Mark Quale, an ER physician in North Carolina, was one of the first people matched with a donated RV from Kelsey and Tim Webb, who were strangers. Before, coming home to his two young sons, wife and mother-in-law, Quale would strip off his scrubs on the front porch, walk to a bathroom cordoned off by a tarp, and methodically shower. The Webbs’ gift, he says, shows “there is so much more to fighting the coronavirus than what happens at the hospital. There are layers upon layers of people fighting this in different ways.”
Yet more unconscionable malfeasance from the clusterfuck that is our alleged federal government, which was eager to use its vast power to put kids in cages but is now, with a pandemic raging, somehow nowhere in sight. Where to begin? Maybe with the news that, on Monday, about 280 million medical masks were purchased from U.S. warehouses by foreign buyers – you know, the same kind of scarce masks and other vital equipment for which, according to ProPublica, beleaguered states are now paying up to 15 times the normal price in a desperate bidding war created by the utter abdication of an I-take-no-responsibility impeached president. News of the price gouging has prompted over 100 mayors and county officials in 17 states to urge Trump to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of medical supplies, create a national supply system, and otherwise get it together to do his job like he should have months ago.
Still, the poor guy is so busy. Turns out a few months ago he ended a $200-million early-warning program designed to help scientists in China and other nations monitor and handle infectious disease threats, including the identifying of 1,200 viruses with the potential to become pandemics; the shutdown laid off dozens of scientists in 60 foreign labs, including in Wuhan. Other things he’s busy doing: He made the tough decision not to proceed with his WTF plan to deploy U.S. troops at the Canadian border; he proudly dragged into a briefing the wacko head of MyPillow – “Boy do you sell those pillows” – without noticing the Better Business Bureau revoked the guy’s accreditation; he also brought slumlord and clown prince Kushner – “dilletantism raised to the level of sociopathy” – to further muddy the inept waters; he studied enough data so he could boast he’s #1 on Facebook, though it’s not true; and he just authorized a Secret Service $45,000 “emergency order” to rent golf carts at his Virginia golf club, usually a sign of an impending golf trip. Yes, really.
Blessedly, many have stepped into the yawning vacuum of a MIA government. New Yorkers gather each evening to applaud front-line workers, GM workers began making ventilators after they failed to hear back from the feds, China sent a million masks (back?) on a free plane from the Patriots, veterans of middle-school home-ec classes have taken to kitchen tables to sew masks for neighbors, doctors increasingly speak harsh truth to power, even on Fox News, and, brilliantly, thousands of RV owners have offered to lend their rigs to bone-weary doctors and nurses working 80-hour weeks, desperate to find a place to lay their heads without endangering their families – to “be home but not be home.” In barely a week, over 12,000 people on Facebook have joined RVs 4 MDs to Fight the Coronavirus, which was begun by two Texas women – a worried wife of an ER doctor with a new baby, and a RV owner who wanted to help. Since then, owners have volunteered to drive their RVs 200 miles and set them up; sometimes they deliver them packed with bottled water, frozen treats, precious toilet paper. Meanwhile, the stories of those seeking their temporary refuge are harrowing.
An ER doc in Alabama who’s pitched a tent under his daughter’s carport, an ER nurse in Florida with four kids and a husband newly diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, an ER doc in Rochester who’s been living in the garage for weeks to protect his wife and 3 kids, an ICU nurse in Illinois whose father with cancer lives in their dining room, who “survived Vietnam and cancer and I’ll be damned if I bring something home to him,” an asthmatic nurse who’d pitch a tent out back to protect her 80-year-old immunocompromised parents if she thought she’d survive it, an ICU nurse whose father has a pacemaker “for whom the virus would be a death sentence,” a Kansas mother whose paramedic son is afraid to come home and infect his kids and her – “He is very clean and responsible. Thank you in advance.” And a Minnesota nurse whose son has Down Syndrome and severe respiratory illnesses: “Knowing I could self-isolate but still wave to him (would) be amazing,” she writes. “It could be a very small RV. All I do is fall into bed exhausted after each shift…I sit here in the early morning quiet that used to be so peaceful (but) now fills me with dread, with tears streaming down my face…Bless you!” The empathy on both sides shines through. “This is a beautiful thing you all are doing,” writes one grateful nurse. From another, “This group represents everything that is right and good in this world.” May they all stay safe.
Grace, a Wisconsin EMT, lives with an immunocompromised brother she was terrified of infecting. The RV she got on loan was a Godsend: “Thank you all for your generosity.”
Vital message from the front lines