the coverage will cease. Wow.

I had not anticipated that my insurance company could unilaterally change the agreement when the going got tough. But, there you have it. They can do what they like, and they will.

As of yesterday, eight firefighters in San Jose have tested positive for the virus, and more than 5,000 people worldwide have died from it. I have started wearing vinyl gloves when I’m out of the house and I have rediscovered the facial masks I bought a long time ago to wear when using strong household chemicals. I am going to use one when I’m at the airport.

Already the local stores and Amazon have sold out of medicinal masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. They are also running low on things people need when they think they will be housebound for a couple of weeks, especially water and toilet paper.

I have been looking in my fridge and kitchen cupboards and wondering if I can feed myself for a week without going to the grocery store. If I have to go to the store, you can be sure I’ll be wearing my vinyl gloves and my face mask. But, honestly, I think I’ll make do with whatever cans and packets of food I’ve already got. I always knew I’d find a use for that cream of celery soup. I just always hoped it would be for nouvelle cuisine, not novel coronavirus.


March 16, 2020 Update:

I have just been notified that my travel insurance coverage will now include illness related to COVID-19 until April 5. It seems that too many of us could not get flights back to Canada before the 10-day deadline.

Also, the insurance company will cover the costs associated with coming home early because of a government advisory being issued.




  1. Glad to hear you’re coming back. I’m sure it was a hard decision. Will you have to self-isolate once you return? I always wear vinyl gloves when I return empty bottles to the bottle depot or at the self-serve car wash. Will probably start wearing them more often now. I’d been thinking of getting tap enabled on my cards so I don’t have to touch interact machines. Will definitely get that enabled now. Over the past day I’ve received countless emails and messages of things that have been cancelled, from meetings to concerts to conventions and conferences, events, markets, plays, dinner theatres, sports events, recreation programs. I can’t imagine what this is doing to the economy and people’s livelihoods.

    • I have been amazed to realize how many surfaces I touch in a day and how often I touch my face. This is going to be a difficult few weeks for everyone and the people who live paycheck-to-paycheck will suffer the most.

      I will definitely stay in my house for a week or so after I get back. If I have any symptoms, I will self-isolate longer.

  2. Anne, I don’t like to have you leaving. However as you and I observe the situation, it is dramatically changing almost moment to moment. Yes, if our idiot prez had maintained a decent national health department, we would have test kits, and supplies health providers desperately need while giving care to the sick. It could come down to hospitals having to choose which patients they literally can save with the supplies they have (ventilators etc) and the elderly will be low on those lists. Thus your returning to Canada makes excellent sense and I believe you have done the right thing. My Canadian friends tell of empty grocery shelves etc also. Hoarders abound; fear or a ‘me first’ attitude?
    Safe travels and continued good health, my friend. 2020 has not been the kindest year thus far, eh?

    • I fear that the delay in testing has caused the virus to spread considerably. Also, the lack of testing means we have no idea how many are affected. All of that makes me very nervous.

      In the meantime, I am going to be housebound until I leave. And, I’m OK with that!

      I hope you continue to be safe from the virus, Mary beth.

  3. Good decision! Canadian health officials are recommending that Canadians abroad come back home. Conditions here in Ontario are somewhat similar. It’s so funny people are buying all that toilet paper! They said one person in isolation for 14 days would need only 4 rolls. As of yesterday they started cancelling events and many classes are going online. Our seniors’ centre is closed until the end of April. However, the chance of getting the disease right now is still low. No one is wearing a mask or gloves. Masks are good only if you have the disease and are protecting others from your coughs and sneezes. Don’t panic, Anne, you are going to be ok.

  4. This is the second mention I’ve seen of cream of celery soup, both in the same context. Obviously not a go-to favorite.

  5. Yep Anne, welcome to a nation ill-informed or exceptionally UNprepared for a global pandemic that spreads INCREDIBLY fast!!! And at one time we were one of those nations on the cutting-edge of science, medicine, and world leadership. HAH!!! Not anymore. Not when Intellectualism and long-established public institutions are attacked, shut-down and/or grossly underfunded for the sake of privatization, profitable business models, and deregulation to JOLT the economy and then call it “the best economic growth and turn-around since the Obama Administration and in the entire history of the USA and the entire world!” all because of me, me, ME… Donnie J. tRumpsky! 🤣🤣🤣

    • The lack of information and preparation is a responsibility that can be shared widely. I see much of it landing at the feet of Fox News, but I confess to being biased in that regard.

      I prefer to get my news by reading online news from established journalists worldwide. So far, that guideline has served me well.

      I agree with your perception tht privatisation and the profit-motive have done a disservice to American medical, social, and educational services. I think that can be changed, though, and am hoping for good governance in the future.

      The current president has many shortcomings, but the people elected him and that is, ultimately, where the responsibility lies.

      No matter who is president, she or he must take responsibility for both the gains and the losses in the stock market.

      • The current president has many shortcomings, but the people elected him and that is, ultimately, where the responsibility lies.

        Well, it has actually become much more complicated than that for the average American voter. We have this baffling thing called the Electoral College. Trump lost the popular vote, BUT…. the Electoral College put him in the White House. Our government has gotten so ASTONISHINGLY complicated that most high school only educated American voters have NO CLUE how it all works today.

        But that NEVER excuses all of our civil duty to be WELL INFORMED of the entire process, whether in the 18th century or the 21st century!

        • I have only a cursory understanding of the Electoral College, but what I know makes me want to curse. I know it is currently being reevaluated and I hope that it is considered with a view to democratic principles and not political principles.

          Surprisingly, it is harder than ever for voters to be well-informed. You would think that our current technologies would make that easier, but the reverse is true. We are now more easily fooled and distracted. All of us.

          • I wish I could completely refute that assessment in your last paragraph Anne, but I can’t. However, I CAN add to it for a bit more clarity here in the U.S. over the last 3-4 decades or longer. If I may, respectfully… 😉

            I am currently reading and almost finished with an excellent book by Thomas Nichols of Boston, Columbia, and Georgetown Universities called The Death of Intellectualism: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. This book along with four other exceptional books I’ve completed:

            Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance by Harvard University’s Robert Proctor and Londa Schiebinger

            The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American by Constitutional lawyer Andrew Seidel of Freedom From Religion Foundation

            • Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Oxford University’s Jane Mayer

            • Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Duke University’s Nancy MacLean

            These five in-depth, exceptional books by post-grad scholars and their many years research and experience all reflect what I myself witnessed in my years of public education in Texas as a General Ed and Special Ed teacher:

            That the decline and systemic defunding and dismantling of our nation’s public K-12 educational curriculums over to private and charter ISD’s for the last 20-30 years has now poorly equipped our current public school graduate (if they did graduate) adults and over 60% of them WITHOUT quality under-grad degrees without sufficient critical-thinking, critical-analysis skill sets… while private/charter grads (from Conservative typically religious schooling) have an occupational advantage in private or public job sectors compared to less educated or poorly educated public grads. For this to show up it took literally 2-3 decades or more to come to fruition as Dr. Nancy MacLean thoroughly lays out in her book.

            Therefore, the MINORITY of specific ethnic Americans control much of the nation’s key positions of power and influence versus the MAJORITY of H.S. diploma/GED grads of non-caucasian ethnicity. Does that make sense?

            • I have not read the books you mention but I don’t disagree with your perceptions.

              I once wrote an academic paper that discussed social classes and presented it at an academic conference. One of the attendees pointed out to me that the US does not perceive of itself as having social classes, only racial disparities. It blew me away.

            • WOW! 😮 Now that is shocking.

              No, the truth is that we absolutely have an atrocious economic-social gap growing and it is only getting worse… as the two Nobel Prize winning Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have been screaming, publishing, and speaking out for many years now. 🙄

              There are literally warehouse loads of U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor, and numerous private, independent foundations and institutions that all report the same theme: America’s middle-class is disappearing into the impoverished lower-classes. Period. It is not a debate at this point.

            • I wonder if the perception of social class varies depending on ones historical context. In Canada it has to do with social mobility and education. In England it has to do with heritage and accents. In America it has to do with race and location. I’m spitballing here.

            • That’s intriguing. But for the U.S. I’ll stick by my personal experiences—as a firmly middle-class, well-entrenched man of diversity of races, education, and occupations—and by my aforementioned assessment: just study the zip codes. Race plays a huge part, yes, but it also factors in educational and occupational opportunities as well. Zip codes determine one’s future chances in HUGE ways!

            • That is the million dollar question Anne… and I say that rhetorically in the most candid way. 😉

              Though in some regions and states of the U.S. ethnicity isn’t a factor at all. However, in just as many regions/states ethnicity and religious/political beliefs absolutely ARE a significant determining factor. For example, this is the case in many At-Will Labor Law states, especially in the traditional South. In At-Will labor states, where labor unions are banned, corporate and medium-small business owners have ALL the leverage, particularly as America’s labor pool/applicants keep growing by massive numbers. Employees (especially those who stand-up for their human-job rights) are easily expendable, replaceable and employers won’t face any federal discrimination laws.

            • Oh, for crying out loud! So, basically, everyone is day labour.

              As you might guess, I am very pro-union. It brought my working class British family a good standard of living and after I moved to Canada it gave me medical, dental, and many other social benefits.

              Unions have a bad name in the US because of a history of corruption, but I doubt that at-will labor is better.

            • It does differ situation to situation, case by case because in the end it is PEOPLE who are either corrupt and unscrupulous, on either side. However, in this case, big business, mega-corporations are controlling our county, municipal, state, and federal legislatures.

            • HAH! So funny you mention that. I am currently drafting a blog-post on Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche and how distorted the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany made their profound, iconic works of philosophy, social science, and economic reforms. You are SO SPOT ON Anne about classic socialism. Most all Americans though have been educated—from the 1950’s Cold War Era—text books and curriculums. Those were the Dwight D. Eisenhower years of ultra-Conservatism and religiosity that he swept through our nation.

            • Again, these state laws have been put in place over the years/decades by Republican, Conservative, Pro-corporate, Pro-mercantilism business men who now have millions and billions of dollars to pay Washington D.C. lobbyist on our Congress… thanks to organizations like Citizens United who place Republican loyalist into all our county, state, and federal positions of the Justice, Legislative, and Executive offices.

            • But astonishingly too there IS STILL racial divides. All one has to do is examine closely WHO lives in what zip codes and why. There’s no denying what that pictures GLARINGLY shows. Again, another “no debate.”

  6. Even though your political system is defined around zip codes, I think it does the people a disservice to define them by their zip codes. If more people started to talk about people by other identifiers (parents, students, athletes, tradespeople, etc) then they might have a different weight of influence.

  7. Sounds like a wise decision to return home. I have a snowbird sister and husband who are leaving Florida and returning to their Wisconsin home while they can. And will self-isolate when they get there. It’s time to be in the spot we feel is home and stay there. And the US president’s response has left America handicapped, to be sure!
    I am so glad the airlines and travel insurance folks are being humane.

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