Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow — “just a little stroll gone bad”

Pompeii — “a bit of a dust storm”

Hiroshima — “a bad summer heatwave”

AND Wuhan — “just a bad flu season”

— Dr. James Lawler, infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska, served as a member of the Homeland Security Council of President George W. Bush and as a member of the National Security Council for President Barack Obama (January 28, 2020)

On Saturday, February 8, 2020, I was scheduled to work a double the morning after I had already called in sick. I was on the floorplan to be a food runner for the day shift, and barback that night. My 103-degree fever didn’t grant me the ability to remember how many covers we had on the books that day, but I knew it would be the bulk of my check. For the first time in 8 years, the fact that I called in the night before didn’t matter. I didn’t immediately go to the doctor because I missed the insurance enrollment period at my restaurant, yet something in my gut told me “You could push yourself, but fever = contagious. Call in.” So I did.

Me (9:58 AM): I think I have the flu. Trying to kick this fever.

My manager (9:59 AM): Ok. So you can’t make it?

Me (10:00 AM): No I’m probably contagious.

My manager (10:05 AM): Ok

My manager (1:02 PM): Will you be able to work tonight?

Me (1:33 PM): That’s the goal. Just don’t want to get anybody sick.

My manager (1:42 PM): Ok let us know sooner than later so we can look for a replacement if needed.

Me (1:45 PM): I’m in the group chat trying to get it covered. It’s not likely I’ll make it.

Two days prior to this exchange with my manager, the first coronavirus death took place in Santa Clara County. And the day that followed? There were 11 more confirmed cases in the United States. I didn’t know any of this information, feeling as sick as I felt, but Donald J. Trump did.

I don’t remember much from that weekend I took off. The vast majority of those hours were spent tossing and turning. Sweating and shivering. Forcing myself to eat and praying for the coughing, aching, and fatigue to end. The Monday following that weekend, I didn’t feel any better. Despite the reduction of my fever, my congestion, deep cough, and heavy headedness persisted. Still, I went to work. I polished silverware, stood in the expo window organizing our patrons’ plates, and served our tables three plates at a time. I was more concerned about “dropping on top” than my own well-being and the risk of working while feeling this horribly. It wasn’t until I started typing this story that I learned on February 11, 2020, the very next day, WHO announced that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus would be named COVID-19.

My coworkers and I worked for an entire month before our managers were informed we’d have to suspend dine-in service. During that 30+ day time period, so many of us joked about the virus. One of my coworkers even brought her own personal can of Lysol and sprayed anyone that coughed. We stopped laughing when HR expressed the seriousness of the virus to the entire restaurant group on March 12, 2020:

I’m sure you’ve noticed the mayor has cancelled public gatherings and we can expect more of this in the next few weeks. We are hopeful that these measures will stop the spread of the virus and we will soon be able to go about our normal lives. In the meantime, we must all do our part by following and exceeding the CDC guidelines. Please be diligent about wiping and disinfecting all surfaces, door handles, tables, chairs, phones, POS systems and anything else that people touch. Wash your hands as many times a day as you possibly can. If you are sick, do not come to work. I can not emphasize this enough. Now, as always, we should all be aware of ordering, usage, and spending levels so that we can run a tight efficient operation. Finally, let me assure you that our top priority has been and remains the health and safety of you, your families and all our guests.

We are all in this together as a family and a community and we will get through this.

The last day I showed up to work was March 15, 2020, but for some reason, Louisiana didn’t get the stay home order from Governor John Bel Edwards until March 23. We weren’t told it was mandatory to stay home until there were more than 800 confirmed cases in Louisiana. I look at these dates and think of the thousands of people I personally put at risk between February 8 and March 15 and I can’t help but tear up.

If I had known what coronavirus was on February 7…

If there were any indication that I was endangering my family and friends on February 8…

If the POTUS had done his job, 217,000+ lives would not have had to be lost for this administration to realize the severity of this virus and I would not have put anyone at risk.

It’s now mid-October and there is no end in sight to the fear and uncertainty we all faced in March. After months of withholding information, undermining science, and gaslighting the entire nation, the POTUS has tested positive for the virus and is unapologetically spreading it. It’s disorienting to face the fact that even after testing positive, the leader of this country was more concerned with his fans (roughly 26% of the population) and the stock market (which isn’t doing so well) than the wellbeing of the 331 million people he swore to serve. Dude does not give one fraction of a fuck about any of us.

This presidency is not about conservatives reclaiming the country from the “radical left”. It’s not about blacks vs whites either. It for damn sure was never about making America great. This administration is waging a war on democracy and I am more fearful of them winning THAT war than ending up on a ventilator at 28 years old. Democracy can only exist if “we the people” are informed people and the line between fact and anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth has been blurred to a point I never thought possible. The United States of America is so ununited that millions of us are damn near living in an alternate universe.

“I wanted to always play it down,” he said in March. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” That’s one of the few truths I believe he’s shared with anyone. Panic never served the self-interest of millionaires and billionaires, but quiet fear definitely has.

On the left and the right, we all fear the greatest loss is approaching. Democrats fear that loss is free and fair elections. Republicans fear that loss is the laws and policies that protect their wealth. But for most of us, it’s way deeper than that. We’re losing hope in the “U” in the U.S. We’re not losing faith in God or humanity. We’re losing faith in the statement that was shared with my friends and other non-essential workers across this country:

We are all in this together as a family and a community and we will get through this.




Call me Jay (She, her) Producer, Podcaster + Educator dedicated to uplifting marginalized voices. I care about equity, arts + culture, and good storytelling.

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Jay Evans

Jay Evans

Call me Jay (She, her) Producer, Podcaster + Educator dedicated to uplifting marginalized voices. I care about equity, arts + culture, and good storytelling.

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