Meditations of a Neo-Hypochondriac The COVID-19 Chronicles: Playing the COVID-19 guessing game

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This is one of a series of first-person accounts of how COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders around Monterey Bay are affecting us all. If you would like to share your thoughts about living under the sheltering sky send your essay to us at


By Joe Livernois

What’s that rattle? Can you hear that rattle? The one in my chest?  Sounds like a nest of sidewinders are living in there.

No! Don’t come any closer. The health people have instructed us to keep our distance. Six feet. My tape measure indicates that you have encroached into my safe space. Back away. Now. And why aren’t you wearing a mask? What sort of monster are you, walking around with no mask?

Anyway, can you hear that rattle from your safe distance? I don’t remember my chest rattling like this before. Is the rattle coming from where my lungs are supposed to be? Lungs are up here in the chest region of the body, right? Oh damn! Don’t tell me my lungs are rattling. This can’t be happening to me. It’s in my lungs, right?

Why is my dog sneezing? He’s never sneezed like that before. Is dog sneeze contagious? Does Amazon sell dog masks?

Where are those stupid tests, anyway? I thought we’d be able to get tested by now. Didn’t someone tell us three weeks ago that everyone who wanted a stupid test could get a stupid test? Why would someone tell us that if it isn’t true? How come Rudy Gobert and Tom Hanks got tests and I can’t?

Does Mexico have the tests? Can I book a flight to Matamoros right now? I hear doctors in Matamoros have the tests. Does Mexico take the recommendations of the World Health Organization seriously? Does Mexico believe in science? I haven’t been paying attention. What’s going on in Mexico these days, anyway? Is President Lopez Obrador blathering crazy nonsense to his constituents every single day?

Oh my God! What’s happening to my nasal passages? Are they supposed to be as dry as the Saharan sand? It’s like sandpaper in there. I can’t remember my nostrils ever feeling this way. And where did this headache come from? This headache isn’t normal, is it?

And this fever! Or is it just hot in here? It’s hot, right? Are you hot right now? Or is it just me?

Whatever happened to the thermometer? Why isn’t it where it’s supposed to be? Did we lose it in the move? Did it fall between the drawers? Did someone steal it? How can we lose a thermometer? Maybe I stashed it in the Band-Aid box. No, it’s not there. Of course it’s not there because why would someone put a thermometer in a Band-Aid box? What happened to the thermometer, dammit?

Okay. Don’t panic. It’s cold and rainy outdoors, so the chattering teeth are natural. But how many blankets will I need before I warm up? This is normal, right? Please, somebody tell me that fever and chattering teeth are normal when it’s cold and rainy.

So whatever happened to the freaking thermometer, dammit? 

Not that thermometer! That’s an immersion thermometer, for the kitchen. Okay, I’ll try it anyway. Mmmummble-mmmumble. Wait a minute, this thing measures in Centigrade. Christ! How many Centigrades are there in a Fahrenheit?

Oh God, nevermind! Now what’s happening to my throat? There’s this thing in my throat. Where did that come from? Is this natural? I don’t know how to describe it, really, but it’s this thing. In my throat. Sort of like this scratchy thing, but not really. I’ve felt things in my throat before, but nothing like this thing.

And how long have I been coughing like this? This isn’t one of those wet hacking coughs, like I usually fake when I try to convince my boss that I’m sick. This is a dry cough. A dry cough isn’t normal, right? This cough feels like that first time I tried to smoke a Pall Mall in the neighbor’s back yard when I was 12. Is dry coughing a symptom? Should I worry about this? Is this cough going to kill me? Or is it supposed to be a wet hacking cough?

Let’s check Facebook to find out. Okay, this meme says the dry cough is bad but it can be cured with a very specific potion I can make in my own kitchen. And I don’t even have to be a doctor or wear a white smock to do it. It says I should gargle with a mixture of vodka, turmeric and Purell.

Ha! See! My neighbors ridiculed me when I brought home that pallet load of turmeric two weeks ago. Who’s laughing now, suckers?

Oh, wait. It went away. Just like that I don’t feel that thing in my throat anymore. What was that thing, anyway?

But that cough is more of a rattle now. That’s curious. Unsettling, actually.

The cough is now like that rattle in my chest. Like it’s creeping up my throat. This rattle is moving all over the place. This doesn’t seem very healthy, if you ask me.

I need to be tested and I need to be tested now! I’ll bet Cuba has the tests. Are they even allowing flights to Havana these days? I don’t even know who “they” are anymore. Are my papers in order? Of course Cuba has  the tests. They barely have wifi in Cuba, but their health system seems to work. I’m sure Cuba has the tests. The last time we were there, everybody was bragging about their doctors. Maybe a doctor in Havana can diagnose that rattle in my chest and that thing in my throat.

Let me check the internets. Aha! Here’s a story about how COVID-19 isn’t an issue in Cuba because doctors there developed one of the most successful medications in the fight against the virus. Something called Interferon Alpha 2-B! And here’s a Cuban doctor who is quoted as saying that the world has an opportunity “to understand that health is not a commercial asset but a basic right.” Another story says Cuba has sent teams of doctors to Italy because Cuba is cured and the doctors are bored.

Sure. Whatever. I’m sure the U.S. will never get any of this stuff from Cuba. Because of communism and socialized medicine and whatnot. We’d probably have this Alpha stuff in the United States by now, except that I read that the Castro brothers were tight with Bernie. And the guy who promised that everyone could be tested two weeks ago hates Bernie. So of course we couldn’t possibly accept help from Cuba.

Speaking of tight, now what’s happening to my lungs?

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Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.

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