A Tale of Two Children (coronavirus edition)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Not ready, not ready, not ready. It is astounding the degree to which no one is ready for this, and I am not even talking about the over-arching – and let’s face it, somewhat understandable – “not ready for a global pandemic” or “not ready with testing of this new thing” or “not ready to be inundated with unemployment applications” and so on.


My youngest son is a patient care tech on a post-op floor. He’s the guy who takes your vitals, draws your blood, sets up your IV, responds to your call button and helps you to the bathroom. He came home for a few hours on April 4, and we kept all the appropriate distances – the only time we were even in the same room was at dinner, and he sat at the island while we sat at the table, 10 feet away. Afterwards, he mentioned he could not find his thermometer, so I dug out an old digital one I had and suggested we should test it since it had not been used for a while.

I wish I had taken a picture of him sitting there, looking down at the read-out with crossed eyes (like you do) and muttering around the thermometer “This isn’t good, this isn’t good…”


We used the scanning thermometer and confirmed it. No symptoms. He said he had a slight headache, but not one that he would even think to take anything for.

Being the caring parents that we are, we threw him out (well, he threw himself out).

Sunday he still had no symptoms and his fever was still 100. On Monday, he called the work hotline and they had him come in to be tested. Told him he would hear back in a day or two, gave him a sheet with instructions including that he would be called with his results, and the hotline would not have this information. He was taken off his Monday and Tuesday shifts.

By Thursday his fever was gone, but he had still heard nothing and called the hotline number, even though his instructions said not to call. And was told they were only calling positive results. And if he needs his results he had to log in to his online patient chart.

Which he had never done. Because he has never needed to. And no, there was no number to call.

So he sets up his online patient chart access and the message is that he will get an access code, but it might take a week (!) for processing and verification.

To recap: he is tested, told they would call with results, gets no call, calls a hotline number he is not supposed to call, is told they are only calling positive results so he probably negative. But he has no proof he is negative. And cannot get that documentation.

Saturday, he has not gotten an email, so he called his unit. They agree he is likely negative, but he can’t come back on shift until he can submit the results. He is taken off work for Saturday and Sunday.

He has now missed 4 days of work. As a health care worker.

On Monday, he called his unit boss who suggests that he call his primary care and see if they can get him access to his online chart.

This call actually works. And yes he is negative. And he is back at work – on a coronavirus floor.


In addition to living in NYC, the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the US and maybe beyond, my oldest child got sick in late March and although he had a few symptoms, he had no fever and so was not tested for coronavirus, despite having been exposed at work (he is reasonably sure he did not have the virus, and felt better after a few days on some cough meds). His architecture firm switched to work from home, then switched him to a different project when the one he was on went on hold.

On April 6, they laid him off (his partner was laid off in March when all the salons closed). The phone call from his bosses was kind and not entirely unexpected; the firm had hired a bunch of new people for projects that had been in the pipeline – and now were on hold. He was one of about 34 architects they were letting go. But in another example of “we haven’t had to do this and don’t really know how” – the professionalism of that call was negatively impacted by a call soon afterwards from his direct project manager wanting an update on the project; no one had told him his lead designer had been laid off. He immediately felt like an asshole for calling. (“OMG, I had no idea!!”)

His night-owl partner woke him up at midnight so he could file his unemployment claim on the first day he would be eligible, and hopefully avoid all the website crashes, application glitches and dropped calls that many have been experiencing. Everything went through just fine.

Except one thing. He had to submit his separation of employment papers, and these could not be emailed or faxed. They had to be printed and mailed.

Yes, you read that right. The entire process is online, except you cannot submit your separation of employment that way. Nor can you fax it.

Well, he has no printer. No one he knows has a printer. There is nothing open in NYC where you can go and have something printed.

So he emailed the document to me, so I could print it, and mail it to NYS Department of Labor.

Not sure which one of Dickens’ ages or epochs we’re in right now…

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Rebecca Foster writes about food, politics, books and whatever has irritated her on any particular day, on her website Usual and Ordinary (www.usualandordinary.com). She is an occasional contributor to The Livingston Post and has remained active in local politics and the community after serving as Pinckney Village President from 2004-2012, and as a trustee currently. She is enjoying empty-nesting in Pinckney with her husband, three cats and a few chickens.