The Lepers in Room 1005!
By Marilyn L. Pinsky
Near the end of July, my partner and I headed to Sarasota, Florida for a week.
We were fully vaccinated and had a box of 50 highly-rated KN95 masks, both for the flights and to wear around town.
Just before we left, we heard that the Delta variant was going to be big in Florida and even though vaccinated and feeling safe, we still planned to be extra careful. This was about a week before we had even heard the term “Breakthrough COVID.”
The flight was fine; a lot of hand washing and keeping our masks on.
Upon arrival at the building where we were staying, a very friendly fellow handed us the keys to the room, took us up in the elevator and showed us around.
Two days later we got an email that he came down with COVID-19. Two days later, so did my partner. Four days later, so did I.
As soon as we got the first positive COVID-19 result, we felt we had to report it to the building manager. The management, thus informed, went into total battle mode, as they rightly should have. What follows are my “Notes From the Battlefield.”
The building residents were informed that there was now another COVID-19 case, no names mentioned, and the management explained all the extensive measures being taken to limit the spread.
If we weren’t the lepers in this situation, we would have found those measures very comforting.
The first week was without a doubt scary; fever, coughing, headaches, too tired to get out of bed, not knowing if we should be going to a hospital or if that was a worse place to be. We were very grateful for having had the vaccines as they ultimately kept us out of the hospital and from more serious consequences, but at that point the effects of the delta variant were unknown on the previously vaccinated.
It was a very stressful time as no one could tell us what to expect and we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Prior to my getting sick, I was able to at least go to the drug store for a thermometer and a pulse oximeter and to the grocery store for some basic food, as we had a small fridge in the room, but once I was sick we were living on takeout.
Let me tell you, leftover crab Rangoon is not so great for breakfast.
The building management was very nice and felt badly, but they were responsible for the safety of the whole building, so they did not want us leaving our room, which we certainly understood. So there we were, 24/7 in one room. By day 18 we figured that if we killed each other, the murderer would get off free, as in Florida it would probably go down as just another COVID-19 death.
But what to do with the garbage from all those takeout meals and the endless tissues from our colds when you can’t leave your room?
To walk to the garbage area by darkness of night, I would put on my mask and gloves. I would dress up like a hooker one night, a drug dealer the next, figuring no one would be as upset at seeing members of those professions sneaking around at night as they would be of the lepers being out of their room.
Around day 8 the toilet stopped working and for some reason, we had never thought to pack a toilet plunger. It took a while for someone to come to fix it because he had to suit up in full protective gear to be near us.
Then there was Fred. First he was an offshore depression. Then he was a tropical storm. Poor guy couldn’t make up his mind. But one day, suddenly Fred became an urgent figure in my life. The room we were in opened to the common pool area and every time a storm approaches, all the pool furniture has to be taken in. We got a call from building management that they had closed off two floors because we had been on them and therefore they couldn’t send anyone up to bring in the pool furniture unless I went for a COVID-19 test. And I had to do it immediately in time for the results to come back before the storm and while their staff was still working on Friday.
Not having a car, I had no option but to take an Uber to an urgent care center on a nearby island to get my test. When I got in the car the driver was not wearing a mask, despite emails from Uber saying I could not be a passenger without wearing a mask and I had to check the online form promising I would. It also said on the app that all their drivers are masked. I told the driver that I was sick and going for a COVID-19 test and he should be wearing a mask. He told me that COVID-19 was fake news so he didn’t have to. When I asked, given the state of the spread of the disease in Florida, if he didn’t know anyone who had ever had COVID-19. He said “sure and some who died but they would’ve died anyway from something. And they wouldn’t have died if the government wasn’t withholding the drugs from the people to reverse COVID.”
“I told the driver that I was sick and going for a COVID-19 test and he should be wearing a mask. He told me that COVID-19 was fake news so he didn’t have to.”
That shut me up for the rest of the trip.
Three and a half weeks later we were out of quarantine and though we had barely enough energy to get to the airport, we were determined to get home. Home sweet home.