Coffee Corona Talk 03.15.20

Happy Sunday, friends. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Yes, despite all going on in the world around us, we are called to rejoice and give thanks, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

That said, I would be lying if I told you I’m in a joyful mood today. I woke up this morning with an ominous feeling that has started to become my new normal, wondering how things have changed overnight and what new restrictions and doomsday news the day will hold.

I’m not one to buy into media hype, and I rarely turn on the news. I’ve been getting my information from reliable publications written in a matter-of-fact tone, infectious disease experts, and qualified doctors; and I am telling you right now: This situation is serious, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

I do not say that to incite fear, but to plead with those who have not yet felt the affects of COVID-19 to prepare yourselves now. I wish I had started much earlier stocking up on food and necessities, changing travel plans before time ran out to get refunds, and rescheduling non-essential appointments that were important to me.

If you came here hoping to find a happy escape from the doom and gloom, I’m sorry to disappoint you, ha!

I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled fashion programming tomorrow, but today I want to share what’s going on in my neck of the woods.

It helps me to journal my thoughts and feelings, and more importantly, I’m hoping those of you who aren’t yet affected or think this is over-hyped will take heed.

As of this morning, my county here in southeastern Pennsylvania and 3 around us are on lockdown for 2 weeks, but probably much longer than that. The CDC is recommending 8 weeks, and I expect that’s a lot closer to reality.

What really stinks for those of us already in lockdown mode is, we’ll have to endure this for longer than the other areas of the country that are still going about their daily business like nothing is happening.

Eventually we’ll all be in the same boat, but I’m assuming we will have to maintain the restrictions for as long as the rest of the country because the virus will just get reintroduced if we let up too soon. Supposedly you can even get it twice.

All I know is, I watch my Insta Story with awe and wonder at people still traveling and treating their 2-week work-from-home assignment is an extended Spring Break. I guess reality will set in soon enough.

This is how quickly things changed in our area…

I was at the nail salon earlier this week getting my bi-weekly mani/pedi, and we were discussing the situation. The other ladies were talking like it was much ado about nothing. When I said things were about to get serious, they didn’t really believe me at first, but seemed to be taking it in.

We went on to chat about future plans, as if nothing was going to change. When I left, I  didn’t think twice about confirming my next appointment and saying cheerfully, “See you in a couple weeks!” as I walked out the door.

I did have the presence of mind to stop at the grocery store on my way home, but all was calm, and I felt silly stocking up, and I didn’t really know where to start, so I just bought enough for a couple of days. I so wish I’d had this resource that day, but perhaps it can help one of you.

That was Wednesday.

On Thursday afternoon, our school district announced they were closing for the next 2 days “to thoroughly disinfect our buildings.” I assumed they were just buying time to make more long-term decisions, and that they would not be reopening on Tuesday. (I was right.)

Also on Thursday, our neighboring county was put on lockdown due to 13 presumptive cases of COVID-19. That’s the county where my nail salon is located, and I got an email that evening that they will be closed until at least April 8.

So much for “See you in a couple weeks!”

That’s when our stores got nuts. The same grocery store that was so quiet and serene and well-stocked on Wednesday afternoon was a madhouse on Thursday evening.

Paul stopped in on his way home from work to do more “stocking up” and apparently everyone else in the county was doing the same. Friends reported that Costco had lines around the store. They were totally out of meat and other foodstuffs, to say nothing of paper goods and cleaning supplies, which have been scarce for days.

I won’t lie, it was a little scary.

I got up early Friday morning and braved a different grocery store, hoping the frenzy had died down, and thankfully it had. It wasn’t terribly crowded when I arrived around 9:30am, but by the time I left at 11am with my cart overflowing (thanks to Sarah’s list), it was very busy. People were polite and calm, but there was definitely tension in the air.

On Friday afternoon, Governor Wolf announced that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools will be closed for at least 2 weeks, effective Monday, March 16. I’m surprised it took him that long, considering Ohio did this days ago, but I was glad it was finally official.

Then yesterday (Saturday), the Governor expanded the lockdown to 3 more counties in our area, including my own. So basically, 4 of the 67 counties in our state are in this situation, and I’m lucky enough to be living in one of them. Joy!

So what does lockdown mean?

You can read the full press report on the Governor’s website, but basically he has asked that gyms, salons and spas, casinos, concert venues, bars, and non-essential retail facilities such as shopping malls cease operations. Restaurants may stay open for carry-out and delivery only.

Child care centers and adult day care centers will be closed, and a strict no-visitor policy has been implemented for correctional facilities and nursing homes.

Beyond that, we have been asked to refrain from non-essential travel and are encouraged to suspend all large gatherings and events.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations are to remain open, and of course essential services like police, fire, and emergency medical services will still be available.

Most of these mitigation efforts are strong recommendations, not law-enforceable dictates, but all of the businesses I have contact with are heeding this advice.

So yeah, it’s unsettling, to say the least. You really don’t realize the things you take for granted until they are taken away.

Speaking of such things, our Paris trip is less than two months away, and my wait-and-see approach turned out to bite me in the butt. Evidently, 60 days was our deadline to change our plans and get a partial refund, and it was about 5 days past that 60-day mark when I finally reached out to see what recourse we have if we have to cancel.

In light of the present circumstances, we were offered a Future Stay Credit of 75% of the booking cost if we postpone our trip and make a reservation for the same apartment within one year of our current departure date. We have until Tuesday to make a decision on that. It seems like our best bet at the moment, but everything is so up in the air, I can’t begin to think about rescheduling the trip right now.

At least I was able to get a refund on the excursions we booked, but evidently our plane tickets are non-refundable. I’m not sure why I bought non-refundable plane tickets, but I guess I did. I spoke with a rep at American Airlines yesterday, and they said things are changing quickly, and we will get a refund if they end up canceling our flight, so I’m holding out hope for that. Right now it seems likely, based on the latest update in their Newsroom.

The trip insurance we purchased doesn’t cover pandemics, so that’s even more money down the drain.

It’s depressing, but at the end of the day, it’s just money. And yes, I realize what a place of privilege I come from to be able to say that. It’s not that I don’t feel sick about it; I’m just trying to keep things in perspective. Because at the end of the day, these are all just minor inconveniences.

In the grand scheme of things, we are in good shape. I’m grateful that we have the resources to stock up on food and other essentials, that we don’t fall into any of the high risk health categories, and that both Paul and I can work from home. While my job will likely take a big hit from this, his is secure. We will be fine.

I am concerned about those who rely on small “non-essential” businesses for their livelihood, the older population who may see significant losses in their retirement accounts, kids who rely on public school lunches for food and other services, and the working parents who rely on public schools for childcare.

I’m concerned for our parents and grandparents, who are a higher risk of having severe complications from this virus due to their age. And as the disease spreads more quickly across our country, I’m worried that we may end up like Spain and Italy — with not enough beds or ventilators, or healthcare workers to care for the sick.

I keep thinking about the grocery store situation on Thursday night, and imagining that happening to our hospitals. This is why we must heed the warnings of our government officials and the CDC, and take all possible precautions in an effort to slow this thing down, so our medical facilities can have a fighting chance of keeping up with it.

There are so many unknowns right now, and valid reasons to be concerned, but I do know this:

God is not surprised by this, and He is on his throne through good times and bad.

(Updated to add: I just read Cyndi’s post from today, and I had to laugh at her title. I did not see that before I wrote this post.)

While there may be some hard days ahead, there will also be blessings and silver linings along the way. I’m going to do my best to take my lead from the apostle James and count it all joy.

Right now, we are experiencing an early spring in Pennsylvania, along with our lockdown. It’s a bit incongruous, and it occurred to me that dark clouds would feel more appropriate, and yet God has blessed us with an abundance of sunshine. My Instagram feed is full of pictures of people enjoying the great outdoors. (Note to self: Spend more time on Instagram and less on Facebook.)

I went for a walk in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, and I saw a few other families doing the same. Evidently the parks and walking trails were full of people practicing #socialdistancing. Hopefully those don’t get shut down as well. Maybe they will have to at some point, but for now, I take comfort in knowing that people are spending quality time together outside.

I was also happy to hear some of those who are having snow say they find it peaceful and comforting, and they’re enjoying being indoors by the fire. It sounds like whichever end of the weather spectrum we are on, we’re making the best of it.

In more personal news, my kitchen is pretty much finished — and just in time! I’m not sure how much longer we will be allowed to have service people into our homes. The vent hood was installed yesterday… although it had a broken part and can’t be used yet.

Can you believe that? After the oven saga… I just had to laugh. At least it’s in place so it finishes the look of the kitchen.

He will come back (Lord willing) on Wednesday to replace the part, and the cabinet painters are supposed to come back at the end of the week to touch up a few spots that got messed up during the backsplash installation… but of course, that could change as well.

Whenever it gets finished, I’ll post a full kitchen reveal here on the blog.

I spent some time yesterday clearing out my closet and getting rid of most of my winter clothes and boots, and organizing the spring clothing I have so far. I need to go downstairs and bring up what I have in storage from last year and take inventory. Maybe I’ll do that this afternoon.

Church was canceled for today, so we are just hanging out here and doing our part to #flattenthecurve.

Meanwhile, I have plenty of work to keep me busy, and I’m grateful for that. I don’t know that people will be doing much shopping, but hopefully I can provide a fun distraction from your ominous Facebook feed.

I also want to encourage you to check in on your friends and people who might be experiencing more than the average worry and anxiety during this uncertain time, offer to bring food or other supplies to those in high risk groups so they don’t have to go out, and try to support the small businesses in your area as much as you can. This is an opportunity to band together and care for one another.

With that, I’m off to take a walk and soak up some vitamin D. I hope you can do the same at some point today.

I’ll leave you with a comforting word from Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.