A First Month: Life During COVID-19

I was there . . .

by Sarah Moir

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Interstate 280 from the 18th Street overpass, 6:45 pm, Thursday, March 23, 2020.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

Friday, March 6, 2020
My employer emailed us late last night telling us that starting at noon today, everyone in the Bay area offices should work remotely. There’s one diagnosed COVID-19 case at a daycare that is near our Santana Row office, so they’re keeping the offices open but strongly encouraging everyone to work from home. I live very close, so I gathered up some plastic baggies and went to the office. Breakfast is served on Fridays and I wanted to help prevent as much food waste as I could. I didn’t bother to grab my keyboard and mouse or anything else I might need ergonomically, after all, the office was still open!

Gatherings over 1000 people are strongly discouraged by the mayor, but that doesn’t affect me.


Saturday, March 7, 2020
I had a ticket to see zack villere play a show at Slim’s, and while I’m feeling kind of meh about going, I decide to go anyway. I was grateful the show was nowhere near sold out because that meant I could keep my personal space from people. Later I’d be grateful for that, and also that my last show before all this was at Slim’s, before it closed for good.

Things still feel pretty “business as usual”. I went to get groceries at Gus’s Market today too, now that I’ll be working from home I’ll be eating at home more frequently too.


Sunday, March 8, 2020
I go to the gym to meet up with my trainer, and then have a quick turnaround to meet up with my friend for a mani/pedi. After that, I make another grocery run, this time to Safeway. At this point I’m still not very concerned about the virus. Most of what I’ve read so far says that this is just a bad flu, so I’m not super concerned about catching it or reducing my risk to it. The only place it’s been is a daycare next to our office. I’m not concerned.


Monday, March 9, 2020
A doctor from Italy has a Twitter thread go viral.

It’s the first thing I read that makes me actually scared about what we’re facing. All of a sudden I realized that this was real, this was serious. I begin to get scared, and I’m grateful that I’m working from home already. All the same, without very much information I treat today like any other work from home day. I have a doctor’s appointment, so I hop on the bus and head to their offices in Union Square. As on any other Monday, I head to the gym for a class, use the communal mats, and then head home for dinner.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Another day working from home. The news says that two people who attended the IT security conference held at the Moscone Center at the end of February have been diagnosed with COVID-19. I demoed at our company booth there, and while I was diligent about using the hand sanitizer and avoided shaking hands, I know that I demoed to some guys at the company mentioned in the news and I scanned their badges. I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m 11 days into the possible exposure period and already working from home.

At this point I’ve been getting most of my news about the situation from my company and Twitter. One of my colleagues shares this post: Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now and it’s the first reasoned essay about the severity of the situation I’ve read.

We have a soccer game scheduled for tonight, and one of my coworkers asks if we should be playing at all. The majority of us agree that if someone is uncomfortable playing, they don’t need to play, but the rest of us still want to. He has asthma, so he’s higher risk than the rest of us if he gets it. He stays home.

I head to the office to pick up some jerseys and pinnies for those of us playing and grab my keyboard and mouse too, just in case the ergonomics of full time laptop use get to me. When the game’s over we bump elbows instead of shaking hands. I wander to Gus’s after the game and buy some more groceries.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Another work from home day. I go for a walk along the Embarcadero, walking to the Ferry Building and back. It’s nice. Lots of people out running.

Later tonight I met up with a guy I met on the dating app Hinge. We sat for about half an hour at the food truck park eating ice cream and chatting. We hugged goodbye.

Governor Gavin Newsom announces that any gatherings over 250 people are strongly discouraged. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. I’m relieved that I don’t have any plans to go to any concerts for the rest of the month, though I do have plans to fly to Chicago at the end of the month to see The Format.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

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One of the sidewalks along Dolores, which are soooooo wide and thus make for very comfortable walks during this social distancing time.

Photo: Sarah Moir

Working from home doesn’t mean we have to work from home alone! I go over to a coworker’s house to work from his house. But I want to be safe, so I take my temperature before I head over. I feel safe to get on the 10 and head to his house. At lunch, we go out to a restaurant which is pretty busy.

I decide to go have a light lifting day at the gym. I wipe everything down with wipes before I use it. Wiping down a barbell is not my standard practice, but it seems appropriate now. I avoid touching my face throughout the workout, and make sure that I wash my hands before I start working out and after I’m done. Usually I forget to wash my hands, especially after I’m done, but I’m diligent about it now.

The Format, the band I’m planning to see in Chicago at the end of the month, announces that they’re moving their concert dates to July, and United Airlines has waived flight change fees, so I update my plans to late July instead. I’m still looking forward to my concert calendar, which is due to start April 3rd with a slew of DJ sets all month.

I read an article about social distancing in The Atlantic, hoping that it will help me decide what to do about my gym visits and whether or not I can safely work from home with my friends or not.


Friday, March 13, 2020
I read a tweet about historians stressing the importance of keeping a journal during this time. I ordinarily don’t keep a journal but I figure it can’t hurt, so I start writing this in emails to myself.

Today was another collaborative work from home day.

Mayor London Breed announces that all gatherings of more than 100 people are banned, and Trump declares a state of emergency. He also announces that he’s banning all travel from Europe for the next 30 days. As soon as that’s announced, the DJ for the first April show I plan to see confirms that he’ll have to postpone his show. I skim the rest of my concert calendar and note that most of the DJs I’m scheduled to see are from Europe, so I’m not optimistic about any of those shows sticking around. GoFundMes for the various venues in support of their staff start to crop up and I start donating to whichever ones I can.

Some clubs waited until the last possible minute to close, with weird language like this from Halcyon: "This order obviously impacts our scheduled shows for this weekend and beyond. While we pride ourselves on offering a safe, familial place to come together to dance, celebrate life and our community, we must adhere to the city order and respect their efforts to protect the greater community at large. We are saddened to be denied one of our greatest comforts during this trying time, the power of dance plus the love, friendship and camaraderie of our dance floor family. We can only hope that this forced sequestering is indeed for the greater good."

Meanwhile, Goldenvoice (a local promoter) is publishing vague things like this: "Due to the recent mandate by the city of San Francisco, all Goldenvoice shows will be impacted by these unprecedented circumstances. At this time there is no information on a new date. However, if a new date is announced, there is nothing you need to do as your tickets will be valid for that new date and you will be notified. If the event cannot be rescheduled once the ban is lifted, a refund will automatically be issued to the credit card you used to purchase, within 30 business days. Our partners will follow the recommendations of local health authorities as to when to re-open venues. We would direct customers to continue to check back on the venue’s website and/or the artist’s official channels for updated information."

My company had a couple virologists from Sandia Labs give a presentation about the virus. These were my most relevant takeaways, which I then shared with my friends:
● COVID-19 is more transmissible than SARS because of how the virus enters and leaves cells
● The incubation period of 14 days covers 99% of cases
● 5.1 day median from exposure to onset of symptoms
● R0 is 2.6 vs R0 of 1.2 (which is what the flu has). Stopping the spread needs an R0 below 1. R0 refers to how contagious something is.
● Surface stability of the virus:
○ 3 hours in the air, 24 hours on cardboard.
○ Either hours or 2-3 days on plastic or steel (which is bad news for climbing gyms, maybe).

Saturday, March 14, 2020
The gym is still open, for the time being. They are only letting members go inside. All day yesterday I dithered about whether to go to the gym today. I’m nervous about it because there's uncited graphs going around comparing the number of positive COVID-19 tests for age ranges in Korea and Italy, saying that 20–29 yr olds are the ones that had a high number of positive tests in Korea (who was testing most people) compared to Italy, which had a very low positive test rate for that age range (because they're testing only major cases). It's really tough. Am I going to stop going to the gym proactively or will I only stop after they close it?

I decided to go to the climbing gym today after all. I ran into a friend and managed to have an epic climbing day! Maybe because I’d rested for a week, maybe the core training classes have really been making a difference, or maybe I had so much anxiety about the risk calculations involved in fending off COVID-19 that I couldn’t overthink a single thing while climbing.

Really debating going back to the gym tomorrow for my weightlifting workout. I want to go, but part of me is also thinking, if shit is going to hit the fan next week, then maybe what I'll do is stay home from the gym for another week or two and then reevaluate. Taking so many things day by day at this point.


Sunday, March 15, 2020
I’m not going to the gym today, it doesn’t seem worth the potential added risk. I’m meeting my new landlord so that I can pick up the keys to my new apartment and do a walkthrough, which seems like enough potential exposure. It’s surreal trying to do these things with a pandemic happening.


Monday, March 16, 2020
My sleep schedule is totally out of whack—couldn't fall asleep until 3:30AM last night, and not having a routine or a structure that involved getting out of the house for more than just one task per day is really taking a toll. The days are just so long now. I'll try to take a walk this afternoon, and then I’ll probably tune into a fitness class on Facebook live.

The news this morning is that San Francisco is about to announce a "shelter in place" order until April 7. What a time to have a milestone birthday (April 6) and what a time to be moving apartments.... So far I don't know if moving companies are part of the exemption, or how to handle moving in general with this order? I read the full text of the order and moving companies aren’t explicitly called out, but “housing services” and “delivery services” are still mentioned as okay. I figure the combination of those is a moving company, so I forge ahead.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020
We're officially sheltering in place. So far things don't look too different to me, mainly because most things are pretty much the same as far as my personal routine. Sleeping has been really tough, but I’m taking it easy with myself.

I’m mailing myself a router and getting Comcast set up at my new apartment so that I can work no matter which apartment I happen to be at during this overlap time. I’m also ordering some Amazon things that I want for the new place. Apparently nonessential items will be restricted on Amazon soon. It’s so strange to be doing some “life as usual” things without knowing when, if ever, “life as usual” will come back, or what it will look like at that point.

I’ve been thinking about how this situation is affecting individuals, reflecting on their lives and their focus, and my friend on Instagram shared that many workplaces are starting to create work from home policies that include tracking and metrics. So, “how can we care for ourselves and imagine a new world we could live in post-pandemic while being forced into new structures of the same shit?” Of course businesses and ~ the system ~ is coming up with new ways to control, monitor, and track its citizens during this time.

Will this lead to a delivery-centric world, where the “convenience” economy of having things delivered to your door wins oout? And then small businesses lose? I don’t think this is likely, because a direct-to-home delivery network is inefficient from a business perspective. That’s a good thing because without trips to local small businesses, we miss out on a mechanism for human interaction and community building, and even more of the small ways we interact with other humans in randomized ways. That kind of organic interaction forces us to think outside our own beliefs and make new considerations for the world and for our future. Will we lose all of that during this shelter-in-place? How different will this play out in the United States vs. other places? What kinds of bailouts will be offered, and to whom? And why call it a bailout at all; how much of this is capitalism-driven? I think there’s a lot more to consider as far as what the world might look like after all this. That is, if there is an after. When we get to after, will we know that we’re there?

I took a break from the existentialism of the situation to watch a livestream of the Dropkick Murphys playing a show live on YouTube instead of their yearly live show in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day. The sound is really high quality, the show has a lot of energy, but without any cheering in between songs it’s just a very surreal experience.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Still working from home, and after 6 hours of Zoom meetings, I take a break to go outside and do a workout at an outdoor workout spot near me. I get there and even though it’s 3PM in the afternoon, there’s 5 or 6 other people there too. I do my best to keep my distance, and I use a Clorox wipe on anything I plan to touch, like the pull up bar or rings. Afterward I stop by Gus’s Market, which has a line stretching the length of the store. Social distancing is impossible in such a small store so I do my best to continue avoiding touching my face.


Thursday, March 19, 2020
Another day with 6 hours of Zoom meetings. It’s unexpectedly draining. In the evening I watch a livestream of an author talk put on by City Arts and Lectures. It’s great to be able to see it for free, and nice to collaboratively watch it with my friend, sending slack and text messages back and forth with our reactions to the content.


Friday, March 20, 2020
Got some furniture deliveries at my new place and still working on getting the internet set up. At this point I get anxious leaving the house. Various rumors have been circulating about people getting fined for not staying far enough apart while they’re outside. It’s basically impossible to socially distance while grocery shopping.

It’s mind boggling to think that I didn’t know any of the above terms two weeks ago and now they’re in nearly every conversation I have. I feel like I can’t or shouldn’t be moving things from my old apartment to my new one. Trying to keep it to once per day at least.

I’m planning to reach out to family that is at a higher risk and see how they’re doing. I’m sick of being on screens for work and for everything, really. I still need to try to buy some more soap. What a world.


Monday, March 23, 2020
The weekend passed in a bit of a fugue. Moved lots of boxes between apartments yesterday, just a few today. Trying and failing to keep anxiety levels down. Took a midday walk today. Blue tape is a new addition in the apartment lobby to keep people away from the concierge. Blue Xes taped on the ground at Walgreens to separate people waiting in line. Six feet is further away than it seems. All my outdoor movement decisions are people avoidant; a constant calculation of how far I am from other people and how far away from them I can get.

Tough to sell furniture at a time like now too. My rug delivery for my new apartment is indefinitely delayed. "Due to global health events beyond our control, your package is being held for delivery at a later date.”

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Highway 101 at about 7pm on Thursday, March 23, 2020.

Photo: Chris Carlsson


Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Struggling because all of the things I use for anxiety release are totally unavailable to me—no in-person social interaction, no concerts or DJ sets to attend, no going to the gym. I’ve been working out every single day in an attempt to keep my stress levels from getting out of control but it’s not really working. I’m taking every day as it comes. I can’t wait until I move but I’m also so anxious about moving. I feel so isolated.

I feel guilty ordering things for my apartment knowing that I'm putting delivery workers at risk by doing so. Warehouse workers too. Needing to go out to the grocery store or Target for what feel like essentials for my apartment. Is it essential? Tough trying to make these risk calculations for every single decision.

Schools will be closed until May 1st, they announced. It’s basically guaranteed that we’ll all still be sheltering in place for the rest of April. I don’t know how to live like this; I don’t know that any of us do.


Friday, March 27, 2020
I spent most of today watching/listening to a 24 hour livestreamed festival. Bandcamp also waived their 15% cut of music purchases for today to help support artists, so I bought a bunch of music that I’d been considering buying for awhile. Seems like a good time to invest.


Saturday, March 28, 2020
It’s finally moving day! Spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon moving, then went back to my old place to do laundry and do one last load of dishes.


Monday, March 30, 2020
Because I spent all day Saturday exposed to movers, I'm planning to spend at least the next week in as much of a quarantine as I can muster.

I'm grateful that so far San Francisco seems to have flattened the curve? But at the same point, hearing about how things are going in NYC or New Orleans or perhaps soon, in Detroit, it's hard to say. Many of us are still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I chatted with my new neighbor who's a nurse and she mentioned that they're saying cases might spike in about a week or so. I feel like I keep hearing the date April 9th as a possible spike date. It's a weird state to be in.

I’ve been enjoying the number of livestreams available to me so far. I'm also still messaging people I met on Hinge. My friend in LA had a virtual dinner date with someone, where they connected over a video stream and cooked the same meal in their respective apartments. Tough to say how long we can string out these interactions without some notion of meeting in "person" after awhile. Is it easier or harder to ghost someone after a virtual date?

Shelter-in-place has been extended until May 1st. Anything past that will be really, really difficult. We'd need an additional stimulus bill to get small businesses and people to be okay for longer than that. It's fascinating, in a sick way, to see all this happening in an election year. I wonder how many people this crisis will push further to the left.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Tired of how much effort everything takes. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to hang out with people and like hanging out with people is going to make me anxious for months after this shelter in place ends.

As a friend put it, "every day brings new guidelines of how to be in the world" and "it's hard to form habits that fast". And that totally encapsulates why I'm so off-kilter. I've tried to build a new routine, but my routine was going to get broken by moving no matter what. And now it's even more broken because the most basic actions are things that are tinged with risk and are likely non-essential activities. I want to wander the aisles of IKEA and Target and get nesting things for my new apartment and I just can’t.

For some reason someone on Twitter talking about what we’re mourning resonated more with me than a Harvard Business Review article about grief. We’re mourning so many losses: The loss of our social lives, both with friends but also in the office... We’re mourning our routines and our habits. They’ve all had to change, mourning a lack of normalcy, mourning a certain degree of certainty about what tomorrow may bring... Mourning the loss of my live music community and what dancing and soccer and climbing and lifting all bring to me.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020
I think I hit a new form of equilibrium for a bit maybe. Trying to come to terms with the fact that this is just life now. And what that looks like. Try to reshape my goals, expectations, and habits around what is, instead of what could be. I read this New York Times article, "Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus" yesterday and it resonated with me.


Thursday, April 2, 2020
Mayor Breed officially extended the shelter in place order until May 3. People are saying that they chose May 3 so that it wouldn’t end right before a weekend, fearing that people would go crazy over the weekend. I wonder how much we’ll all feel traumatized after this, and how many people will be capable of going back to their lives the way they were before.


Sunday, April 5, 2020

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Sporting a handmade mask from a friend.

Photo: Sarah Moir

It's common guidance now for people to wear masks. There were a bunch of Twitter threads going around with #Masks4All and apparently (according to my parents) Trump said people should be wearing masks now. My mom and a friend have been sewing some to donate. I started wearing bandanas over my face starting yesterday, and will wear the mask from my friend outside tomorrow when I go grocery shopping. It's tough to avoid cross-contamination with things but I'll try my best. To a certain degree getting infected just seems inevitable at this point. It's just about taking steps to reduce the likelihood that it will happen. Homes weren't built with an eye toward avoiding cross-contamination, so it’s not like I have a disinfectable staging area for things that I bring into my home. I just have hope and precautions like constantly washing my hands.


Monday, April 6, 2020
I turned 30 today. I gifted myself with a trip outside to go get groceries. They have lines at Safeway by now too (Rainbow Grocery and the smaller stores had them earlier) so I waited in line for 20ish minutes before getting inside. No reusable bags allowed inside, using a cart for the first time in ages because I needed a week's worth of groceries in one trip. Then it was a mad dash to get everything on my list. I was so focused on reducing my exposure and limiting my time in there that I didn’t get any impulse items that weren’t on my list like I usually might. Excited because I got eggs, though, so I can make brownies and pancakes. Dropped off the groceries in my apartment, then went right back downstairs to start hauling boxes of furniture that were delivered. Wearing a mask for that level of physical activity is inadvisable.

After work I went to get takeout to treat myself for my birthday. When my order number was called, while I was checking to see if it was my order, some guy stepped forward and was touching the bag all over, trying to figure out if it was his order. So much for physical distance and trying to avoid touching things other people have touched. But at the same time I can't stop other people from doing what they're doing. I can only control my own behavior.

For my birthday I had a Zoom party, which was amazing because friends from all over the country could call in, but tough to go from a day of work with a lot of zoom to a few hours of being on zoom for a party too.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

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Grocery line at Whole Foods on Market Street at Dolores Street.

Photo: Sarah Moir

My friend had wanted to meet up for a “socially distant walk” but I feel uncomfortable going outside at all, let alone “meeting up” with people, so I begged off. Instead we FaceTimed while I built furniture and she ate dinner. It’s nice to have social interaction for the little things, but it’s tough to prioritize, especially when everything seems to involve a screen these days.

I'm heartened by the fact that we so far seem to have flattened our curve, to the point where some nurses and people are traveling to harder-hit states to help out. I can't imagine what it must be like in NYC right now. People are saying now that our peak might hit in late April or even mid-May, which, if that’s the case, we’ll probably see the shelter in place order extended again. It will be tougher to stay inside as it starts to get warmer.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020
I haven’t left my apartment since Monday. Being indoors means I’m on Twitter and thinking a lot. I'm worried that the lack of a centralized federal response means that we'll be further separated into different states with different success rates and odds.


Thursday, April 9, 2020
Watched a virtual Nerd Nite NYC talk on Facebook Live so that I could see a talk about crossword puzzles. It’s cool to get to take advantage of content from other cities now, but still tough not to be able to go out.

I’m feeling pretty numb to it all right now, honestly. Scrolled around on Google Maps realizing how close I now live to so many of my favorite places in the city, favorite people in the city, and yet I can go to none of them, basically. Maybe I'll go outside tomorrow. It's hard to feel hope in these circumstances.


Friday, April 10, 2020
Disclosure had a Boiler Room “streaming from isolation” set this morning and then the whole rest of the day while work was happening, other DJs were playing and people were starting watch parties on Facebook Live. Fun to have that level of interaction with other people, but stressful at the same time to be balancing all the different types of media and the number of screens. 1 screen for work, 1 for the DJ set streams, and 1 for Shazamming the DJ set streams. Made the effort to have a coffee break with a coworker friend again today, but didn’t make it outside.

My friends shared a news article about an outbreak of 70+ cases at a local homeless shelter that is near where I used to live, and is one I walked past frequently when going to another friend’s place. It’s horrible, and so preventable too. It really underscores how different things have been for the different populations inside San Francisco—the different levels of privilege that we’re all fracturing across right now, those with cars and those without, those with health care and those without, those with jobs that let them work from home and those that are now furloughed or laid off. When all this started there was explicit guidance against physical distancing inside shelters, and this is where it’s gotten us. At least the plan to put homeless people into hotel rooms and adequately and safely shelter them is gaining traction now.

Oakland also is closing or limiting traffic on 74 miles of streets within the city to make it easier to physically distance while exercising. It also makes sense because more kids have been home and without playgrounds, so it should be easier for them to have more space to play in now too. Hoping that something like that will happen in San Francisco too soon, especially in neighborhoods with narrow sidewalks.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

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DJ Calvin Harris in a live DJ set.

Photo: Sarah Moir

Another day of DJ set streams. It started to all feel like a little much. Then in the evening I had a Zoom party with some friends that had the idea to do a collaborative, round-robin writing event. Logistically a tiny bit challenging to “pass the paper” around digitally, plus with about 8 different stories going at once, but it was delightful and it was so fun to inject some humor and socialization into life again.


Sunday, April 12, 2020
Made the goal to finish reading a book, finally. Also listened to more DJ set streams and sent out my now-weekly newsletter about streams going on. I used to send it every two weeks with news and information about the music events that I was going to in the Bay Area, but since everything has been cancelled I transformed it into an email with donation links for venues and their staff, as well as links to upcoming and past streams to watch.


Monday, April 13, 2020
Took a sick day today from work. Needed the extra day of a weekend to try to calm my anxiety, and also had to run some errands and didn’t want to compound the stress of trying to do those midday when there were hopefully fewer people out, while also staying “available” for work. The physical symptoms of anxiety have been high enough these past few days to justify it.

I got groceries and it was slightly less stressful than last time. This is the first time I’ve been properly outside in a week. I left my reusable bags at home. I guess they’ve relaxed the plastic bag ban too, because now the store has plastic bags for people to use for their groceries.

The weather was gorgeous today at least, and it was a great day to be outside. It reminded me to continue to go outside even just for short walks to try to keep my anxiety down. We’re all in this together. I got to chat with some strangers in line about the crisis and that helped me remember that. The longer this goes on the more I think about what this all looks like after we’re able to move around again. It seems like contact tracing is our best option in the short term to be able to leave our homes and move around in somewhat distant small groups. Just to be able to socialize with my friends again would be amazing.

I read something yesterday about a secure method of doing contact tracing using mobile phones — of course relying on the bluetooth functionality of modern smart phones. It makes me worried about who would be left out of that kind of contact tracing — people who don’t have phones that have bluetooth, or people who leave it off all the time due to security or battery life considerations for older phones. What to do about the people not included in those datasets? How can we secure their lives? Apparently Apple and Google are working together to devise some secure techniques for contact tracing so we can open up society again. We’ll see.