I started writing this on Saturday, March 21, 2020 as a way to recollect information during this uncharted circumstance we have found ourselves in. Coronavirus 2020, aka COVID-19. As best I could, I went back in memory, texts, and social media posts to collect information that has happened, and hope to document things a little more real time as we continue on this journey. What an odd time, and what an odd history to be witnessing.
I heard about Coronavirus a few weeks ago and being that I work at a brewery and my team is comprised of mostly young twenty-something-year-olds, I actually thought this was the “new hip term” for hangovers. It wasn’t too much longer after that, that I realized it’s something a little different, but still at that time I was considering it a far-removed threat for my friends, family, and really life in general.
Thursday, March 12th was the first indication that something might be going on. I mean, I had a few friends emailing and texting about it prior to that Thursday, but it was mostly a blip here and there and it didn’t seem like a presence here yet. Most of my sentiment was around “fear is good for the economy, it’s an election year. I’m not surprised, but I’m not concerned.” You have to realize, I stopped watching the news years ago because they say “good morning!” and then tell you why it’s not. Also, as someone who deals with PTSD, anxiety, and depression – and now most recently postpartum depression, it’s too easy for me to get “sucked in” so I try my best to not let fear rule my life and instead do my best to have it motivate me in one way or another. That’s how I try to manage.
Well, as it turns out – my entire Outlook calendar at work would be wiped in preparation for COVID19/Coronavirus preparations, adjustments, and the like at work. Just as fast as I clocked in at work, it was well past 5:30pm, I hadn’t taken a lunch break, and my entire to-do list for the day remained untouched. In fact, it had grown significantly.
Home life wasn’t much better. I had been training for a marathon that happened to land on my birthday – March 22 and had a group of my best Maryland girlfriends coming down to spend the weekend with me. Races and events were being cancelled each day and it seemed this one was at risk. So far, the intended to move forward and were adjusting to mitigate risk. However, other states had already begun limiting group events to gatherings of less than 250 people and even though this was a relatively small race in comparison to most of the events I’ve done, they were still looking at 3000+ participants.
Before the race even made any announcements, I started getting the sense that it wasn’t going to happen. First, the two that were flying down decided to cancel their flights and drive down. Then one of the women began throwing more and more articles about other states’ precautions in the mix. I resorted to just giving them the out they needed to make the decision less difficult. “Do what you need to for yourself and your family.” Schools in Maryland had already been cancelled and we’re all moms so I knew that added a level of challenge that would complicate things.
Friday, March 13th there was more chatter. I arrived to work a little battered from the unexpected change of plans and pace on Thursday, and tried to make up for the lost productivity. We had been tracking cancellations of tours and experiences due to COVID19 for about a week or so, but they seemed minimal – only about 2-3 at that time. Friday they started pouring in. Our sanitation department started bringing around cleaning kits, putting extra hand sanitizing stations out for the public and for team members, and the overall chatter seemed a little more ominous and constant than up until now. What if they close the brewery?
My friends had bailed completely. I was pissed and disappointed but I understood. I had given the permission to make the call already, but I held out hope that one or two of them might make the trip, even if we didn’t do the event. No such luck. Everyone was out and the articles that were being passed around just felt like salt in the wound. I didn’t need more propaganda thrown in my face as to why no one was coming… I already understood it was just too much. I removed myself from conversations and group messages for my own mental health. I’m sure it looked like an asshole move but you gotta do what you gotta do. By 1pm, the race announced it would be cancelling the event without refund or deferral options. We were encouraged to participate in the mileage we trained for “on our own” and share/post results virtually. (You can read about my candid thoughts here: https://runningyogimom.blog/2020/03/14/taper-crazies-covid-crazies-virtual-ultra/ )
By the end of the day I had been notified that my department was the first one to be suspended. This caused a little bit of panic that our gift shop would be closing, too (since we’re managed by the same person in our guest experience department) so employees started showing up in masses to cash in on their beer bucks (we get a free case of beer with every paycheck, and it was payday). Our gift shop team had doubled their previous record for most beer bucks redeemed in a day that Friday, and that’s not counting the guests who were buying beer as well.
On the home-front, although Landon’s school and the state of North Carolina hadn’t made any announcements (actually quite the contrary, they were claiming that the CDC recommended NOT closing schools), I had started the mental prep that he would probably not be returning to school for quite some time once they left on early dismissal Friday. Flash forward, the announcement was made Saturday evening.
I started making a contingency plan to keep my team working and keep their hours up and keep their paychecks coming. We offered anyone who had PTO and wanted to take some “mental health” time or unpaid time off the ability to do so without penalty. I started reaching out to other departments to see if they had projects or needed any extra help. I decided to work that following day, Saturday, to at least come in and provide some direction and support to the team members that did want hours. At this time, the taproom restaurant and gift shop were still open, and our production teams were still running. A few people opted to take time off given the chance – after all, it was just a week suspension to get the spaces cleaned up and make some adjustments to accommodate the increased hygiene and sanitation measures we needed to take to operate safely.
Saturday night into Sunday, Clara was up a lot throughout the night. I have no idea why, although I suspect she was popping her last molar. In any event, although I don’t think I really would have been able to sleep much due to the circumstances, stress, and anxiety, her escapade made any hope of that impossible. I don’t take the nights she sleeps well for granted, regardless of if I sleep well or not…
Sunday morning, we received an email from the CEO stating we would be closing the remaining public facing spaces and limiting access to the brewery for vendors and team members for the remainder of the week. We also found out the company would be extending full compensation and benefits to team members impacted. I immediately began working with my team leads to identify projects we needed to get done while the brewery was shut down, but also needed to identify my resources available. Who on the team was comfortable working? Who wanted hours and tasks, and who just needed to let this blow over for one reason or another? I contacted everyone immediately and hit on three main bullet points: Do not report to work until you’re directed to (if you’re comfortable). You will be paid for this time. I’ll be in touch with further instructions.
Unfortunately, some of my team read the CEO’s email as a free paid vacation and started making plans and other obligations. I only mildly successfully reigned this in and still am facing repercussions with team members who didn’t confirm the vague details before making plans. This is the reason I like to be very direct when communicating with my team, and especially during crisis management. I learned a few lessons and the emotional toll was starting to creep in from all directions.
My friends weren’t coming. My birthday race and 20th marathon was cancelled. My son’s school was cancelled. My team was out of work (albeit still being compensated). The social circumstances and economic situation became very precarious. People started panicking and hoarding cleaning supplies, toilet paper (why?), meat, and non-perishables. Facebook was littered with disheartening stories of people stealing face masks from hospitals by the hundreds of boxes of hundreds. Reports of full lock downs, shelter-in-place ordinances, and businesses being closed seemed to increase and each state’s direction changed hourly. The recommended maximum number of people for gatherings kept decreasing. First no more than 250 in California, with a waiver for Disney Land. Then Disney Land closed. Then Disney World. Then the recommendation went down to 100, 50 and soon no more than 10 people were allowed to congregate.
Such phrases as “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” started creeping in on Facebook and in emails and meetings at work. Social distancing. Something like voluntary physical distancing and awareness when around other people that intends to halt or slow the spread of contagious diseases. And COVID19 has been proving itself to be incredible contagious and very resilient. The idea lies in the reduced probability of contact between people to minimize transmission and in effect reduce the impacts – including death. Someone landed on six feet. We were all supposed to remain six feet away from each other at all times and avoid social situations that aren’t necessary. An introvert’s dream.
Flatten the curve refers to the concept of doing what we can to slow the spread and exponential growth, so as to not overwhelm the medical resources when this thing peaks. In essence, we’re trying to alter norms to slow the “peak” of COVID19 and avoid a sharp increase as trends predict and had shown in Italy and China.
After communicating with my team throughout the morning on Sunday, March 15th, I set out to try and get my last longer training run in for the marathon I was now going to have to complete alone. The problem was, with no sleep Thursday night, Friday night, and now Saturday night, and an overall elimination of any appetite, I was running on fumes. That, coupled with such a sudden escalation in circumstances, I made it 5.5 miles before I felt dizzy, faint, and like my legs weren’t connected to my body. I couldn’t breath and had to sit down to avoid passing out. I sat for 15-20 minutes before realizing I couldn’t stand up and was barely holding myself in a seated position. I text my husband and he immediately got in the car to come pick me up. I just couldn’t breath.
I have the most supportive husband in the world, who has been there for me during plenty of mental health episodes and issues. He gets me, and most of the time he crushes it in terms of helping me handle, understand, or manage my PTSD and anxiety (and lately, PPD, although that was a whole new set of puzzles to play with!). We decided we would go out one last time for the foreseeable future and hit up one of our favorite local spots: Bold Rock Cidery. They have a great food truck and the weather was perfect so we kept our distance from people and just hung out outside while we ate, laughed, and Clara played in the rocks.
Although I didn’t clock in or record my hours, I spent most of the day Sunday working and corresponding with various team members. I typically don’t have my phone notifications on for work apps, but given the ever-changing circumstances, I kind of felt obligated to stay in the loop to keep my team in the loop. I made my last work phone call at 7:57pm. Given that the email from our CEO came out around 7:45am, I had spent most of the last 12 hours of the day working on and off. To make things worse, since things really started to kick off, I hadn’t slept very much from Thursday on… I was just exhausted and rolling in one punch at a time.