When I watch the PBS NewsHour, the single television information broadcast I allow myself right now, the governor of Louisiana explains his growing concern over both the rise in Covid-19 cases and the state’s ability to respond should the trajectory continue, I remember my son’s telephone call two weeks ago.
I know it was a Friday because the best bakery on the Coast opens Thursday through Sunday only. A childhood friend of my husband’s was visiting, a former Oregon resident, and invited us to go with him and his wife to stock up on goodies. The night before he had shown up at a gig my husband played at a local bar. We log all gigs on our shared calendar.
Pacific Coast makes the best bâtard, baguettes, and sweets of every stripe—cookies, muffins, brownies. People form lines outside and by noon the display cases are empty. On this gray day months away from the crush of summer tourism, we breeze right in, have a wide array to choose from, and leave bags-in-hand and salivating.
We decided to stop for a late lunch at South Beach Seafood Market—another “hot spot” with both outdoor and cramped-but-cozy indoor seating. Patrons cluster inside today. Our food has just arrived when my phone rings. It is my son calling from New Orleans, he often picks post-work on Friday when he’s walking the dog to touch base, so I step away from the table and head for a secluded corner of the market to answer.
“How are you guys? It’s bad here.” At this point in our rural setting, the most dramatic concession to what will be called a pandemic has been that the schools started Spring Break a week early. I tell him that. Truthfully it all seems so distant and unlikely, the gravity. (We had no cases then and have none diagnosed now. The state, nonetheless is shut down.) His voice is upbeat, but he is beneath it, concerned.
He explains that cases are mounting, and that because of Mardi Gras when about 1.5 million people travel to NOLA combined with the incubation period, just now the “seeding” effect of all that tourism, all that revelry packed into their city the end nowhere in sight is playing out. Caution is the watchword, but immediately it registers: the damage has already been done. And my son, no alarmist, is alarmed.
This is a possible theory that Governor John Bel Edwards advances on the NewsHour then stipulates that only after the crisis is over, and the analyses begin, can anything be confirmed. And we’re nowhere near that now. A friend of ours commented that when the first cases happen here, “This shit’s gonna get real.”
I said I wasn’t going to write about the corona virus crisis again, but I have to, you understand. For us, our son and his fiancé sheltering-in-place has ultimate urgency. For us, and for so many worldwide, this shit is all-too-real.