By CATHY FRYE
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.