Everything Is Fine . . . For Now

Like it or not, we are now in a time of unknowns and uncertainty.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb in the U.S., earlier this week the CDC put out even more stringent recommendations, especially for those over age 60 and/or those with health issues. Don’t travel. Stock up on food and medicine. Prepare yourself to stay in your home for several weeks. The notice was nothing if not sobering even though Brett and I are healthy and have no underlying health issues that would increase our risk of death if we caught the virus. But we’ve chosen a different lifestyle that doesn’t fit so easily into normal parameters and we have to add that into the mix.

We have to travel next month as our 90-day visa for Japan will expire. We will have two long days of travel when we leave here, including an overnight hotel stay, before we reach our next destination. Although long flights are not recommended, we don’t have a choice in the matter – most flights from Japan are long by definition. However, flying is currently one of the lowest-risk means of travel thanks to the efficient air filters in planes, and as long as high-touch surfaces are wiped down and frequent handwashing or sanitizers are practiced (although we still can’t find any hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes here). We have already heard directly from the airline to reassure us about the steps they are taking to make sure the plane will be as clean as possible, and our risk as low as possible. Actually, the highest risk we face will be in airports, and we’ve been reading about steps to take to make ourselves safer as we transit through them. We are finally in possession of some masks and will use those in airports as we travel, and our son and daughter-in-law are in the hunt for hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes for us. We’re very thankful we have no long layovers this time, and we will probably be dealing with fewer fellow travelers than usual. Does all this mean we’re not worried? No, but we are getting ourselves informed and taking every step we can to stay healthy.

We’re all waiting to hear about what’s happening at WenYu’s and YaYu’s colleges. Both of them are on spring break this week or getting ready for their break next week, and both have already had to cancel and change plans. Neither of them knows yet whether their colleges will close or not. YaYu doesn’t know whether her roommate will be able to come back or not – she flew home to Seattle for the break. WenYu canceled a trip to New York to see Meiling – students have been encouraged to stay on campus during the break – and Wellesley looks to be moving to close the campus and dorms in the next few days (nearby MIT and Harvard have already closed). If their schools do close, WenYu has a place to go in Massachusetts, but if Bryn Mawr closes we will have to get YaYu to family in another state until the end of the term. So far there has been no word about whether this year’s graduation ceremony will be happening at Wellesley, but most likely if the school closes it will be canceled. Meiling and her boyfriend have so far not canceled travel plans (Paris) for later this month, but are watching daily and will make a decision in a few days. Both are currently working remotely from home. It’s looking more and more like we will be canceling our May and June travel, and will probably lose a good piece of money as the airline tickets were purchased outside of the current free cancellation window (in my opinion, those are the tickets that should get free cancellation and refund, not the ones that were purchased when the threat of the virus was more imminent). We are waiting to hear whether NYC theaters will be closing or not, but at this point, Brett and I don’t think it’s going to be such a great idea for us to be in a theater with lots of other people, even if it is to see Hamilton. (Update: We woke up to a message from YaYu that Bryn Mawr had gone to remote classes. She can stay in the dorm for now, but we will get her out and to a family member as soon as possible. No word yet from WenYu.)

We are grateful not to have been affected by the stock market crash, at least so far. The majority of our income comes from Brett’s military retirement and our Social Security benefits, but Brett also receives a pension from his former employer that may eventually be affected – time will tell. It’s only a small portion of our total income, but its loss would be felt.

For the time being, we are fine. We are cautious, paying attention, and learning as much as we can about the things that will affect us going forward. We’re certainly not afraid, or even close to panic, but know that the potential for things to get very bad in the U.S. exists and is growing every day. We also recognize that things could go south in our upcoming destination very quickly as well. Only time will tell. Everything is fine for now and will continue to be . . . until it isn’t anymore.

36 thoughts on “Everything Is Fine . . . For Now

  1. Glad to know you are both okay. I spoke with a good friend this morning whose daughter is a student at Mount Holyoke. MH is closing, probably for the rest of the semester, and turning to online classes. Massachusetts has the 4th most cases in the USA.

    We are definitely in uncharted territory regarding this virus and it is so easy to slip into fear and anger.

    I love how realistic and flexible you are without being consumed by fear.

    Sending blessings your way.

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    1. Governor Cuomo of NY had a press conference today. He said that China was testing 200,000 people a DAY, South Korea was testing 15,000 people a DAY, and the US has only tested 5,000 so far – not per day but in total.

      Effective today NY has contracted with 28 labs to start doing testing in order to identify more people who are sick with the virus so they can isolate and prevent further infections. Essentially there are many more people sick in the US with the virus than the official numbers show due to the restraints on testing kits and labs.

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      1. I’ve been thinking that the numbers are going to explode in the U.S. but the way it’s going people are not going to need statistics and numbers to know things have gotten out of hand. It’s criminal though how little testing has been done in the U.S., and that we’re not setting up drive-through testing sites, etc. People go into the hospital with all the symptoms and cannot get tested. And the costs! The news from the U.S. these days is very, very scary.

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    2. We heard from YaYu earlier today that Bryn Mawr had gone to online classes only. A final determination whether to close the campus for the rest of the year will be made by April 3. For now, YaYu is staying in the dorm (she has the whole room to herself) – she works in food service on campus and meals are still being served. She has two places to go if the campus is closed, but for now she’s OK.

      Scary times, and scarier ones coming, IMO. If we can get ourselves to our next destination we’ll be OK.

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  2. In my opinion, we should do our best to keep safe and not panic. Whatever will happen will happen whether we panic or not. Today I am traveling by air. I wore a mask and kept wiping my hands. I am visiting a customer and when I told them I would rather not shake hands, they were more than happy. Let’s just try our best. That’s it. Oh and btw, I am dying to learn your new destination. Curious minds… What can I say?

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    1. This is no time for panic, but it seems that’s what many are doing. Frequent handwashing, cough into your arm, and other simple precautions are still the best way to stay well.

      We have masks and should have disinfectant wipes by the time we travel. The airports shouldn’t be too crowded either, so I think we’ll be OK.

      You just have another six weeks to go before learning the next destination!

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  3. Good to hear you’re doing OK. It’s a scary time, for sure. I do think the airlines are being particularly vigilant (or at least I hope so), and the planes I’ve seen have a lot of empty seats, so time will tell how that works out. As you know, I’m still planning to go to England in May and really, really hope that works out. Of course, I don’t want to endanger my DD or her new baby, so I just have to wait and see, as you do.

    We just had the first two cases diagnosed in Michigan, and it’s just a matter of time before every state has them. A lot of people don’t seem to understand the concept of exponential growth, or perhaps they’re willfully looking the other way as they whistle past the graveyard. The medical capacity of ventilators and ICU beds, as well as the delayed government response are all worrying to me. I do volunteer work for a local hospice, and I suspect it’s just a matter of time before our visits are restricted or cancelled.

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    1. I saw a picture yesterday of a 787, nonstop flight from Newark to San Francisco, typically flies full, but had only 16 passengers in economy! Yikes! Our flight from Tokyo is currently half full, and I will be surprised if it fills up any more than that.

      I think the next few weeks in the U.S. are going to be awful. I can only hope that things don’t get as bad as they are in Italy, but it’s not looking good right now.

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  4. So glad you’re doing all right and staying informed. It seems like there is a huge drop in travelers so you may have the surprise to be among the very few in the aircraft(s) next month.Also the airports are quite empty, so the risk of infection is greatly reduced.It is really hard to predict how the situation will evolve in the next few months.
    Things seem to be in free fall around here although California is in an emergency state as of last week. Between the crash of the stock market, the blunders of the administration, the media hype and the shut downs, we try to keep our calm and cool heads. There seems to still be a dose of skepticism among a lot of people whether this virus is really a serious issue or not while at the other end of the spectrum there is a whole hysteria going on with people going insane and piling tons of toilet paper, water(?), food and everything else one can think of. Some stores put on restrictions on number of items allowed to be purchased per person.
    Thank you for keeping us informed with what goes on in Japan. Stay well!

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    1. We are fine, but every time I cough now I wonder, “did I catch it? Is this it?” But I have no other symptoms, the cough isn’t persistent, and I feel fine. We are taking it very seriously. I never touch anything in the trains now (and will only ride one stop), and wash my hands like crazy.

      We’ve been dealing with the shortages here for several weeks now. The CDC just warned those over 60 in the U.S. to stockpile and have enough food and medicine to stay home for several weeks! And of course, no travel. So, what’s coming must be worse than any of us has imagined. I’m actually glad to be here in Japan, to be honest, because people here (and the government) have taken this seriously for a long time now.

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  5. Glad to hear you are safe, sane, and reasonble! Although I would expect the last two!
    We have cancelled our trip to France for the end of the month. we were very much looking forward to it, but my husband is over 60 and has asthma. It just didn’t seem like a good idea to fly halfway around the world. We have so far only lost €40 in fees by cancelling- VRBO ownershave been very understanding. At so e point, if you have to be hyper vigilant, it’s hard to relax and enjoy vacations!
    Although, I think the virus is serious, I was as worried about the possibility of being quarantined far from home, or not being let back into the U.S. Without being quarantined. I’m perfectly fine with being quarantined if necessary but I’d like to do it in my home, with my books and yarn, and not in a random army barracks somewhere.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about your trip cancellation, but it seems to be the sensible thing to do right now. Our oldest daughter also just cancelled a trip to Paris; she and her boyfriend are young and healthy, but why take chances. And of course now there are restrictions for travel coming from Europe (although not for U.S. citizens). Anyway, they will wait until things settle down and go later.

      Being quarantined is our big worry. We have enough time at our next destination that two weeks won’t hurt too much, but we don’t have a home so not sure where we would stay (hopefully not an army barracks! – been there, done that). I afraid that fairly soon it’s going to be people from the U.S. who won’t be allowed to travel to other countries!

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  6. You might not need to, or even be able to, travel if Japan declares a state of emergency. If that happens, I’m sure they’ll automatically extend expiring visas. If that happens, would you be able to stay at your Airbnb? Or temporarily move in with your son and his family?

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    1. Sorry, I know were you’re staying isn’t currently an Airbnb but you know what I mean. You might want to contact your landlady, as well as your son and DILto discuss what-if scenarios.

      Commercial flights might very well end up getting suspended in an effort to contain the spread. We’re in uncharted territory, so it’s best to plan for possibilities that would’ve seemed outlandish even a few days ago.

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    2. I don’t think a state of emergency will be declared here – people have taken this very seriously from the start, as has the government and the spread of the virus here has been much less than in other countries. Hopefully though our visa would be renewed if we did have to stay longer. We would probably move in with our son and family if we did have to stay, but again, for now we don’t see that happening at all.

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  7. Were = where. I need more coffee this morning.

    I’m personally very worried about my elderly parents, both of whom have COPD. This whole thing is a complete nightmare.

    It goes without saying that if flights are cancelled, other forms of public transit would also be suspended, and more (possibly all) borders would close. That may sound extreme, farfetched, and downright draconian, but I believe it’s a definite possibility.

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    1. I will be thinking good thoughts for your parents!

      I hate to say it, but I think it will be other countries that will close their borders to U.S. citizens in the not too distant future. From everything I’ve read I think the next few weeks are going to be dreadful. There is so much that could have and should have been done weeks, months ago, but weren’t and now things are ready to really get out of hand. I fear for my country.

      I could always use more coffee . . . morning, noon, and night!

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  8. Well we are still going to visit our son in Kyoto in a week. As much chance of catching it there or here at this point. Even more remote locations (small town in Northern Indiana) are seeing infections. Not sure that a couple of weeks of self-imposed quarantine are really going to be helpful if the infections keep growing. Might actually be “better” to be exposed and hope for the best. Once you have it and survive at least you are inoculated against this strain. I’m not suggesting you do it deliberately or not be careful but to take the best precautions while still getting out (avoiding crowds – like grocery shopping in the late evening or early AM when not busy). At any rate we are prepared with masks, sanitizer and wipes for our trip. Time will tell if a good decision or not.

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    1. I think your chances may be better in Japan at this point, at least from everything I’m reading. Glad you have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes – they are still hard to find here these days. Masks seems to be available again though.

      I’m sure you’ll be fine – everyone here is being very careful.

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  9. My son is scheduled to graduate from college in Alabama and my son-in-law is scheduled to graduate from college in Utah, both in May. So far, Alabama does not have any cases, and Utah only has a few but I am not keeping my hopes up. I just hope they are able to graduate. I assume graduation ceremonies will probably be canceled by then, but who knows? I am going to lose my money on my trip to Utah that was set in late April because it is a nonrefundable ticket but oh well. I am not going to stress over losing $250. It is what it is and there is no need to get all bent out of shape. I don’t want to get sick and I certainly don’t want to pass it on to others if I am exposed. I have always kept a well stocked pantry because I live in the boonies so I am not sweating that. We have had no shortages here but then, we have had no cases here either. Is there a chance you could go to Hawaii and sorta just veg out until this thing blows over?

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    1. We are still waiting to here the status at Wellesley – will probably hear on Friday – and will go from there. It looks like we will get YaYu to Boston (probably by train), and then she will stay with her sister and her boyfriend until we get to our next destination, and then we may fly her there to spend the summer with us. But who knows? Everything is so crazy now. I hope we can reschedule the two flights in the U.S. but I’ll worry about that as soon as I get some more definite news from WenYu.

      Would love to be back on Hawaii now, but that’s not going to happen for a while. And, we’re having to do the opposite of stocking up – we’re now on the downward side of our stay here, so starting to use up what we have on hand versus adding more to the pantry (other than peanut butter, although I think we good for that now until we leave). Hopefully we won’t have to deal with shortages at our next destination.

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  10. Don’t cancel your nonrefundable air tickets – airlines may change their rules, many have in the last few days. If they won’t refund just change them to future possible dates if the airlines are allowing that without a fee. The airlines are desperate for any bodies on the planes at this point so likely what they have done or said up to this point will change again before this is over.

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    1. Once we know what’s happening at Wellesley, and with WenYu, we’ll make a decision about our airline tickets and start talking to them. We’ve got our fingers crossed that they let us reschedule them for later in the year. Brett still wants to go to Portland in June to meet with the surgeon, but knows at this point the hospital could be completely overwhelmed by then. So we’re playing that by ear as well.

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  11. Thank you so much for being the people that you two are….I like getting your perspective from your setting in Japan. I live in Western Massachusetts and I already knew of Amherst and Smith moving to all remote classes. On my way into work this morning Umass had not made that decision but by the end of the day the same was made. There are a few colleges in the area that have not made the decision but have extended spring break and then are going to decide. Im glad you are able to feel good about your daughters so far away but I imagine it is still unsettling being so far away from your kids.

    I won’t rant but I am a bit disappointed in my country and our inability to think collectively in this situation as other countries are better able…..it is hard.
    Hearing people complain about their inability to go to museums with their kids on weekends,(and oh what will I do now??!) not take all the trips they planned for the year and minimize the significance of this situation is very hard!! Most of us are going to be absolutely fine whether we get the virus or not! But none of us exists, EVER in a situation that does not some how rely on, benefit from or support someone else.

    We all need to make some sacrifices here…

    My daughter was sick over the weekend and then missed two days of school….I actually felt scared to tell people this. The virus is everywhere now but we can absolutely still take steps to avoid greater spread. My job involves working with individuals who already struggle with basic needs like housing, food and health care. They are already so vulnerable due to their physical and mental health….
    Stay well
    Anon in mass

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment!

      Wellesley seems to be the last holdout for school closings in the area – we spoke with WenYu today and she thinks we’ll know something by Friday. My heart breaks for her though – she is going to miss all the special senior events that go along with graduating from Wellesley. Her comment today was: Worst. Senior. Year. Ever. It looks like YaYu will be going up to MA to stay with WenYu and her boyfriend (he lives on a 10-acres spread, so social distancing won’t be too much of a problem).

      Reading about the lack of action and leadership in the U.S. over this pandemic has been beyond disheartening. There’s been no reason for it other than incompentancy. As has been said over and over, you may not get very sick if you catch the virus, but you can spread it to someone for whom catching it will mean life and death. That’s what’s so truly scary to me, that harm to the so many, including the “least of us,” will be our ruin, or at least do damage that won’t be undone for years.

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      1. Yes, and now after the “speech” last night, it is even more apparent than ever that any threat to our country comes from Trump and those who enable him.

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  12. As I mentioned in another post, my nephew’s college here in NJ closed with very little warning. He is local so it’s not a problem for him, but I don’t know what kids who live far are supposed to do. Glad to hear YaYu is ok in the dorm for now.

    I went to Walmart today and the aisle where the bottled water should be was completely empty. Same with the hand sanitizer, toilet paper and Lysol aisles. Crazy. I stocked up on toilet paper a few weeks ago and I’m so glad I did. I also have plenty of food.

    Stay safe and well.

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    1. I think our girls have gotten enough warning, but what we’re all concerned about right now is what happens to all the stuff in people’s dorm rooms if they have to leave campus, especially when they’re telling people who went away for spring break to not come back? Also, there are students on every campus who don’t have a home to go back to, or a safe place to go back to. Where do they go on short notice? Bryn Mawr is keeping their dorms open and serving meals for the time being for this reason, but they may shut it all done on April 3.

      The U.S. is getting a taste of what we’ve been going through here for the past several weeks. We haven’t been able to find any hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes in over three weeks! We thankfully have enough toilet paper and paper towels to get us through the rest of our stay. We also have plenty of food on hand, at least two weeks’ worth, but Tokyu is close by and because we know where things are we can be in and out of there in short order.

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  13. I spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices with my parents. I am still trying to convince all the doctors not to shake hands but have been unsuccessful so far. I was surprised that the president is closing travel to Europe but is still allowing travel to the UK and still allowing American citizens to return to the US. At this point I think it is impossible to contain the virus. The only thing you can do is use sanitizing cloths at the store and wash your hands frequently. A little common sense goes a long way

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    1. Common sense it what is going to save people’s lives – frequent handwashing, staying home when you don’t feel well, avoiding handshaking and other social contact, etc. I can’t believe the doctors are still shaking hands at this point – they should know better! That’s one problem we don’t have here in Japan – everyone bows to each other.

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  14. Glad to hear that you’re both okay. The restrictions here have escalated to the point of being draconian (some communities are considering closing parks altogether), with absolutely no bars/restaurants open (yesterday they were!) and stiff fines or jail time for anyone in violation of the list of no’s.

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    1. Glad to hear from you! Both Brett and I were wondering how you were doing, and we feel better knowing you’re OK.

      The pictures coming from Italy of empty squares, streets, etc. are incredible. I went back tonight and looked at all my pictures from out time there again, just to remember what it looked like with other people around. I also saw a bittersweet video today, of an older man coming out of a grocery store, mad that there wasn’t any pasta available. “It wasn’t this bad before WWII,” he yelled, “This is crazy!” It is crazy, and about to get crazier for the U.S. All my good thoughts for Italy right now though.

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  15. Yup, it is going to much worse before they get better.
    Keeping Americans inside is—difficult. Even you are out and about. 🙂 Where is that balance- especially in large cities?
    You know the US has a huge population of many different cultures and stances. It is going to be much more difficult then a homogeneous population that is given a set of “rules” and follow them.
    It is looking like the Italian explosion came from Germany- so It is looking like most of the world is behind the 8 ball. All of the messaging – pro and anti- has been very confusing. VERY. No one will let one voice speak. Cherry picking is going on everywhere…..
    Testing kits? The first ones were made overseas and failed. Now our universities are on it and they are making kits for their populations. US has great universities- maybe some of that endowment money could be spent? I am betting there are MANY more people who have it then we can even imagine.
    I feel for the working poor. Who knows what they will be doing for food and money in two weeks…..
    Our farming community will be fine- sick or not it is very community orientated. There is still TP at our store 🙂
    “We are all in this together.”

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    1. I agree with you that it’s going to get a lot worse in the U.S. before it gets better. Americans, for the most part, don’t like to follow rules or authority, which is what is exactly needed now. We may figure out that this is one of those occasions where authority matters, not from a president or other government members, but from having educated, knowledgeable people out in front being honest with people about what’s happening and what’s going to happen if certain “rules” are not followed. I’m sorry, but the current administration has made an absolute mess of this. On top of our long-standing distrust of government (that goes back to the founding our the country), I don’t think anyone trusts our current president, even if they like him – he’s lied about everything for the past three years, and taken credit for the good and blamed everyone else when something goes wrong – why should this situation be any different? There was too much that could have been done earlier that wasn’t, and now things are going to get bad, and everyone is going to suffer in one way or another, whether it’s getting sick or losing their entire savings or losing their jobs or not being able to find food or other supplies or even being afraid to get tested or get medical care if they are sick with the virus. As a country we have lost any feeling of being in something together to the point of being pitted against each other, and I’m scared of the aftermath of this.

      I read an interesting article the other day that posited one of the reasons countries like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea have managed to slow their curve of infection versus the U.S. or countries in Europe is not just because they’re homogeneous (Singapore certainly isn’t), but because they have a recent history of dealing with a new virus (SARS), and when this new coronavirus was first announced announced these countries geared up quickly and were ready to do what it takes to combat it, through social distancing, wearing masks, etc.

      We’ll be OK too. I’m glad we’re here in Japan, although we worry about our girls and we’re concerned about our upcoming travel when it’s time to leave. We’re taking it a day at a time, and we work at staying healthy.

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