As Tahoe transportation officials look to improve transit in the basin, they are trying to cater to three distinct users—residents, especially those who are dependent on public bus service; those who want to get to recreation sites and seasonal users; and those getting to Tahoe from outside the area.
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency officials are working on updating the Regional Transportation Plan, which is done every four years. The last one was approved in 2017. It’s a blueprint for the next 25 years. TRPA is hosting five webinars on consecutive Mondays to talk about various aspects of the RTP. On April 27, TRPA planner Kira Smith focused on transit.
Using cell phone and other data, planners know people’s destinations change seasonally. Ski resorts are the big recreation draw in winter, while beaches and marinas are the popular choice in summer. Highway 50 from Placerville to the South Shore is the busiest corridor for regional trips to the basin, accounting for 30 percent of visitors.
Transportation officials are using a layered approach, realizing that if in basin transit doesn’t work well to get people where they want to go, then regional transit would be a disaster.
The pandemic sped up Tahoe Transportation District’s quest to be free. This will continue at least through 2022. The North Shore’s TART bus service had already stopped collecting fares. TTD is adding seven electric buses to its fleet, with three coming this year. Lake Tahoe Community College now has an overhead charging station for these buses. For those living in Meyers, regular bus service still doesn’t exist. Don’t expect it to return in the near term.
Various transit plans for the future in the greater Lake Tahoe area. (Graphic: TRPA)
One thing people on the call asked for was more bike racks on local buses. Some racks carry three, many only two bikes. TRPA said it was unsafe to extend the bikes longer. Trailers might be option; like what bike shops use to transport gear for customers.
One thing that will be considered in this plan that hasn’t been in previous ones is microtransit. These private businesses operate similar to Uber and Lyft. People can call for a ride for a defined area. This is also known as transit on demand. The vehicle is often an SUV, van or shuttle bus. This was the second year the Squaw Valley area used Mountaineer in this capacity. In the first year, the company provided more than 80,000 rides, according to Smith.
Smith said microtransit service is a condition of the permit for the Stateline event center that was approved this year by TRPA and Douglas County commissioners. It will service riders from the Al Tahoe area of South Lake Tahoe to Round Hill Pines in Nevada.
Short-term goals for the RTP include:
Transit that is free for users
30-minute service or less on core routes
Specialized medical transportation.
Long-term goals are:
High-frequency core routes
Service to recreation sites
Local water taxis
Mobility hubs at key urban centers
Regional service to neighboring cities.
“The goal for the 25-year build-out is to keep local routes in the basin free to the user. Some regional routes might not be free,” Smith said.
She added that the biggest hurdle is securing long-term funding sources.
Technology: May 4, noon-12:45pm—Learn more about real time travel information, smart streetlights, and how new data is informing transportation planning at Tahoe. Register here.
Communities: May 11, noon- 12:45pm—Learn more about how transit, trails, and technology are used to transform Lake Tahoe’s transportation system. Register here.
Innovative Transportation: May 18, noon-12:45pm—In a special fifth installment of the series, an expert panel of nonprofit and business representatives will explore ways that innovative thinking, fresh ideas and pilot programs can help advance Tahoe transportation in the immediate future, while ensuring new programs protect the lake environment. Register here.
Stimulus checks have been arriving for the past two weeks and will continue to until all those allowed to get one have one. I’m pretty sure most people know where those dollars are going to go, but in case you need some ideas here goes.
Once you’ve filled all your book orders, don’t stop spending. Buy other books. Other authors need money, too.
Then think about the local businesses you like and think about all the people you know who are out of work or who are still working. If they are still working, they are pretty damn essential. Instead of waiting until the end of the year to thank some of those workers (mail carrier, garbage peeps, etc.) buy them a gift card now to say thank you. It could be from someplace that is open or someplace that plans to reopen.
This is a win-win-win. You are stimulating the economy by spending the stimulus check and not just socking it away. The business where you buy the gift card from has some cash. The person who receives it will undoubtedly be grateful.
Consider spending the money on extras at the grocery store and then go around giving out eggs, toilet paper, rice and other hard to find items as well as staples to neighbors. Maybe you put them out front so people can pick them up as they go by. I know in my neighborhood there are a lot more people out walking than usual. Or if you know a neighbor or friend or even a stranger who could use some help, perhaps buy them a gift card to a grocery store or to a restaurant.
You probably have a favorite charity. Most nonprofits are hurting right now. See what they need, what their workers need. Your hair dresser, massage therapist and other personal care professionals have been sidelined by this virus. Most probably sell gift cards. Maybe you tip double on that first visit when they reopen, or maybe buy some product in the shop.
Support your favorite media outlet. Advertisers are dropping because they are out of business. Don’t let that media outlet be a victim of this pandemic, too.
Another place I’m spending my stimulus cash is at the post office. First, I’m going to have all those books to send that you all are going to be buying directly from me. Second, I’ve decided to send one personal correspondence a week. It’s not much, but so much more than I usually do. You see, the U.S. Postal Service is in a world of hurt. It was financially troubled before this coronavirus, but it’s even worse now. The amount of “junk mail” in my post office box is nil these days. No longer am I receiving grocery store ads. That junk mail provided a ton of revenue for the USPS.
I love receiving mail. It’s how I get some book money from retailers. While I could take a picture and deposit those checks, I choose to send them to my bank. Fifty-five cents is quite a bargain for a first class stamp. This month I received a letter from a friend in Switzerland. We first met when we were traveling in South America in 2001. We’ve stayed in touch ever since. It took a few of those first class stamps to reply to her. I can’t imagine not having mail delivery. Well, I can actually. I didn’t have it in Mexico and I hated it.
So, here’s another idea for spending that stimulus money—buy stamps. Really! One of my favorite gifts to high school graduates is a roll of stamps. (That’s 100 stamps.) I hated buying stamps in college. I also knew my parents loved to hear from me. There is something more personal about a mailed letter compared to an email or text.
I also use the Postal Service to vote. I have for years. This is a huge reason the federal government should find a way to ensure the U.S. Postal Service survives. People in the military vote by mail all the time. There are counties in California that only do mail-in ballots. Oregon has been using vote by mail exclusively since voters approved a measure in 1998. With voting being such a fundamental component of what it means to be a U.S. citizen, to not be able to do so by mail is absurd.
Now go order some books, buy gift cards, purchase stamps—stimulate the economy with that stimulus check.
Air and water quality in various places in the world are improving during the pandemic. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
As the world struggles to cope with a health crisis, the Earth is healing.
Remove people from the equation and the environment begins to heal herself. Air quality from the San Francisco Bay Area to Fresno and thousands of miles away to the Himalayas is better today than it was a month ago. People in India for the first time in decades are seeing the famous mountain range from 100 miles away.
In China, where the COVID-19 virus originated, air pollution dropped so dramatically it was recorded on satellite images by NASA. Scientists at NASA said the Wuhan area first saw the reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution before the same results spread across the country.
People are not driving or flying as much. Factories are pumping out fewer pollutants as their workloads have been curtailed.
The canals of Venice, Italy, are clearer than most can remember. With less boat traffic, sediment is staying at the bottom and not being churned to the top. It will be interesting to see if the water of Lake Tahoe benefits from fewer boats considering this time of year boat traffic is minimal. Boat launches have been closed during the coronavirus crisis because government officials believed boat inspections should not be taking place now.
It’s appropriate Earth Day comes during this pandemic. It’s also significant that it was 50 years ago that April 22 was designated Earth Day. It is considered the birth of the environmental movement as we know it.
On a trail last week, that is walking distance from my home, two coyotes started following me and AJ. Were they stalking us or reclaiming their forest? Black bears, coyotes and bobcats are out in force in Yosemite National Park. It’s not that there are more animals, it’s that they are roaming in the open without people around since the park closed because of the virus. California is not alone in this phenomena. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park lions have been seen napping on the roads. Now is the time of year so many animals emerge from their winter slumber. Without people around, they are venturing places where we usually are – like streets. All the more reason to be diligent about not leaving human food out that could be accessible by these wild animals.
Clearly, people are impacting the environment in negative ways. Now is the time to think about how we could make these changes sustainable, long lasting. Why go back to how things were? We were breathing that nasty air. It was getting into our water supply, contaminating our soil, and the foods we eat. We need to make changes individually (maybe work from home one day a week or more going forward), regionally (better mass transit?), as a nation (flights must have a certain number of seats filled to fly?), and globally (suggestions?).
It is alarming President Donald Trump has ramped up his hatred for the environment by rolling back environmental regulations during this pandemic. It’s one of the consistencies throughout his presidency–disregard for the environment. Last week the order came down for the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen regulations for oil and coal-fired power plants when it comes to releasing mercury and other toxic metals.
As the New York Times reported April 16, “Over the past few weeks as the nation struggled with the coronavirus, the administration has also rushed to loosen curbs on automobile tailpipe emissions, opted not to strengthen a regulation on industrial soot emissions and moved to drop the threat of punishment to companies that kill birds ‘incidentally’.”
The Trump administration has also banned the U.S. Forest Service from conducting controlled burns in California, Oregon and Washington during the pandemic. This is a tool to reduce the risk of wildfires. Wildfire season in California could be deadly again as the state looks to be in another drought.
“I have no understanding as to why they made that decision,” Thom Porter, CalFire director, told Reuters. “We’re very much in support of continuing our fuel-management projects. We see those as critical to protecting lives and property.”
It’s time to listen to the scientists and other experts to preserve the health of our Earth.
The last Saturday of April is designated Independent Bookstore Day. Not this year. It’s been pushed back to Aug. 29 in the hopes bookstores will actually be open.
Reading is one thing people have been doing more than usual in all the doom and gloom/self-isolation of coronavirus. This is good for authors, publishers and book sellers. It’s also good for the people doing the reading.
Books available by Kathryn Reed.
IndieBookstoreDay.com says, “Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers. They are entire universes of ideas that contain the possibility of real serendipity. They are lively performance spaces and quiet places where aimless perusal is a day well spent. In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism. They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand. In fact, there are more of them this year than there were last year. And they are at your service.”
When I went on a book tour of sorts last summer for The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, I was truly shocked by how many independent bookstores exist. (This was in Northern California and Northern Nevada.) For years it seemed like the only news was how bookstores were shuttering their doors as people opted to read eBooks or shop Amazon. All but a few of the owners of these stores were gracious with their time. I understand they get bombarded by authors/publishers all the time to carry one more book. Many shared words of encouragement to me as a first-time author. They offered me time to do signings and presentations. It is a partnership after all between author/publisher and seller. We both make more money when books are bought via a bookstore. A lot more money.
That doesn’t mean I’m anti-Amazon. So many of my sales have come from the online retailer. I am grateful for that platform as well. I just want people to understand when they have a choice where to buy a book, buy it directly from the author, second best is from a local retailer. After all, it’s not just bookstores that carry books. I am so thankful several specialty shops are carrying my hiking book.
Until things return to normal, whatever that may look like post-corona, I will mostly be selling Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Season: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks directly and online. (They were published this year. The latter is a combo of the hiking and snowshoe book.) I have plenty of the hiking books, too. If you aren’t able to go to a local retailer right now, consider using IndieBound to find a book. (It’s a great resource even without a pandemic.) Put in the book title and your ZIP code to find a book retailer that has the book you want. If it’s not in stock, they can order it. There are bookstores that are mailing books even while the doors are closed. Don’t ever forget your local bookstores.
The latest online option is Bookshop. It’s an alternative to Amazon for book buyers. Bookstores can use this an online option, and it’s available to all consumers. Financially, this is a better option for authors and bookstores. Be sure to bookmark it.
It’s hard to stay sanitized with no product to buy. Rice, baking goods, cup-of-noodles, and tofu are also in short supply. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Shopping in this era of COVID-19 is like a lesson in sociology. It will be interesting to see what historians write about us in the years to come as it relates to all aspects of this pandemic.
I’ve only had one quasi-unpleasant exchange with a friend since my return to Tahoe at the end of March. She took issue with me snowshoeing with friends a few days ago. Six of us drove three vehicles and stayed 6 feet apart. The few people we passed on the trail were that distance as well as someone went off trail to wait for the others to go by.
Auto Zone uses caution tape and plexiglass to separate workers and customers. Plexiglass is common at many store cash registers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Wrong to drive to a trailhead in the greater Lake Tahoe area? I wasn’t playing tourist. I wasn’t hurting anyone else. I touched nothing that anyone else would touch. I was not participating in a high-risk sport that could require search and rescue personnel. (Yes, there can be injuries in all sports; I’ve also injured myself at home, though, too.) I did not go someplace that had any signs indicating the trail was closed. Nor was the parking area closed.
I did my two-week quarantine when I returned from Mexico. I believe that if we keep away from others, and wear masks and gloves when we are in close proximity, then the shelter in place is pointless. The shelter in place is for the people who can’t figure how to safely be in public. As with most things, Draconian measures are put in place to cater to the lowest common denominator of society. It penalizes the majority of people who know how to behave.
On top of that, exercise is good for the mind, body and emotional well-being. I do plenty indoors, but it’s not enough. Being outside in the fresh air and absorbing sunlight contributes to good health for anyone who does so. I am consciously choosing to go to locations where I am not having to pass people on a single-track trail. I’m staying away from places I believe will be packed full of people; as everyone should do. There are enough places, even in cities, to go to without touching each other. How hard would it be to say all north and eastbound foot travel is on the right side of the street, while all south and westbound traffic is on the left side – or something like that?
Safeway in South Lake Tahoe wants shoppers to go one-way down aisles. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Yes, we are all in this together. Even if you are against some or all of the rules various levels of government are putting in place, at a minimum wear a mask and gloves when close to people or touching something someone else might touch – like doors, counters, groceries, gas nozzles, etc. The virus is real. That can’t be disputed. Why would you want to get it or pass it along?
I was shocked when I finally went grocery shopping. Not because it took forever to find baking soda, or that Costco didn’t have the canned beans I wanted, or that Safeway in South Lake Tahoe now has one-way aisles. I was flabbergasted to see so many people without masks or gloves. I was disgusted to see the owner of South Tahoe Grocery Outlet fist bump the founder of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care; the latter being the one who initiated it. Neither guy had a mask or gloves. Really, people? I’m thinking of spending future grocery dollars elsewhere.
What was good to see was people trying to social distance as best they could. Costco in Carson City had signs telling people to keep 6 feet apart. I was sad to learn from my checkout woman how people have been verbally abusing these essential workers. I can’t think of a time when it would be appropriate to swear at a cashier. She told me it’s mostly men who have misbehaved. Sad. Inexcusable. Disgusting.
In this one shopping excursion that included Costco, Safeway, Grocery Outlet, Grass Roots and Auto Zone, most of the people not wearing a mask or gloves were people who appeared to be at least 60. WTF? The Safeway cashier said how slow it has been with no tourists in town. Some San Francisco Bay Area counties are no longer allowing reusable bags at stores. Not the case in South Lake Tahoe. Time will tell if that edict changes. I washed those “shopping” clothes immediately in hot water. I wiped down all the goods I bought and the surfaces bags/boxes touched inside the house. I didn’t go in the Jeep for 72 hours.
I’m glad I have enough groceries to last more than two weeks so I can stay out of stores for a while. But I’m still going outside to play.
Lakeside Inn in Stateline is going dark — permanently. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Lakeside Inn and Casino in Stateline won’t be reopening, even after this pandemic is history.
“After 35 years of being a source of entertainment for thousands of guests, we are permanently closing our doors. This includes all areas of our business including our casino, restaurant, and hotel. This decision was not made lightly. We hoped that we would be able to resume operations once this COVID-19 situation improved. However, that’s just not in the cards for us,” Lakeside said on its website April 14.
Lakeside, one of five casinos on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, was always considered the locals’ gaming establishment. It had a more laid-back vibe. It was known for deals geared to the people who called the South Shore home. The lobster and prime rib combo was legendary. So were the breakfast deals at the Timbers restaurant.
I spent my 45th birthday at Lakeside. It was so relaxing – and perfect. A staycation. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a perfect Tahoe get-away. The staff was so friendly, the food delicious, the setting tranquil.
The hotel-casino, which opened in May 1985, had 218 employees.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in mid-March said all gaming facilities must close. This included all aspects of those facilities – hotels, gambling, restaurants, other entertainment.
In recent years gaming properties have made more money off non-gambling aspects of their business. Northern Nevada casinos have been hit hard by Indian gaming in California. People no longer had to deal with chaining up in snowstorms or driving as far. Gaming is now available throughout California. While Lakeside had a couple restaurants as well as a 124-room hotel, the lodging component was outdated. This was a fact Lakeside officials admitted to in 2016. The plan then was to make the Kahle Drive-Highway 50 corner a focal point, with the hotel moving there.
Lakeside had tried to stay relevant. In the first half of 2008 the company spent more than $1.5 million to freshen up the place. The bulk of the money went into the kitchen and Latin Soul restaurant that opened that July.
In July 2018, Lake Tahoe News wrote, “Lakeside Inn has long been the favorite casino for locals. Now it wants to be the preferred employer. The hotel-casino a couple years ago had designs of re-creating itself so it would be a focal point when driving in from the east. Those plans have been shelved and instead the owners are focusing on the locals and not just the tourists. Yes, physical improvements are under way that are designed to modernize the property and appeal to the guests, but there is also a renewed emphasis on the employees.”
Now those workers will be looking elsewhere to work. And the community is left wondering if there will ever be another locals’ casino.
The last interview I remember doing at Lakeside was in December 2017. It was with a homeless man I had met downstairs in the entry. I invited him to eat at Timbers. While it really had little to do with Lakeside other than the man taking refuge there from of the cold woods where he slept, it was the perfect location for such an intimate conversation. The property’s powers that be didn’t know we were there. It was clear my “guest” was hard on his luck. It didn’t matter. Staff treated us with respect, without judgment.
More recently Lakeside’s gift shop sold my book “The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes.” It was one of the better local retail outlets when it came to book sales. I will always be grateful management said yes to carrying my book, especially considering this was my first book.
As a journalist, through the years I had ups and downs with Lakeside. Sometimes staff was accessible, sometimes not. There was more to it, but none of it is relevant now for so many reasons.
Lakeside has provided lasting memories – mostly good – for hundreds of thousands of people. That is a statement few businesses can make.
Barton Health is preparing for the COVID-19 surge to hit the South Shore of Lake Tahoe in two to six weeks – so between the end of April and end of May.
In the thick of summer or winter with an abundance of tourists in the area, it’s common for Barton Memorial Hospital to have 50 of its 63 patient beds full.
“What we decided to do is bring surge capacity to three times that amount to care for the community. So in our surge planning for our community we have identified up to 150 beds on our campus in California whether it’s to care for COVID or other medical conditions,” Clint Purvance, CEO and president of Barton Health, said during an April 10 virtual town hall meeting. “That’s a lot of surge capacity for a town our size. Under COVID we believe it is adequate for our community.”
The Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce organized the meeting that also included input from Chris Kiser, executive director of Barton Foundation.
Community members have offered gymnasium space, hotel rooms and other locations as potential options if more beds are needed.
Barton has a drive-up clinic to test people and take vital signs. First Barton would like people to call 530.600.1999 – the COVID hotline. Medical personnel will assess what is going on and then recommend the appropriate course of action.
“If we think you need more care, we have negative pressure isolation facilities,” Purvance said. One is on Jean Street near the hospital, with Stateline Urgent Care becoming one as of April 11. The emergency room and rooms in the South Lake Tahoe hospital have also been set up. The goal is to have fans remove the air from the environment so the virus does not stay.
When it comes to medical equipment, Barton is fine today, but is trying to secure more.
“The national stockpile for PPE is nearly depleted. It’s difficult for us to get needed supplies. Barton is doing well now. If we get a surge, that would change,” Purvance said. “We need gloves, gowns, and face shields.”
Donations have been pouring in, with Barton Foundation being the collector of items. In about three weeks, nearly 1,500 homemade masks have been donated. Barton provides these at the front desk for people coming to the hospital. (The hospital now has only one entrance.) Workers who can’t stay 6-feet apart and are not in need of a higher grade mask also wear them. The goal is enough will be made so the health system could provide them to the community at large. All are washed at the get-go and are reusable.
Kiser, with the foundation, said donations have ranged from the N95 respirator masks a guy had in his garage to people bringing pallets worth of goods. For more information about donating, go online.
“If the worst case scenarios hits, we have recruited for the Barton medical corps,” Purvance said. As of Friday morning, 103 people had signed up. Barton is looking for anyone with a clinical background to help where needed. “If we did see a surge beyond our capability, we believe with the community’s help we will be able to bring resources together quickly.”
Barton Health has a plan in place if the hospital’s capacity is three times higher than at summer/winter peak levels. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
As of April 10, there were 32 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in El Dorado County, with nine of them in the Tahoe area. Douglas County reports nine cases, but does not break it down between the lake and valley. Placer County has 123 cases, with four deaths. In the Tahoe area cases have been confirmed in Carnelian Bay, Kings Beach, Olympic Valley, Tahoe City and Truckee. Washoe County has had 363 cases and 10 deaths, but online does not say how many are at the lake.
Worldwide, the death toll has surpassed 100,000 people, with 18,011 in the United States. Only Italy is higher in terms of deaths at 18,849. The U.S. has the most number of cases at 490,008; about 30 percent of the total worldwide.
Purvance expects the death toll to grow substantially because of how fast the virus spreads. The death rate is close to 2 to 3 percent, while the annual flu is 0.1 percent.
“We anticipate ongoing infections for quite some time, until there is a vaccination,” Purvance said.
As of now the virus has been attacking patients’ lungs the hardest. However, it can also impact the heart, kidneys, other organs and tissues.
Workers at Barton have tested positive. Purvance said employees without symptoms spread it to colleagues. He did not state how many were infected, though reports are two nurses tested positive.
Antibody tests that are being developed in several counties, and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could give the medical community and officials a better understanding about COVID-19. The tests would reveal if a person has had the virus without ever knowing it. In other words, they would have an immunity to the virus.
“The best recommendation is for individuals not to contract the virus if they can help it in the first wave. This will allow science to catch up and medicine to catch up for better treatment,” Purvance said.
Social distancing – staying 6 feet from people, wearing masks in public, washing surfaces that could be contaminated, continual hand washing, and not touching one’s face are all preventative measures.
Purvance is admittedly frustrated with the lack of testing because of the unavailability of kits. A high number of negative tests that are actually positive is also disconcerting. He is hoping more reliable tests will be offered soon, as well as the ability for Barton to run its own tests instead of sending them out to a lab.
“I think over the course of one or two months there will be more testing that will give direction in how we deal with the pandemic and the lasting of social distancing so we don’t see a resurgence,” he said.
Barton for years has used telemedicine as a component of care, and is beefing up that protocol. Call your doctor or the COVID hotline before going to the hospital for any non-emergency situation in order to protect yourself, health care workers and anyone else who might be there. Right now non-essential procedures are not happening at the hospital. Those restrictions may be loosened in May.
I feel for extroverts. This isolation business must be driving them crazy; having to clear their calendar, stay away from people and be lost with themselves. What would they do without Zoom gatherings?
Introverts are inevitably having an easier time with shelter in place edicts. Sure, the calendar is empty, but we know how to exist without a full a calendar. We still have fairly full lives. I’ve had it relatively easy during these two weeks of isolation since coming back from Mexico. It helps that I’m more of an introvert than extrovert. I’m good at being alone. But there is a world of difference between choosing to be isolated and being told to isolate. I’m still going on dog walks. Fortunately, I’m finding places in South Lake Tahoe where people are cognizant of the 6-foot rule and abide by it. The dogs, well, they are still doing the butt-sniff greeting. For me, it shows there is some normalcy in the world. People on the trails seem kinder. We all suddenly have something in common, this coronavirus. One friend, who is 90, said with how quiet it is on the South Shore it reminds her of what the area was like when she first moved here.
One day calendars will be full again. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Before leaving Todos Santos I planned to isolate in Tahoe for two weeks so I would feel comfortable going to see my 85-year-old mom (and for all the other reasons to be responsible). Then came the edict from Gov. Gavin Newsom saying Californians weren’t to move around at all in April. Mom and I agreed we’d abide by that order. It’s hard. We’re healthy and want to keep it that way. We are the fortunate ones. However, we communicate a little more often now.
She is one of those extroverts I worry about; especially because she lives alone. She’s started gardening again, giving her purpose and getting her away from the television. Fortunately, my oldest sister, who lives in the same town, visits her. Church services and bible study are now delivered via Zoom for her. Technology is such a bridge in times like this.
It’s also a divider. Plenty of people don’t have computers at home or internet. While educational setting can be an equalizer, socio-economic truths are revealed when home becomes the classroom. I applaud educators and parents who are adapting to this new world. Even if things start opening up in May, classrooms in California are likely to be shuttered for the academic year. I imagine (and based on snippets I’ve seen on social media) learning is taking on new forms – like exploring the outdoors, cooking, yoga and so much more. Time will tell how this group of students will be changed because of what is happening in the world and at home.
A friend came close to losing their parents after both were diagnosed with COVID-19. The mom, who is one of my mom’s best friends, was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Boise, Idaho, only to be turned away. She was bad, but not bad enough to warrant a ventilator. One of their daughters suited up and started caring for them. They turned the corner and will be fine. It was certainly touch and go. My mom relayed how Patsy described it to her made it obvious no one wants this virus. It’s not the flu, no matter how some powers that be continue to describe it as being benign.
I can’t imagine the angst of not being able to say goodbye in person to a loved one. To hold their hand, that final touch, those last words. I hope I don’t ever experience that emotional hell. I hope it’s more than wishful thinking that the number of people who are in that situation starts to diminish. I have a friend who can’t visit her mom who is in a care facility that is in lockdown, like all the others. The phone isn’t the same as visits in person when someone is compromised.
One friend has been wrestling with the paperwork for a small business loan from the stimulus package to keep her publication alive. She called it “my new 50+ hour week job.” With advertisers dropping off, she has gone solely online. Small and large publications are losing advertisers. People are being furloughed. I worry about what this shutdown will do to the media of all sizes. If you think the print publications you read are thinner than usual, it’s because advertisers have disappeared. The size is all determined by the percentage of ads. The media was already a precarious industry. In our desire for news about the virus and all other matters it should prove how necessary the media is. Buy subscriptions, pay for one even if it’s not available, support the advertisers. A publication I work for in Mexico has cut pay for staff and freelancers like myself by 50 percent.
I’m fortunate Sue opened her home to me in Tahoe. I’ve learned it’s hard to social distance living with someone. I wear latex gloves when cooking so I don’t “contaminate” anything she would touch. I start the laundry, including putting the clothes in the dryer. I open the dryer door for her since I’ve “contaminated” it, then she folds the clothes. My shirt sleeve is used so often to open doors. I’ve taken over the kitchen table as my work place. She steers clear. If I don’t want to glove-up, I ask Sue to get me something out of the fridge. We have separate leashes to walk the dog. I put on AJ’s coat and take it off of her. Sue is in charge of the remotes for the TV.
I realize this is nothing compared to the essential workers who are coming home at the end of a shift not knowing who they were exposed to; even worse for the ones who know exactly what they were immersed in. There are people who can’t go home because a loved one is compromised; which means racking up bills for a hotel. It’s real, it’s happening. I didn’t make up that scenario.
I can attend Zoom happy hours with friends, see others on FaceTime, WhatsApp, pick up the phone, text, email. I’ve done one Zoom happy hour. It seemed a bit much with 11 people. I’ve always preferred smaller gatherings. That one was dominated by the extroverts. I mostly listened. Maybe I’ll participate again, but it’s not something I’ve put on my calendar. I’ll stick with my more meaningful interactions with friends and family.
In many ways, because I don’t have children and am not working a traditional job, my daily life has not changed much. I miss playing tennis; that was my biggest social outlet. I miss my friends. I miss watching baseball. I’ve been exercising at home for years, so that has not been an adjustment. I prefer to cook than go out, so again, not a sacrifice. I am relegated to eat what is in the house, so I can’t merely go out to satisfy a craving I might have. This is just a whimper, and clearly nothing to complain about. I am making a grocery list. Baking items are something that would not have been on Sue’s. I like to read, so I’m still doing that. Even though libraries are closed, eBooks can still be downloaded.
My friend Rosemary had been collecting my mail while I was living in Mexico. I picked that up outside her house. We chatted through her kitchen window. We’ll walk 6-feet apart soon now that my two-week isolation is ending. It also means I’ll go to the post office to get my own mail.
This summer I’m hosting my family’s reunion in South Lake Tahoe; about 40 of us are planning to attend. This isolation has given me time to work on the bios of everyone so I can send those out before June. I’m still writing blog posts. I filled out the Census form online. But other things, well, I’m putting them off. The rack on my Jeep still needs to come off. I have a to-do list that gets longer, yet I have all of this time. I’m hoping to get back to writing my book. It hasn’t been touched since before I left Mexico. For the books I have written (The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks) I need to create PowerPoint presentations for the events I have lined up starting in June. I’m wrestling with sending an email to the retailers who owe me money for books that have been delivered. The stimulus package doesn’t cover those unpaid bills. It’s not thousands of dollars that I’m owed, but book sales are my primary income. I haven’t had a sale on Amazon since March 21.
Everyone is affected by this virus. For those who have been impacted far greater than I, you have my sympathies. For those deemed essential workers, thank you doesn’t seem like enough. For now, though, it’s all I can offer.
Stay sanitized … that’s my signature now on emails … and it’s how I end this missive.