COVID CHRONICLES Day -1
January 2020: A Virulent Flu Infects Our Family
The origins of my COVID CHRONICLES diaries predate the first day of publication, which is when my wife received her positive COVID-19 test. Today and tomorrow tell the backstory. The diary itself begins on Day 1.
My wife Lisa and I live in the coastal town of Santa Cruz, California. She is a classical soprano who also runs a family foundation and small music publishing company. I work as a nonprofit marketing and communication consultant. We’ve been together for four years. It’s the second marriage for both of us.
We don’t live alone here. We live with Lisa’s extended family, ten of us in all (Lisa’s son and my two sons all live elsewhere). In addition to us two are Lisa’s 86-year-old father; Lisa’s 19-year-old daughter and 18-year-old niece. Add one of her two brothers, his wife, and three kids aged 20, 13 and 10. Lisa’s father sleeps downstairs, we have one side of the upstairs and the rest of the family the other side of the upstairs. There is plenty of room for all of us, though some additional doors would help for noise.
Adding to the fun is that everyone but Lisa, her father and me is in a rock and roll and roll band. They’re extremely talented, doing the hard work of honing their craft. Their originals are relatable and authentic, with tunes that stick in your head. They call themselves Smokestack Lightening.
The reason the band is relevant to our story is they all attended the NAMM Show January 16–19 in Anaheim with 100,000 other people. NAMM stands for North America Music Merchants, which sponsors this enormous trade show and music-fest. It’s a great place to make connections and see the latest instruments and equipment. Our 13-year-old nephew “Figgy” is an autistic drumming savant, so drums and drummers, cymbals and sticks, are a large part of the focus. More on that in a moment.
When the family returned home from SoCal after the show, they were all wiped out and pretty much went right upstairs. A virulent flu soon appeared and spread through their part of the family. It lasted a good three weeks, and they all reported it being the sickest they remember ever being. Then they were exhausted for another three weeks until they felt fully recovered. My father-in-law came down with something minor, and we avoided it all together. That’s because this family has its illness prevention, detection and treatment protocol down pat, between my wife the professional singer and my sister-in-law the nurse.
Flash forward to March, when information about COVID-19 finally began to pour into the U.S. As my sister-n-law was reading the symptoms, she thought back to their flu. Then she thought back to NAMM. And she remembered a visit to one particular booth.
She did a quick search, and there it was. Figgy at the Silken Cymbals booth. Straight from the virus international epicenter, Wuhan China. See photo above and video below.
I must interject something here.
I will never refer to this as the “Chinese Virus.” Did you know the so-called “Spanish Flu” originated in KANSAS?
None of us is casting aspersions or blaming the company or country for transmitting the virus. In fact, we are SO sensitive to this that we talked about whether we felt comfortable sharing this information at all. But our family provides a potential case study for the spread of COVID-19. In tracing that path, and telling that story, it needs to start at the beginning.
The relevant facts ARE NOT the race and ethnicity of the source. Here’s why I mention it at all:
- COVID-19 clearly entered the country earlier than we initially understood. There’s now evidence it was as early as November or December. From the Santa Clara County Heath Department, one county over from us, on April 21:
The Medical Examiner-Coroner performed autopsies on two individuals who died at home on February 6, 2020 and February 17, 2020. Samples from the two individuals were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
Additionally, the Medical Examiner-Coroner has also confirmed that an individual who died in the county on March 6 died of COVID-19.
- People can inadvertently spread the virus because they are asymptomatic and/or touch materials where the virus can linger. In the case of a metal cymbal, for example, up to three days!
- We have one person in our family who tested positive for COVID-19: my wife. We have one person who we know has been exposed despite being asymptomatic: me. The rest of the COVID CHRONICLES focus on our experience.
- We have seven people in our household who in retrospect came down with an illness with multiple COVID-19 symptoms. We have one person — the most vulnerable among us — who we have worked to keep protected from all of the above: my father-in-law.
- With the antibody test for COVID-19 now becoming available, it’s tempting for all of us to try and get it. The problem at the moment? It’s unclear what it will tell us.
From here, our story moves to New York and back over the two weeks the coronavirus evolved from something distant and exotic to a national tsunami. You can read about that in COVID CHRONICLES Day 0.