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I knew we were in Michigan once we began seeing dead deer lining the road and lingering snow over dreary, brown grass.

What a change from the greenery of the sub-tropics! We made it home yesterday (3/22/20) after a rapid trip from Florida. We made the decision to leave earlier than planned when our concern switched from keeping healthy to realizing that if we didn't leave, we could be stuck there for an indeterminate length of time. Everyone is talking about it, no less me in this blog. "IT" is the coronavirus, SARS CoV-2, covid-19, or, as the Prez likes to say, the China Virus. I hear the groan. It's okay, I want the reaction! More on that later.

We are all living a new reality during this pandemic. Before we left our condo in Fort Pierce, we envisioned things we might encounter and how to avoid exposure to the virus. Staying in hotel rooms has always felt 'icky' to me. It felt outright threatening this time. I made a 'clean pack' using a cloth wine bottle carrier. In one section, I put Handi Wipes. In another, a spray bottle of Clorox spray cleaner. In a third, Lysol spray and in the fourth, a pump bottle of Dawn detergent. This little kit preceded our entry into the two hotel rooms we stayed in. Everything got cleaned, even if it looked clean. At one of our refueling stops, a cheerful station clerk was wiping off the counter with bleach spray. We joked over it after I thanked her for keeping things clean. I told her about my 'clean kit'. She said she also cleaned hotel rooms and exclaimed, "They don't clean anything!" Yup. Kinda what I figured.

Because we were trailering a twenty-foot boat, there was no way for us to drive through fast food places that are reduced to carry-out only service. I made our meals ahead and packed them in microwave-proof containers. (Jambalaya and a rich soup, if you must know!) Sandwiches, fruit, carrot sticks and blueberry muffins went into a cooler for our lunches. Breakfast was cold cereal and milk. I packed paper bowls, plates, napkins, plastic dinnerware, and snacks. The prep was endless and tiring, especially because I had a bad cold. Just a cold. The good ol' rhinovirus is alive and well even during the pandemic.

Rest stops were also a challenge. Everyone knows that hand sanitizer is like liquid gold right now, so valued that the dispenser at a rest stop in Kentucky was monitored by an attendant. He gave me the evil eye when I pumped four times. At another rest stop restroom, a woman put the cowl neck of her shirt over her mouth and nose. Nice try, sweetie, but that fabric ain't gonna keep the coronavirus out. I cringed when anyone used an air hand dryer. They should be immediately put out of service! Blowing air about only serves to contaminate everything! Where is the CDC mandate on that? And another thing, peeps. Money. It is filthy. Threat it like it is. It can be washed, by the way. Many a dollar has survived my lack of emptying pockets.

In general, the trip was eerie. There was little traffic. Parking lots were empty. Churches were abandoned on Sunday morning. Even the parking lot surrounding the Indiana National Guard facility was nearly devoid of vehicles. WHAT? Needle skipping sound here, uuurrreeep! I looked at the Google maps satellite image. Whenever it had been taken, there were numerous military vehicles surrounding the buildings. Where had they gone? Deployed? Hopefully to protect us . . . from ourselves.

We arrived home tired and safe after a rapid, stressful flight. We immediately stripped inside the door and showered. Once we were in fresh clothes, we began unloading and decontaminating. Anything that was taken inside the hotel rooms is considered contaminated. All that can be laundered will be put in the washer. The rest has already been sprayed with Lysol. Things we cannot properly clean will be left to sit for several days. The virus will eventually die on inanimate objects. In the meantime, we are self quarantining. This means we cannot see our granddaughters, daughter and son-in-law. It's killing me! Our daughter bought groceries for us already. She's very concerned about her parents, especially because we both have pre-existing respiratory conditions. What a blessing family is during a crisis!

Concerning the name of this scourge, calling it the China Virus is unfortunate and unnecessary. On the other hand, we still call the Spanish flu the 'Spanish' flu. We still call swine flu the 'swine' flu. (Poor pigs.) Then there is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Ebola (named for the Ebola river), West Nile virus and the like. Nomenclature is a tricky thing. It is instantly descriptive, but turns harmful when it incites discrimination. Please, just stop, Mr. Prez. We know the Chinese government wasn't forthright when the outbreak started, but it isn't helping to poke the tiger when we need words of reassurance. More importantly, we have many citizens of Chinese descent in this country, none of whom had anything to do with the origin of the virus or its spread, who are now suffering discrimination.

Ron and I may be criticized for traveling during this time. If we didn't have a farm and other pressing issues that can only be attended at home, we would have sheltered in place. We took every precaution to keep ourselves and others safe. I was trained in sterile procedure as a nurse. I know what it means to prevent contamination. In effect, we created a bubble to protect ourselves and others. I know others won't be as careful and the virus will spread through their carelessness.

As a nation, we've survived many crises. I expect this one will pass, especially once an effective vaccine is available. In the meantime, please remember to thoroughly wash your hands, avoid touching your face, stay home and stay safe. We will, now that we are home.

UPDATE: Michigan governor Whitmer issued an executive order to stay home as I was concluding this post.

A new reality. Our 'clean' kit.

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