Into the Fear of the Unknown


The flight home from Indianapolis to L.A. was half empty. Everyone on the plane wore masks, scarves, or respirators. No one spoke. No one dared to cough, much less clear their throats for fear of causing alarm from someone seated next to them. Masked passengers, like nervous bank robbers in their getaway car, dotted the seats in the dimly-lit cabin. Everyone was eager to make their way home. COVID-19 USA version was just getting started.

I was sitting in an upgraded, First Class seat on a mileage award, and unsurprisingly, no one in First wanted food or beverage service. The flight attendant seemed relieved that she didn’t have to spend too much time, up close and personal.

We were flying through a modern version of the Twilight Zone and into the unknown. For me, the experience underscored what surreal really means, by its very definition: “seeming like a dream or fantasy.” A global pandemic, certainly felt like a very bad dream, one seemingly conjure up by a writer’s creative mind in a Hollywood fantasy.

In case you are grappling with the concept of surreality, this should help: Surreal is a tsunami that engulfs parts of Japan and causes a nuclear disaster. Surreal is Mount Saint Helen’s erupting, and blanketing 250 homes in molten hot lava and ash. Surreal is watching a space shuttle, with living/breathing astronauts in it, fly to a place in the sky, and explode. Surreal is the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake leaving a pancaked Bay Bridge in its wake. Surreal is also finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic where it’s not only socially acceptable, but mandated, that you wear a mask into a bank, and no one hauls you away, in handcuffs, when you do so.

Two months ago, I got off that plane, drove home from LAX in a daze, and joined my family already on lockdown. The date was March 17, 2020, and I won’t ever forget it. I was 1989 San Francisco Earthquake shook.

Once I arrived home, I discovered my husband was already sick with symptoms that matched COVID-19. We’ve been married 26 years and nothing, in all those years, took him down quite like that. We didn’t quarantine from him, or he from us, and he turned out to be sick for almost three weeks. When I say sick, I mean DOWN for the count and lethargic, check his pulse, and see-if-he’s-breathing-kind-of-sick. I’m pretty sure he had “it,” and he tried to get tested to confirm our suspicions, but he was turned away.

This thing was still too new.

I’m pretty sure I also had “it” back in January after a trip to Vegas when a tele-doctor diagnosed me with the flu. (I later learned that someone traveling into McCarran from Wuhan, on the same day as me, was hospitalized. And, many people in my industry reported a strange “Vegas flu” after returning home. My symptoms began with a sore throat, with some stomach upset in the first couple of days. What followed was lethargy, rolling fevers, and a mad cough. I didn’t have a runny nose, or nausea. But, I was knocked down and rolling in and out of fever for two solid weeks, with THAT wicked cough. Our industry trade show also had legions of attendees flying in from China. Plus, “The Woz” was our industry’s guest speaker, and he claimed he was the first American who brought the virus to the U.S. as patient zero. People laughed at the joke, but it was reported that he was so sick, during his talk at the PPAI Show back in January, he had to sit down on stage to catch his breath. Yah. By then Vegas was crawling with “it.” And, as you know, Vegas is already a cesspool of disease and regret.

I’m pretty sure my son got “it” from me by early February when he was coughing so hard, he was retching blood. His doctor said he had bronchitis. My doctor said I had the flu, just 10 days earlier. By March, my husband became ill, and my son and I were both on lockdown with him, but we both never got sick with whatever my husband had. We assumed that’s because perhaps my son and I already had “it?” Three people were living under the same roof, over a two month timespan, and each of us were diagnosed with separate, although seemingly the same, illnesses. We had the same symptoms, but different responses. My son’s cough was the worst. My husband’s lethargy was the worst. My fevers were the worst.

Have we each already had COVID-19?

So, let’s assume for a minute that all three of us have had it. That’s three people living in the same house on lockdown. Each of us has the propensity to help drive the economy back to where it was in some way. I own a couple of businesses. My husband is a partner in a mutual funds company. And, my son is a student. If all three of us have had COVID-19, and I realize that is a big IF, shouldn’t we be with other’s like us back out in the world, helping to rebound the economy?

That got me thinking about how important the Antibody test is to our nation’s economy. The Antibody test shouldn’t only be about finding the cure to this deadly disease, it should be about putting members of society, maybe even entire households, back into the workforce as soon as we have answers about the likelihood of the possibilities of contracting the disease more than once, or catching a newer, rogue strain.

Since I can’t be sure that I had COVID-19 back in January, I forked over the $129 to Quest Diagnostics to get tested for antibodies. The rest of my family may follow suit. I simply gotta know!

Positive results won’t make me feel impervious from catching it again or resistant from catching a new strain, but it might give me courage to join civilization again, as a front seat driver in this economy, with the proper heath mandates put in place.

Here’s hoping the Antibody test also becomes as readily available as the COVID-19 test has become. Perhaps through it, we can jumpstart the economy again by putting people with antibodies, one-by-one, back out into the workforce and into schools, while we continue to fight the disease.

In any case, I miss my old optimistic self, so I’m going long on my Moderna stock. I incidentally bought in at $39.89 a share, back when they were just one of the numerous potential vaccine players in a sea of possibilities. If I sold today, I’d be a winner, winner chicken dinner. I don’t know about you, but it feels good to invest in hope, even if I lose my shirt. I’m going long! Goooooo Moderna! See us clear through to the finish line and end this pandemic.

Author: Tonia Allen Gould

Tonia Allen Gould is the CEO of Tagsource, a 25-year-old Consumer Promotions and Marketing Agency, she's founder of the Finding Corte Magore Project, and children's book author of Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. Here, on this blog, she writes about whatever compels her at the moment. In her book, she explores the concepts of perseverance, hard work, bullying, and finding a place to call home for young readers. The impetus of the Finding Corte Magore project stems from Tonia's background - growing-up below the poverty line, in rural Indiana. A product of Indiana's foster care system, she is the first to say that books, a solid education and teachers, taught her there was a life for herself, tangible and within her reach, she just had to reach out and grab it. After publishing her first book, she decided she wanted to find an island and make it real, by naming it after the fictional place in her book, “Corte Magore,” and utilize it for social and environmental good. Today, the 29-acre island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua- through a joint partnership with Ambassador Francisco Campbell, the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S.-will be utilized by the Finding Corte Magore Project to work to keep Nicaraguan children in school. The Finding Corte Magore Project works virtually to connect a global community of students and institutions with the plight of educationally and economically repressed Nicaragua. The project involves showcasing and managing one of the country's own beautiful islands in its educational and environmental initiatives. The goal of The Finding Corte Magore Project is to create social awareness coupled with building a sustainable, positive and long-term educational impact on the country's children who have an on-average fifth grade dropout rate. In addition, Tonia is a promotional products industry veteran. She is the founder and CEO of 25-year old Tagsource, LLC (AKA TAG! The Creative Source). She currently serves on the BOD for the Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC), is an "Industry Voice", a recipient of a PPAI Golden Pyramid, and has been named on ASI’s Hot List. She is the recipient of Supplier of the Year award through the Women’s Business Enterprise Council West, as nominated by Fortune 500 companies.

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