Containing the coronavirus

Coronavirus diary, week 3:

It seems as though after my dad passed away on Feb. 19, the whole world started to come unraveled.

The coronavirus was already attacking China and several other Asian nations, but most people were thinking it wasn’t going to be much of a problem here. Within a couple of weeks after his death, all that began to change. It was declared a pandemic, and it became obvious that our lives were going to be turned upside-down, at least for a while.

Then my mom had a stroke. Fortunately, she was leading a practice session of the Stone Mountaineers, her old-time musical group at her retirement center, when it happened. Some of her fellow musicians realized what was going on and called for help, and she got treatment in time. Otherwise, she would probably be dead now.

She’s doing remarkably well, although in quarantine in the rehab section of the center. She even has a guitar in her room and, although she hasn’t completely regained the use of her right hand to do the finger-picking she likes to do, she can strum a little.

She was at Emory University Hospital — the same place where my dad died — for a couple of weeks after her stroke, and during that time, the pandemic was beginning to hit the Atlanta area. They tested her when she got back to Park Springs, and the results were supposed to be back within 48 hours. That was about 10 days ago, as I write this, and she still hasn’t gotten the results.

I feel pretty sure she doesn’t have the virus, though, because she hasn’t had any of the symptoms. But things are pretty tense around the place because, obviously, everybody who lives there is in the high-risk category — and three employees there have tested positive. So staff members now have moved into the facility and will remain quarantined with the residents.

Of course, my wife and I have been sheltering in place here in Pickens County, so we haven’t even been able to see my mom since she had her stroke. My sister lives in the Atlanta area, though, and she’s been visiting Mom through the window outside her room.

One day last week, she showed up with her ukulele and serenaded her. Then, she did a little anti-coronavirus dance around the building, yodeling and blowing soap bubbles all over the place, which we all know is the best defense against this bug. Soap, that is.

I imagine the other residents were either amused or horrified at this, but I can appreciate the sentiment.

I’ve been doing my own anti-viral ritual out on the front porch. I go out there with my Stratocaster and my Korg amp modeler and crank up the wickedest heavy-metal sound I can get — which is pretty doggone wicked — and blast away on a backwards version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Those crazy little coronaviruses just skitter away in horror when I get to the chorus: It’s a “gas gas gas!”

I don’t want to disturb my neighbors, so I do this anti-corona music into my headphones rather than an amplifier — but that doesn’t matter to the viruses. They can feel the anti-viral electro-magnetic field I’m creating even though they can’t hear the music.

At least it blows off some pent-up anxiety, and it can’t hurt to try.

But I’m glad that our governor finally came to the realization that people weren’t taking his stay-at-home suggestion seriously and decided to make it an order.

Based on the volume of traffic on the roads, it was pretty obvious to me that a lot of people in Pickens County were still carrying on with business as usual. They couldn’t all have been going to get groceries or medicine, which is all I’ve been doing when I go out.

So I was all ready to blast Gov. Henry McMaster in this week’s column for his stubborn, “deliberate” position on the issue, but he must have felt the heat and decided to act Monday. Either that or the political calculus in his mind shifted to where he figured he’d better do something. It was beginning to look as though South Carolina was going for the distinction of being last on the list to do something that history will show should have been done much sooner.

I know we take great pride in our constitutional rights here in the Palmetto State, and nobody likes having the government tell them what to do or not do. And I am concerned about the impact on the local economy and the flow of basic goods and services that we’re all going to continue to need.

But I’d a whole lot rather stay at home for a month or even a few months than catch a disease that could kill me and my wife. And the sooner everybody else starts doing their part, the sooner we can get through this.

Because things, I’m afraid, are fixing to get bad.