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Cabin Fever Chronicles: Your stories of coping with coronavirus in Tucson

More by Dylan Smith

TucsonSentinel.com's "Cabin Fever Chronicles" is the place to share stories and thoughts about how you and your family are coping with restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We'll feature tips and anecdotes from our readers and others about how we're all living with the coronavirus outbreak. How much toilet paper are you hoarding? (You probably don't want to let your neighbors know that, on second thought.) Do you have kids to deal with while the schools are closed? Is your job affected? How are you limiting trips away from home to help "flatten the curve"?

As we all go through this rapidly developing event, TucsonSentinel.com is actively seeking local stories from readers about how YOU are dealing with things.

Please share your thoughts, observations, suggestions or photos (with captions)! These could be anything from a very short blurb about coping with the outbreak, how to help local businesses, shopping madness, activities, fears, fighting the sickness, etc., or a diary-style story.

If you’d like to share your thoughts with us, please email text and photos to cabinfever@tucsonsentinel.com. We'll also pull selected comments from our Facebook page.

I finished a week of night shifts earlier today and I think the most surprising thing for me (and perhaps the most concerning) was the dramatic shift in the ages of COVID-19 patients being admitted to the hospital.

Over this past weekend, the ages of my most seriously ill COVID patients (requiring supplemental oxygen and aggressive respiratory support — none were on ventilators thankfully) were 27, 45, 24 and 32 years old. The 24-year-old had ZERO risk factors for the virus.

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Once again, PLEASE mask up when out in public and stay at home and socially distance consistently. We will get through this pandemic mess as long as we all work together to reduce the spread of this terrible infection. Thank you! — Dr. Matt Heinz, 6/29/20

From Bruce Halper, 6/27/20:

Here's the story of how I tried to get tested all day long today (Saturday) and got bent over by Banner Urgent Care. (I have no qualms about being bent over literally — for legitimate reasons).

I understand these are insane times, and front-liners are working overtime, and the systems are overloaded, but here's why it felt like a nightmare — especially when you feel as though you need some immediate help, as I'm sure it is for many others.

CVS had no available appointments today.

At 2:30 p.m. today, I got an appointment for 7:40 p.m. at the Ina Road location for a COVID testing — the only available place in town. That mean a five-hour wait in the comfort of my own home. OK, good enough.

The appointments are all done online — there is no telephone access to any testers that I know of (I tried) in case you may have any questions.

I anxiously waited to depart from my house at the appropriate time, around 7:15.

At 6:20 p.m. I get a text saying "We are 70 minutes behind - your new time is 8:50 p.m. We apologize for the inconvenience, see you soon." (These automated texts are sounding comforting and personal and folksy by now).

As I'm approaching the clinic, I get another auto text saying "Please arrive before we close at 9 p.m. because your estimated visit time is 8:50 p.m. See you soon."

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Yup, I'm already there 10 minutes before my "appointment" as required. My second appointment time after being pushed back.

I get there, and the young woman behind the window asked me about my symptoms and she said, "OK, there's a two-hour wait."

Me: Oh, no "I have an appointment," I say.

Her reply: "Our system is messed up; you should NOT have paid attention to our texts and you just should have come in at the original time that you were scheduled."

I walked out.

I started working from home in March. I quickly found myself in awe of all the time I could devote to projects around the house, cleaning closets, organizing the pantry, baking cinnamon rolls from scratch, and stimulating the economy by redecorating my living room with the click of a mouse. Within a few weeks, the projects dwindled, cabin fever set in, and I needed to get out! I set out for my favorite spaces before the crack of dawn both avoid people and hunt for memorable photos. Somewhere in the solitude at sunrise, being home became less about staying busy and more about relishing the moments. Mysti Guymon, 5/25/20

This weekend I topped 1,000 miles ridden on my bike since the lockdown began without leaving Tucson. After 500 miles, I named the bike Rocinante after Don Quixote de la Mancha’s faithful horse, for no other reason that I found it amusing. Later it occurred to me the real reason was that I wanted to occupy that place between delusion and idealism, a place where I would take myself a little less seriously.

Like most, I have barely left my house for months. But when I do I am biking in places I never knew existed in the very city where I live. Which brings me to the hawk.

Read more of these "Reflections on biking 1,000 miles, but never far from home" from author Todd Miller, 5/18/20

If I’m honest, it started Sunday afternoon. I was putting away clothes in my daughter’s room at the peak of the afternoon heat, and the air conditioning was giving me chills. Monday morning I dropped my kids off at their dad’s house and went on a 2.5 mile run that felt challenging in a good way, but increasingly throughout the day I started to feel weirder and weirder, like my head was somehow being invaded by bees. Then by about 5 p.m., I was outside in the sun and got chills again.

Oh no.

I went inside and took my temperature, and there it was: 99.1.

Could be nothing. Could be just that I was outside.

But I was cold. Like, needed a blanket cold.

I waited about 15 more minutes and took my temperature again. 99.5.

And the panic started to set in. — Read more from Annie Holub about how "Fever in the age of coronavirus" can be terrifying. 5/11/20

At the Tucson Speedway on Thursday night, hundreds parked along the track to watch "Days of Thunder," one of the first public events in Pima County since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. See more photos from TucsonSentinel.com's Paul Ingram, 5/8/20 »

This all began with a dang cat bite... On April 1, I was bitten by a stray cat outside my apartment. (Yeah, yeah, I know: I shouldn't pet stray cats.) I went to the hospital and was tested positive for rabies! Hours later, I was patched up and sent home to heal.

The next day, I was throwing up, I had a fever, and my wound had grown 20 times the size it was the night before. It was hot to the touch and extremely painful.

I went to the hospital again and was admitted for 5 days with cellulitis. The doctor told me that if I had waited even hours to get help, I would not have survived.

I had finally recovered from the cellulitis and was sent home.

About two weeks later, I developed the worst sore throat of my life! I went to urgent care to get my throat swabbed for strep. It was negative, but I was given antibiotics to treat it "in case that it was a false negative."

The next day, my symptoms became even worse. I couldn't swallow a thing and was becoming really dehydrated. So I went back to another urgent care for help. Because I had been hospitalized recently and exposed to COVID-19, I was tested for it. Results would come in five days. I was also swabbed again. No strep. I was sent home to rest.

When my symptoms got even worse and I was running a temperature and developed a rash, I went to the emergency room. I was tested for strep, mono, tonsillar cellulitis I had a CT scan to check for any kind of abscess. Everything was negative.

The doctor was extremely brief and told me that based on my symptoms, the chances of me having COVID were very high. Because everything else was not conclusive, he advised me to go home and wait for my test results.

This morning I got a call from urgent care: Looks like I now have COVID-19!

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Since my first hospital stay, I have been in isolation. I have not come in contact with anyone from the school, so you're all safe. I will have to spend a few more weeks alone to fight this dumb sickness. — high school teacher Mackenzie Gannon, 4/27/20

While out making some pretzel deliveries, I may have inadvertently stumbled upon a "hot spot." I couldn't really tell. I didn't stick around for long. I know one thing for sure, this virus is gonna be tough to beat. It's getting bold and marking its turf. Be safe. Be alert. Jeff Grubbs, 4/14/20

A reflection on shopping at a supermarket during the COVID-19 era: It all starts when a woman isn't happy that there's a line, and immediately rolls her shopping cart into everybody's six-foot space on her way to the end while simultaneously proclaiming a concern for our children who, at this moment, due to the virus, are not being educated. The future, for that reason — she proclaims — is dire.

As I listen I realize another person is creeping up behind me. He's close, too close. Is he too close? And then I realize he's not too close. And I wonder: how much is this virus consuming me?— Read more from author Todd Miller in his essay, "Quietly queued: Thoughts in the coronavirus line at the supermarket." (4/11/20)

This is one of the first times ever in my life that I won't be able to attend the Yaqui ceremonies during Viernes Santo or Sabado de Gloria.

I've been attending since I was a little baby, too young to walk. It's a big part of our identity as Urban Natives (Yaquis & Chicanos) in Tucson to come together with our relatives at this time and witness and share in our traditions that have been passed down to us throughout the generations. We are a warrior tribe that maintained our sovereignty and autonomy throughout hundreds of years of fighting with the Spaniards and then later the pre-revolution colonial Mexican Army.

The fact that our ancient pre-Christian culture is still alive and being practiced today is a testament to the resiliency of our warrior Yoeme ancestors. Patrick Valencia McKenna, 4/10/20


The statue at the Hut wears a protective mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I went out on my own last night for a #socialdistancephotowalk to capture some of how Tucson has been responding to this pandemic. I wore a face mask and kept away from any other people out there.

There was a man playing electric guitar which echoed down the whole mostly empty street. It was a eerie sight to see the usually vibrant 4th Avenue mostly deserted. The only people I really saw were in nicely spaced lines getting takeout for dinner. Ray Cleveland, 4/7/20

The Pima County Board of Supervisors, holding a special meeting Thursday morning about the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, held a moment of silence in recognition of Chairman Richard Elías, who died Saturday.

— 4/2/20

Mike Rankin, Tucson's city attorney, shared his thoughts about what's "essential" on his personal Facebook page: I think the best question I've received this week was "Is Pat's Chili Dogs an essential service?"

My answer: "It always has been, and it always will be."

The nice thing about a Pat's dog (or two or three) is that the inevitable digestive after-effects promote social distancing. Stay safe everyone.

In all seriousness, this virus is a health threat of a kind that this nation - and planet - has not seen in a long time; and probably not in our lifetime anyway. We get caught up in what governors and mayors are ordering or not, and we love to argue about who is to blame for what is going on, but the fact of the matter is that protecting ourselves and our families is up to us.

We shouldn't need our respective governors to tell us to "stay at home" and limit human interaction to know that's what we need to do. We know that this virus, when compared with other flu viruses, is unusually infectious; unusually hardy; and causes unusually significant respiratory problems, particularly among vulnerable groups.

What more do you need to know? We have to give our fragile healthcare systems a fighting chance to mitigate deaths by slowing the spread.

Do your part.

Stop asking whether getting your poodle trimmed or getting your nails done, or whether it's OK to go to the club for a swim is an "essential service" or whether you'll get cited for it.

If you ask yourself what the right thing to do is, you know the answer. — 4/1/20

As the reality of Richard Elías' death sinks in I find myself looking at all of the wonderful photos of him people are posting that underscore his generosity, his warmth and his commitment to our community. Richard was one of those rare people who folks loved even when their views differed greatly. He was an odd and wonderful human being who will be deeply missed.

All of this has me thinking about how in this time of sheltering in place our norms of celebrating the life of this great man and the lives of lesser known but no less beloved are being upended in an effort to stop a deadly virus in its tracks. Up front, this mini-quarantine is the right path to take. But we will miss being there in the cathedral to say goodbye with family and friends as we so regularly did just weeks ago.

And so, until we can all gather safely together again and honor those who are passing I believe that sharing our photographs and stories on social media may be a worthy new norm worth cultivating as a way of honoring lives and keeping them in our hearts.

Elías speaks at a remembrance of the launch of Humane Borders water stations, March 2016. Photo: Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

I know that in the coming weeks and months I will be running across photos of Richard.

Christ, he was everywhere.

And as I do, I'll be sharing them on Facebook to remind us of that gentle man whose eyes crinkled shut when he laughed, and who lived his life fully and in service to all. I urge all of you to share your photos of passing friends as you run across them as well. It could be a while before things get back to normal but that doesn't mean we can't gather electronically to remember and heal communally through the sharing of these memories. Daniel Buckley, 3/29/20

Jennifer Brady Phillips shared some of the adjustments she's made to her daily schedule, 3/27/20:

  • Day 1: Shower, get dressed in work clothes, put on make-up, walk across the house to go to work
  • Day 2: Shower, get dressed in work clothes, walk across the house to go to work.
  • Day 3: Shower, walk across the house to go to work.
  • Day 4: Shower. At 4 p.m.

I just took a walk up and down the stairs and to the back of the building in which I live. My neighbors just greeted a group of about 10 people at their door. Three people were schlepping a cooler up the stairs. A few people were shaking hands with each other and introducing themselves. At first I thought, "Oh, neat a little get together and people meeting new people" and then I remembered where I was and when I was and I thought, "What the Dickens are they thinking?"Terry Filipowicz, 3/25/20

One plus of social distancing: possibly I was exceeding the speed limit by a relatively significant number heading south on Craycroft (it was downhill, after all) and instead of getting stopped, the sheriff rolled down his window and yelled at me to slow down, which I did! — Melissa Vito, 3/24/20

My experience at Target this morning: I drove up at 8 .a.m, just as they were opening. There was a line of people going in single file. Maybe a dozen or so but not "mobs." Going in, we were each offered a cart. We all lined up to the left, toward the toilet paper section. We congratulated ourselves (each other) for being so calm and civil.

At the TP aisle, you had a choice, the 4-pack or the 8-pack. Some people chose the smaller pack because that's all they need right now. A Target employee put one pack of TP in the customer's cart. Everyone said thank you to each other. I walked by a small group of Target employees discussing the displays in the food aisles, how to make things safe and efficient. They are taking their jobs very seriously.

Thank goodness all the customers were nice to them and to each other. Raise a glass to these workers! — (the Good Doctor) Laura de la Torre, 3/24/20

My second granddaughter was born five weeks early — and just in time to avoid the mad rush of COVID-19 patients at TMC 'cuz that's apparently how she rolls.

She's statistically likely to witness the 22nd century, which is mind-blowing considering I'm not quite used to the 21st.

Chaos is about to meet Mayhem.

Chaos, as I type, is pushing around an orange paint pail making an ungodly racket. She's at granpa's. That means she doesn't sleep. There's too much shit to to. Too much chaos to create. And she knows how easy it is to unsheathe one of her hyperdrive smiles to get away with whatever the hell she wants.

Alannah's partner in crime – and my insomnia – was born March 16, 2020 — five weeks premature. Audrey DeAnn Holliday, 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Part Yankee. Part Tennessee. All Arizonan.

She's in good shape for a preemie. Everything is where it's supposed to be but smaller. She just didn't have time for this coronavirus craziness. "What? You expect me to wait my turn and be born when the hospital is on crashdown? I can't trust you adults to properly buy toilet paper. I'm on my way … I got it covered."

She's not much for social distancing but she's doing her part to flatten the curve. In five weeks Tucson Medical Center could be packed. Overflow facilities may be set up. Health officials may be commandeering places temporarily shut down.

No way was Audrey going to allow herself to be born in The Shelter or Chicago Bar.

So she's here and growing her lungs preparing to roar, while visitors to the maternity ward are pilfering latex gloves and masks nurses keep in hospital rooms for things that are actually necessary.

With or without COVID 19, I was going to be in for another year or so of social distancing.

Read more from "What the Devil won't tell you" columnist Blake Morlock: "Birth in a time of coronavirus: Audrey DeAnn has got things covered" 3/22/20

A message from a nurse: In the hospital, as the situation evolves, the goalposts are shifted daily. Don't wear masks; you *must* wear masks, but don't waste masks; only two visitors per patient; *zero* visitors per patient; no more elective procedures; GI Lab procedures are ok, though; your job here is safe; you'll need to float to another department when we don't have enough cases; stay informed because knowledge is power; don't get too stressed by remaining informed; oh yes, by the way, Mel, you will be heading back to the emergency department when the time comes.

It's all so surreal. The tide is pulling out in anticipation of the tsunami. Today will be set aside for walking around the park looking for vermilion flycatchers, getting the wine chilled for my own little happy hour later on, and being grateful I live with two delightful humans who make this bizarre experience bearable.

My colleagues who are still in the emergency department will always be my heroes. They're adapting to new rules every single shift, with various levels of protective equipment. I miss them and look forward to getting back into the mix. Mel Mason, 3/21/20

My family — two in Tucson and two in different cities in California — played charades and sang some tunes on Zoom. — Linda Ekstrum, 3/19/29

"My wife is an Emergency Department nurse and so as much social distancing and self-quarantine as I practice, this virus can still come home to me. And perhaps it has," said Linus Kafka.

"After she was exposed to one patient who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19 (and a second presumed positive), my wife began to suffer some mild symptoms - trouble breathing, body aches, fatigue, chest pain, vomiting, headache. The hospital she works at began to offer a separate testing area and she was encouraged by her employer to get checked. I accompanied her."

"When the PA at the hospital called Pima County Health Department to get a test, the officials on the other end denied it, even after they were told she was a hospital worker exposed to a confirmed patient and she was suffering symptoms. They declined to test me as well. We opted to take private tests, but because of my symptoms (which I thought were mild), the hospital conducted a bank of rule-out tests - blood, urine, throat swab, and second nasal swab, as well as vitals."

"However, my wife was never tested for anything other than the first nasal swab. Compounding the problematic decision by the Health Department, my wife believes she should not return to work without test results showing she is virus free. This may take quite some time - especially with a private lab - and meanwhile she is needed at the hospital."

"This episode confirms for me that there are a lot of lessons yet to be learned in this crisis. Public health officials may be making decisions that contravene best practices and specific CDC and WHO advisories. It's imperative - not tomorrow, but today - that safe, fast, and decisive actions be taken, and tests results be made available ASAP to health care workers needed on the front lines." Linus Kafka, 3/18/20

I'm going to use the distancing and stay at home time to fix it so I don't have to look 5 places in the house to find a screwdriver.

Also added an extension hose to the hand-held shower head so it can reach the toilet. Voilà! (as they say in France.) Instant bidet (as they say in France.) Toilet paper? Pfffft! Tom Collier, 3/18/20

John Meyer took a stroll along 4th Avenue just before the 8 p.m. "last call" on St. Patrick's Day, checking out the reactions of patrons as bars closed on the orders of Mayor Regina Romero.

People were "pretty cheerful, actually. People milling around, but no big crowds. The only cops I saw were tending to a vehicle accident."

"Che's (Lounge) was really busy! The measures they took to keep distance between people did not work. The bar was jammed. So I'm hoping my immune system is up to the task."

"I guess I will have no excuse for not painting the house now, darn!, said Roger DeWitt Carillo.

Lena Rothman said, "I went for a wildflower drive over Gates Pass and saw beautiful wildflowers. Restored my energy and mood."

"This is just the time for a spring garden cleanup," Corinne Cooper. "As soon as the election is over, I'll be outside cutting the bougainvillea and cleaning up those dead bamboo leaves!" 3/17/20

Peter Michael Price is making his own St. Patrick's Day fun at home, with a fine local beverage and a few drops of food coloring. 3/17/20

We held a family meeting last night and after some drinks, tears and swearing decided that we are going to go the full social distance for a few weeks. It feels like the responsible thing to do and we're fortunate that we are able to do it.

So, we won't be doing any play dates or social gatherings. If you see us walking down the street or out on a hike, we'll wave from afar. I'll be working from home.

The coronavirus isn't going to kill us, but I can't say the same for each other. If you don't hear from me for a few days, send help.

Jennifer Brady Phillips, a Tucson CPA, 3/16/20

UA Prof. Kate Kenski shared her personal experience with "social distancing," as the parent of a premature baby, in a guest opinion for the Sentinel: "When physical distancing is a necessity: Dealing with coronavirus." 3/16/20

The rapid diffusion of the coronavirus has resulted in an A-ha! moment for most people worldwide but not for everyone.

We need to slow the spread by putting physical distance between us and others. Naysayers on social media believe that "social distancing" is unnecessary for them personally or can't be done.

Some have continued to party in crowded places or turned "social distancing" into a playdate vacation for their kids despite the potentially devastating consequences for the vulnerable in our community and the health system overall.

Yet, there are parents all around the country who have practiced physical distancing when it was important for the health of their child.

I am a part of that group. I am the parent of a micropreemie born in 2007 who came home on oxygen after being in the NICU for 109 days. Read more »

Please take some time – yes, out in public – to support our local businesses. People are losing their jobs as a result of how many of us are avoiding crowded places. Order "to go", or find a table away from others. It's important that we don't react ourselves into a recession. Support of local business is supporting your neighbor. I have spoken to some local restaurant owners and many are voluntarily spacing tables to meet the Pima County Health advice on social distance. That's probably a better choice to give your business to than the one across the street that's ignoring the recommendations coming from the docs.

Your neighbor is the other piece of the Local Tucson start this week. We have all seen the descriptions of who is most vulnerable to the virus. It's the seniors among us. Risk is multiplied if they have existing health conditions. As well, Social isolation can have extremely negative health and psychological effects. My mom lived alone and I very often wondered if she was just lonely. Social isolation can cause it, and other severe effects. Please pick up the phone and call your neighbor or family member if they have to be more home-bound than usual due to the virus. You can drop off a meal or some flowers, some way to just keep them connected so they know they're cared for and cared about.

COVID-19 is bad enough. Let's each stay focused on how we might play a part in minimizing the collateral damage that may result from our own acting to avoid its effects.

— City Councilman Steve Kozachik, from his weekly newsletter 3/16/20

This page will be updated frequently, with the most recent posts showing at the top.

If you’d like to share your thoughts with us, please email text and photos to cabinfever@tucsonsentinel.com. We'll also pull selected comments from our Facebook page.

We can't promise to publish everything that's sent our way, but we hope to provide a representative sampling of what our community is going through. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks to our fellow LION Publishers colleagues at B-Town Blog in Burien, Wash., for inspiring this “Cabin Fever” story-sharing project.


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Share your CV-19 diary entry

If you’d like to share your thoughts with us, please email text and photos to cabinfever@tucsonsentinel.com. We'll also pull selected comments from our Facebook page.

Please share your thoughts, observations, suggestions or photos (with captions)! These could be anything from a very short blurb about coping with the outbreak, how to help local businesses, shopping madness, activities, fears, fighting the sickness, etc., or a diary-style story.

This page will be updated frequently, with the most recent posts showing at the top.

We can't promise to publish everything that's sent our way, but we hope to provide a representative sampling of what our community is going through. Thanks for sharing!

Preventing the spread of coronavirus

From the Pima County Health Department: COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Those considered at highest risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to an area where the virus is spreading, or individuals in close contact with a person who is diagnosed as having COVID-19.

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Public health officials advise residents that flu and other respiratory diseases are circulating in the community, and are recommending everyone get a flu shot and follow basic prevention guidelines.

If you have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is circulating, and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have 2019 novel coronavirus, please stay home. Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms. If you have mild symptoms, please do not seek medical care, but do stay home and practice social distancing from others in the household where possible. If you do have shortness of breath or more severe symptoms, please call your health care provider to get instructions before arriving.

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