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I’m afraid of COVID-19. There, I said it.

I’m afraid not only for me but because I am part of the sandwich generation. I am worried for a 93-year-old mother who’s frequently out and over a special needs son with an impacted immune system.

People waiting to meet travelers arriving Friday at O’Hare Airport watch as President Donald Trump declared  a national emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic and said “most likely, yeah” he would be tested even as a second visitor to Mar-a-Lago was found to have the virus.
People waiting to meet travelers arriving Friday at O’Hare Airport watch as President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic and said “most likely, yeah” he would be tested even as a second visitor to Mar-a-Lago was found to have the virus.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

I’m afraid.

There, I said it. I’m very afraid. Of course, I’m talking about COVID-19.

That was even before the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak that started in late 2019 a pandemic on Wednesday.

And before President Donald Trump on Friday finally declared COVID-19 a national emergency.

I’m afraid not only for me but because I’m in the sandwich generation.

I’m worried for a 93-year-old mother who, quite healthy and independent, is frequently out in the community, primarily attending mass, as a devout Catholic.

I’m anxious over a 28-year-old special needs son who is medically complex, with an impacted immune system, already challenged with chronic pneumonia and in and out of the medical center in our community frequently for treatment.

Is it OK to say I’m afraid? I’m afraid.

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“There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in making the international declaration.

In the United States, where testing has been slow, COVID-19 is now confirmed in nearly every state — more than 1,700 cases, 41 deaths — the numbers fluid and unreliable.

“I’m sure they’re missing cases,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, because studies show people can spread the disease without displaying symptoms.

As America races to slow this pandemic’s grip, I watch with apprehension the numbers close to home. Illinois hit 64 confirmed cases Saturday. Earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker mandated that events of more than 1,000 people be canceled or postponed and that organizers consider the same for gatherings of over 250 people.

I was to take Mom on our usual spring break, my Marriott Vacation Club timeshare in Florida, March 21-28.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declaring the elderly and those with serious chronic medical conditions most at risk of serious consequences from COVID-19 — and urging people to reduce the potential of exposure — that’s the end of that.

No way can I take her. I called Southwest Airlines and Marriott.

Southwest indicates our $1,200 in tickets will be banked as “travel funds” toward the purchase of future travel. No problem there.

But Marriott said: You’re out of luck. Marriott International Inc. will waive cancellation fees for stays through March 31 for travel to or from Italy and specific countries in Asia. But there’ll be no accommodation for domestic travel. I’ll lose my financial investment in the week at the resort, the hotel giant says.

I find that unacceptable, Marriott. My mom is 93. And I’m afraid.

So my son got sick last week, potentially his usual pneumonia. But was it?

I called his pulmonologist. She couldn’t see him for five days.

If things get worse, her nurse said, take him to the emergency room.

Silence.

“Are you there?” the nurse asked.

“Yeah, um, I’m not taking him to any ER,” I responded. “Not with this coronavirus. We’ll wait.”

Information out of China, where COVID-19 began, shows those at higher risk of getting very sick, most of the fatalities, included people with heart and lung conditions. Check and check. I’m not taking him to any ER.

And when, five days later, I took him to see her, anxiety arose just walking into the hospital. It is, after all, where sick people go.

And pulmonogists are on the front lines of this disease that causes pneumonia-like symptoms.

Is it OK to say I’m afraid? I’m very afraid.

So I worry about my special needs son. And I worry about Mom.

And I worry about losing my week at the resort because Marriott won’t make domestic accommodations during this global health emergency.

But most of all I worry about this fear.

You see, both my job and leadership positions with two journalism organizations put me in frequent contact with the public and other journalists.

So I worry about potentially being exposed to anything and then visiting Mom.

I worry about bringing something home to a son who can ill fight it.

But I grow a little less anxious with social distancing — the coronavirus-inspired watch word of the day.

It’s meant cancellation of many events I’d normally be obligated to attend. And as of this coming week, our newsroom moves to a coronavirus-triggered, company-wide, work-from-home policy.

The less I leave home, the less I worry.

But what about Mom? We’ve decided she’ll self-isolate, especially since the Archdiocese of Chicago on Friday suspended Mass. But what if her caregiver has been exposed? What if one of her seven children gets exposed and visits?

I’m afraid. There, I said it. I’m very afraid. I’m talking about COVID-19.