Prayer to The Theotokos
Southern Oaks was a new nursing home in which I started working back in November of 2019. Before that I had been at the Life Care Center of Pensacola. I am a social worker. I had left the erratic and corrosive lifestyle of a state investigator for a more mundane, routine, sedentary job two years before. Or, so I thought.
Early April of 2020, COVID-19 was rapidly spreading across the planet. Despite our best efforts, the virus entered the building unannounced. Two of our residents had shown minor symptoms. Following CDC guidelines, we tested and they were positive. We began isolation protocols. We had already stopped visitors and outside providers from entering the building. Only staff and essential deliveries were allowed. We monitored for more symptoms. Get your masks on. Get your personal protection equipment (PPE). N95 masks were reserved for staff that were doing hands-on care with patients. As a social worker I would continue to have face-to-face contact with residents. I traded my paper mask for the last N95 left—all the way at the bottom of the box. There would be no more for a while. There was a worldwide shortage. Keep it safe. I heard people were selling used ones on eBay for hundreds of dollars. I took a yellow highlighter and made a smiley face in the front of mine.
Tuesday of the third week of April I arrived at work at 7:45AM. I entered through the front door into the lobby. Staff had to “temp in” and do a questionnaire about symptoms. I hastily completed my questionnaire and had my temp taken. 97.5. . .good.
I put my N95 on and went to the Director of Nursing’s Office, the command center of the building.
The nurse practitioner saw me first. She was in complete PPE: face shield; N95; gown; shoe covers and gloves. She waived me over to the corner. “It’s bad,” she said.
“Define ‘bad,’” I asked.
“They tested all the residents yesterday with rapid testing. We’re still getting more results back. We’re up to 87 already.”
“87? Meaning residents? We have 87 positives?!”
“Almost all asymptomatic. Some had a light spike in temp. That’s it.”
Holy shitburgers! I thought. This day now officially sucks!
“87 now. We’re not done yet. That means positive numbers will go up?”
“They will,” she said.
And up the number went: 94 total, out of a building of 180+ residents. The highest of any building in Florida. It froze at 94. The best we could do was isolate, monitor and treat symptoms (if any) until the infection resolved itself. . .before the virus had a chance to take out the staff.
“Okay,” I said adjusting my N95, “I am headed up to my office.” Passing other staff on the way, no one made eye contact. I locked the door behind me—as if that would keep the virus out. Positive patients were a few feet from my office. I looked over and noticed the empty chair of a coworker. She had abruptly left a week before without explanation. I guess watching the invisible haboob of a virus making its way toward us was too much.
I am going to die. I am going to infect my family. I will kill someone. Leave now. Don’t come back.
No. I could not leave. If administration left, staff would quit in droves. There would be no one left. Residents would die. We’re gonna hold the line! Just above my phone was my rosary hanging from a thumbtack on the wall. In Eastern (Byzantine) Catholicism, Mary is known to us (and the Orthodox) as the Theotokos. I am a former atheist-turned revert back to the Catholic Church. I did my best.
Blessed Theotokos, I pray for your intercession, for everyone in this building, protect us from this disease; pray for our vulnerable, our workers, our families. Pray that you may protect us from this horrible scourge that has descended upon us. . .
I picked up the receiver and dialed my wife. To date, that was the most difficult phone call I have ever had to make.
Okay, I just want to rewind this apocalyptic horror movie and take it back to Blockbuster. I have had enough for today, and it’s not even nine yet.
My wife, Andrea, answered, “What’s up?” she said.
“Umm. . .not good,” I answered.
Life in the Time of CoronaWithin weeks after March 11, 2020 World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, West Florida Literary Federation offered its writers a catharsis. By April, regional writers were submitting words and images to preserve this time in history. The ongoing project began with Phase I, a special edition of The Legend published in May. It featured more than thirty juried submissions. Life in the Time of Corona continues with Phase II, updated as submissions are accepted. Here are the voices of health care workers, poets, essayists, historians, and the images of artists and photographers, documenting this time in Northwest Florida's history. The ongoing project ends with the advent of a vaccine or declaration by the World Health Organization.
Social Distancing at Johnson's Beach
Six Feet Apart
The Last Haircut
The Passage to Paradise
When Hammock Becomes Mask
Riding Out a Hurricane in a Pandemic
To Butt in or Not
Bends and Turns
Pandemic Pen Pals
Prayer to The Theotokos
Grieving Loss of Many Kinds
Why Wear Masks?
COVID 19 Sidewalk Chalk 4-16-2020
View from Within
The Enigma of Deadman’s Island
In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu
Meditations on the Coronavirus
Life in the Time, Again, of Pandemic
Only 2 Things
A Muted Life
America is on Life Support; Prognosis Poor
Crossing COVID Bay
Next Week’s Plans
A View of the Stars
Some Inland Curse
From My Soul To Yours
Eating the Mango
Blindly It Slays Thee
Death in the Time of Corona
What to Do
The Earth Lives On
COVID-19 from the Beginning
Let This Scourge Pass
Earth Day, 2020
Old School Dream
Chronicle of Fools
Ghost of COVID-19
The Year of the Virus
The Mask III
Behind the Mask
Short FictionPassage to Paradise
Mardi Gras Queen
The LegendThe Legend Special Edition Life in the Time of Corona