As I write this, I am sitting on my back porch enjoying a sunny day with a nice breeze. Usually I would be at Sunrise Ford, working deals, analyzing expenses and doing a myriad of other work related duties. Instead, along with my husband Mike Wetzel, I am in total lockdown in our home because of the coronavirus.
I am one of those “high risk” cases—over the age of 65 with a serious underlying medical condition. I have a compromised immune system caused by the chemotherapy I still need to fight breast cancer. It has been a 10 year battle, but fortunately I am in remission because of new life saving drugs. Unfortunately, those drugs wreck havoc with my immune system prompting my oncologist to recommend—no demand—that Mike and I stay home. Other than a daily walk, we are home bound. The rules are simple: no one in and no one out.
I am happy to report on day 5 of our lockdown we are doing fine. It may be a different story a month or two from now, but for the time being everything is ok. I was worried that might not be the case. Mike and I have very active, busy lives and I was not sure how we would adjust. Our day usually begins with a two mile walk before work. Our time at the office is usually busy overseeing two dealerships with a staff of 100. We both enjoy our jobs and are fortunate to have a great group of employees—-many who have worked with us for decades.
On my way home from work, I usually stop at the gym and work out with a trainer and try to knock off another two miles on the elliptical before heading home. Mike often joins me at the gym after his daily trip to the grocery store. Our home life is also pretty routine— a cocktail at 7 pm as we watch the nightly news, followed by dinner (usually cooked by Mike), a little TV and off to bed. We do mix it up quite a bit, though, with dinners out with friends and family and entertaining at home. The two weeks before the unexpected lockdown we had three dinner parties at home and were out with friends another two nights. We spent another night in Palm Beach dining with old Miami Herald friends who were visiting from up north. So if I was to rank our social life, I would give it an 8 on a 10 point scale.
We also are big travelers. We were supposed to go to Washington for a week at Easter, stopping first in North Carolina to visit Mike’s daughter, and then spending time with my daughter and niece and our family and friends in DC. We have our traditions for that trip—dinner at my brother Steve’s favorite Italian restaurant, brunch at my niece Christine’s condo after Easter Mass, and lamb dinner at our townhouse with the gang Easter night. This time my daughter was taking a few days off from her reporting job so we could look for a dress for her upcoming wedding.
Everything is now on hold as we watch the news briefings, which mostly are pretty grim. Not enough tests, masks and other equipment for medical professionals is the problem du jour. Today the Treasure reported its first positive case. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better” is the common refrain at the daily briefings from the White House. The stock market had plummeted, Ford and other car manufacturers have shut down their plants and hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs as businesses are forced to close.
We are also worried about our dealerships and our employees. We have urged those who get sick to self quarantine and are fortunate to be able to pay them for those 14 days. We are also working with those, like me, who have underlying medical conditions to determine if they can work remotely. It is disconcerting we can’t be at the dealership to personally meet with managers and employees who understandably are very anxious. But we are on numerous conference calls with the dealerships and Ford Motor Co. trying to sort it out as best we can
We are also closely monitoring federal legislation to see what will be available to our employees should there be mass layoffs. Our work days certainly have taken a different turn with a host of new and sometimes very unsettling issues as this crisis unfolds. Being shut-ins could make us feel that there is a loss control of what is happening outside our house. But so far we both feel we have a handle on what is going on with our business as well as protecting our health.
To be sure things are not the same. We still have our walks but I miss the gym. Mike’s trips to the store have been replaced by groceries delivered to the front door. We miss our time at the office, chatting with customers, keeping up with the lives of our employees and strategizing on ways to improve our business. I wore my favorite green dress on St. Patrick’s Day but it just wasn’t the same since I was stuck in the house
I was supposed to be celebrating my birthday this weekend with dinner out with old friends. That, of course, was cancelled. My daughter has come up with a new game plan— a little cocktail party via FaceTime. I’ll let you know how that turns out. In the meantime, please stay safe. If you have a Gen Z kid who refuses to stay home, be a parent and put your foot down. If you are a baby boomer with a parent who thinks it’s ok to go to the grocery store, or anywhere else, do your best to keep mom and dad at home. There are people like me, with a medical condition, but do not have the luxury of being able to stay home. So think about those who are at risk of becoming critically or fatally ill, The decisions we make in these critical times could be literally a matter of life and death.