COVID-19 in Pulaski County: Man-on-the Street Dispatches, Part 1


No one answered the door when I arrived at a Little Rock home Friday, March 13, 2020, to deliver prescription medications from a local pharmacy.

I called the intended recipient to ask if he wanted me to leave his order at the door.

“I’m over on Baseline!” he shouted jubilantly into his phone. “I found toilet paper over here!”

“It’s just pandemonium everywhere,” he continued. “I should have worn Kevlar. Lord have mercy!”

We chatted a few more minutes about his prized find before he agreed that I should leave his meds on the porch.

And then I got into my company vehicle – which now boasts a cylinder of Lysol wipes and a container of hand sanitizer (70 percent alcohol) in the cupholders (which normally are home to my Kum & Go cup of coffee and a can of sparkling water) – and headed off to make my next delivery.

I knew that Friday would be … interesting. Just the day before, I was at the Kroger on McCain in North Little Rock to buy dog food, cat food and kitty litter when my 17-year old daughter texted:

School is canceled for the next two weeks. And tomorrow. 

(She and her younger brother attend North Little Rock High School.)

Within 10 minutes, the throng of mid-day Kroger regulars exploded into a mass of panicked shoppers scurrying down the aisles.

Aside from my job as a pharmacy delivery driver, I also work as a certified caregiver. Because of my frequent and up-close-and-personal contact with seniors, I already had been stocking up my pantry, fridge and freezer for several weeks. I figured that doing so would allow me to stay away from public places, thereby somewhat lessening my chances of inadvertently infecting our most vulnerable population.

Still, I found myself swept along in the wave of panic, flinging much more than pet supplies into my cart. It took 40 minutes to check out. When I drove by later, around 4:30 p.m., the parking lot was packed.

Just that morning, one of my clients for whom I work as a caregiver informed the agency that as much as she loves me, she prefers to isolate herself at home for the time being. I didn’t blame her one bit. I already had feared the prospect of becoming the “COVID-19 Cathy of Pulaski County” and therefore told her that if she did discontinue my services, I wouldn’t suffer any hurt feelings.

And then a second client canceled an evening shift. OK, well her daughter did. That’s because a public-school event that the daughter was expected to attend had been canceled.

“I get it,” I said yet again. “No problem.”

Which is why I felt so very very validated Friday as I journeyed throughout Pulaski County.

I filled out virus-screening questionnaires, got my forehead scanned (97.7 degrees), and met nurses at the front entrances of locked-down nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Between deliveries, I wiped down the car’s interior, my pens, clipboard and phone with Lysol, doused my hands with sanitizer and stopped frequently at various gas stations to scrub my hands with soap.

This is what I observed today:

  • Nursing homes and other facilities that house or care for elders are restricting visits to immediate family members. They are screening staff, visitors and delivery drivers. At one longterm facility, a table loaded with coronavirus info had been placed in the entryway. (“We’re on lockdown,” one nurse informed me when I arrived with meds. “Totally get it,” I replied.)
  • Doctor’s offices, specialty clinics, etc… had very few people in their waiting rooms.
  • While grocery store parking lots remained at capacity, fast-food restaurants didn’t have the usual lines at their drive-throughs.
  • Pharmacies would prefer that you use the drive-through if you even remotely suspect that you might be ill.
  • Especially vulnerable nursing-home residents have been banned from dining halls and other public spaces at their facilities.
  • I am unable to hold my breath during a multi-floor elevator ride, despite my desire to protect those with whom I must interact.

And even as I delivered meds to seniors who are hunkered down at home or in longterm care facilities, I listened to the Trump & Pence show on NPR and most definitely did not feel like this situation is in competent hands where the federal government is concerned.

Rather, we will be saved by our communities, state officials, city and county officials, scientists, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who truly understand what we are up against.



Capitalism, GOP “messaging” and America’s flawed healthcare system are no match for COVID-19


In recent days, I’ve listened to umpteen news reports on the possible effects that COVID-19 will have on the markets and the economy. Media also have focused on the effects the virus will have on travel, conferences, and political rallies.

Arkansans: Let’s get real. Let’s talk about logistics and practicalities. Let’s talk about the people who stand to be affected.

I have a couple of part-time jobs that require me to interact daily with our most vulnerable populations – the elderly and those who suffer from serious medical conditions and/or compromised or deficient immune systems.

I take care of your elderly parents. I assist your grandparents. I do all of this up close and personal. I help them bathe. I help transfer them from wheelchairs to beds and from beds to wheelchairs. i help them use the restroom. I fix their meals and remind them to take their medications. And I consider all of this to be an honor.

They have taught – and continue to teach – me so much. Their stories and nuggets of wisdom are invaluable. I treasure the time I spend with them. Oftentimes, I feel as though they are helping me more than I am helping them.

I’m a certified caregiver. I also deliver medications to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and homebound seniors.

From what we’re hearing from the WHO and the CDC, a global pandemic is inevitable. And I’m going to be straight-up and brutally honest: America is not prepared to deal with it. Arkansas is not prepared to deal with it. Our healthcare system is more of a detriment than a benefit. The same is true where insurance companies are concerned.

GOP messaging: Oh, no worries! This virus only kills old and/or sick people. If you’re young and relatively healthy, you’ll be FINE!

OK, yeah, well, I, at age 50, might be “fine,” but what about my clients? What about the seniors residing in nursing homes?

Also? Since when is it OK to spin a potentially deadly virus as an inconvenience that might cause a little economic upheaval? Really? Seriously? When did we lose our compassion?

Shame on you. Shame on us. Shame on America and its politicians who refuse to see people as, well… people. 

I don’t give a damn as to how many fetuses you Republicans “save.” You are not “pro-life.” You cage immigrant children, refuse to give them vaccinations, and now you’re set on killing off our senior citizens.

So here is my message to those who have parents/grandparents in either a nursing-home or residential setting:

Call the nursing homes or home-care agencies and ask what plans they will implement once the virus arrives in Arkansas.

If your elder resides in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, ask about how potential quarantines will affect you and your loved one.

If your elder relies on caregivers who come to the home, make sure that your loved one’s home is fully stocked with non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, gloves, medications, etc…

Also, call the agencies that employ your caregivers and ask what sort of plans and policies they have in place. Ask what will happen in the event of quarantines.

Call the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Human Services and ask them what sort of plans and policies are in place.

(Answer: None.) But go ahead and call and pressure them to come up with … something.

Urge your state and federal elected officials to consider the fact that minimum-wage workers don’t get paid sick leave. Also, it costs thousands – even with insurance – to pay for a COVID-19 test. Translation: Caregivers, hotel workers, restaurant and fast-food workers, delivery people, etc… etc… are not going to want to call in sick. Why?

1. Who can afford a $3,000 test for a virus that doesn’t have any sort of treatment protocol? I mean, what’s the point?
2. Who can afford to request days off due to illness when your employer will require you to go to a doctor – a doctor who will charge you not only for the visit and a doctor’s note but also for your $3,000 COVID-19 test? I mean, if healthcare made any sort of sense, insurance companies would consider these tests to be a form of preventative medicine.
3. Who can afford a hospital stay if one is diagnosed with COVIDd-19? This is another reason that your average minimum-wage, hourly employee is not going to seek medical treatment.

This, my friends, is why our healthcare system is a failure. This is why we need to reconsider the profits made at our expense. This is why we need to pressure elected officials to be transparent. Right now, we keep hearing how all counties will be provided with testing equipment. Yeah, well, great, but I’m not going to go get tested knowing that I’ll be charged thousands of dollars for it. I’ll just self-quarantine myself and beg my employers to show mercy when it comes to doctors’ notes. Because really – if there’s no treatment or cure, why bother?

Don’t believe me? Do you really think that the state of Arkansas has a handle on this? Call the governor. Call the Department of Health. Call the Department of Human Services. Call nursing homes, home-health agencies and those who hire caregivers.

And then let me know just how safe and secure and “prepared” you feel.