When the first handful of coronavirus cases were confirmed in the New York Metro area, I knew I would have to take extreme measures– some many might consider overblown and unnecessary– to protect my family. It was the firsthand account of James Cai, one of New Jersey’s first coronavirus cases that let me know things were about to get real. Cai, a 32-year-old physician’s assistant in relatively good health, was hospitalized after being infected with the deadly illness, unable to see his wife and child for weeks. Cai’s hospitalization was particularly jarring to me because I had been following COVID-19 closely in the news, and at the time it was still being reported that the virus had no significant effect on young adults with no preexisting conditions. Cai’s story, and that of many others, now tells us otherwise.
Since he was one of the first young adults to be infected and hospitalized in our area, I followed Cai’s story closely. I would sit up for hours reading various news reports and updates on his condition while my baby slept beside me and wonder what would happen to my family if I had to be temporarily hospitalized. The thought always put a lump in my throat. Sometimes, tears would flow. Other times, I was successful in holding them in.
Since she was born, my daughter and I have never been apart longer than a couple of hours. The only night we spent away from each other was our first night in the hospital. She still nurses multiple times throughout the night. She’s still hysterical when she wakes up at night and doesn’t see me. We spend just about every waking moment together. And while I understand we won’t be able to keep this up forever, the thought of coronavirus being the thing that finally forces up to be apart for a substantial amount of time sends my heart racing. And so, I’m relentless about preventing the spread of germs. I disinfect everything that crosses my threshold. I hound my family about handwashing. I stalk news outlets for the latest COVID-19 updates. I handwash my laundry in order to avoid using the community laundry room. I stay up until ungodly hours stalking grocery store websites to secure delivery slots so that I don’t have to venture out to the supermarket. I scour the internet for hard-to-find items like disinfectant spray and wipes. I chase my family down with vitamin C supplements. And I continue to look for creative ways to make it up to and be there for my best friend, who is also the godmother to my daughter, after COVID-19 anxiety resulted in me missing her mother’s funeral.
I realize there’s nothing I can do to 100 percent prevent coronavirus from finding its way to my doorstep, as there is so much uncertainty regarding how this virus is spread. And so, after I’ve taken every precautionary measure, I pray. Hard. I promise God that I’ll do better and I beg Him to keep us shielded from this pandemic. I try hard not to be fearful, since it’s argued that the presence of fear is indicative of the absence of faith, but honestly, I’m shook. And I don’t know if that will ever not be the case.