Voices from the pandemic: Stories of coronavirus in Minneapolis

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of seven local people whose daily lives are in a state of flux — a schoolteacher, an infection preventionist, a religious leader, a retired couple, a laid-off restaurant worker and a Hennepin County commissioner.

As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Wednesday, March 25

Parissa Delavari, emergency room physician, North Memorial Medical Center 

I live in Linden Hills. I work at North Memorial Medical Center as well as Maple Grove Hospital. I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, and my husband is a high school teacher at El Colegio charter school. We’ve really loved the Southwest Minneapolis area. We’ve been here for 10 years now and I would say life was pretty perfect before all this.

Now it’s drastically different. My husband has been working from home and has been able to continue daily homeschooling with the kids. I have an older mother who lives in Edina and would come here quite a bit and help out with child care. 

My mother is almost 70 and has some medical problems, so we’ve been distancing ourselves from her. That’s been the biggest change for us. I try to go on walks with her once a day and FaceTime with her. The biggest challenge has been separation from loved ones.

Initially, the number of patients in the ER dropped significantly with people staying home unless they were sick enough to need emergency services, which allowed us time to prepare for what’s coming and get our protocols down. 

Now it’s starting to pick up and we’re seeing respiratory cases. A lot of the testing is backlogged, so it’s hard to know if they’re actually COVID positive or not. But it certainly seems pretty consistent with that. My biggest fear is that we’re going to run out of beds, ventilators and, truly, doctors and nurses — because we’re all going to get sick. 

A lot of people with COVID are asymptomatic and in places they’ve been able to test everyone, they found a lot of asymptomatic providers were still practicing and [probably] spreading to patients. 

Most of us now wear masks in every room we go to regardless of the chief complaint, so we’re not being a vector of spread. Any respiratory patients, we have full barrier precautions on — including masks, face shields, gowns, head protection. 

Ideally we would change these between patients, but that’s not possible. We’re already running low and rationing personal protective equipment. We have been instructed to use the same mask, essentially as much as we can. You worry about cross-contamination on the outside of the mask getting on the inside. We’re reusing face shields, meant for one-time use, over and over again. We’ve been running low on gowns, which help us stay fully covered so we’re not exposing the patient in the next room to the virus. 

A good friend is an ER physician at Hennepin County Medical Center and he’s been reusing the same N95 mask over and over again, using bleach to try to clean it. He has terrible asthma. It’s heartbreaking he has to go through that, not knowing if the chlorine is going to upset his lungs. But we have to conserve resources as much as possible because we’re running short. 

Yesterday, during one shift, I used a single N95 mask six times around patients with respiratory symptoms, who we have to assume could have COVID. It’s hard to say because the results of testing are not readily available. 

It’s actually difficult to breathe through an N95 for a prolonged period of time, so we take them off between patients. The situation is bad enough where every nurse and every doctor has a big paper bag. At the end of our shift, we try to wipe down our personal protective equipment and put it back in that big paper bag. Because we’re that low on supplies. 

Think about that! They don’t know how long the virus can live and be pathogenic on a surface and when you think you’re throwing all that protective gear in one paper bag overnight until your next shift, it’s a huge risk for people working there. 

At the trajectory we’re on, we’ll run out quickly, so I really don’t think we have much of an option at this point. 

I put a cooler in my front yard that says “N95 mask donations” and posted about it on Nextdoor. I’ve been getting a lot of donations. I’m taking what anybody has, like goggles, disposable gowns, gloves. People have been dropping off masks they have from construction projects. I get asked if I’ll take used masks, and I’m happy to take those. If we get desperate, we’ll dust off some dusty masks and use those too. There is a little stockpile of random masks in people’s basements.

It’s heartbreaking to me because I’m talking to my friends in New York and California, where they’re already running out of supplies. They’re having to make the decisions of whether to go to work and put themselves and their families at risk. One of my friends is a pregnant ER physician in California who is struggling with this ethical dilemma. I’ve been mailing some masks to her, because she would otherwise have to use fabric masks or bandanas. 

If we run out of resources, people are going to die. If we get inundated with patients, we just won’t have enough resources to take care of all of them, and we’ll need to make some difficult decisions about loved ones’ lives. 

I’ve worked in other countries before and there are often shortages. But I think I’ve been naive because I thought that in the United States this wouldn’t be happening. In a country with this much wealth, the fact that we don’t have a stockpile of masks and gloves and face shields is shocking to me. I don’t know exactly where the blame lies. It’s not difficult to foresee that a pandemic like this could have come here, so I’m very surprised we don’t have a stockpile of these relatively cheap items that are invaluable.

It would be difficult to plan for this on the level of hospitals, but we should have planned for it on a national level better. Hopefully we will going forward. 

The CDC had a pandemic committee that was cut during this administration. I think the mixed messages from the administration currently has really hindered my job. People are asking to be tested who have no indication to be tested just because they heard that everyone can be tested — and that’s not the case. There’s been a lot of misinformation from the top down that’s been very frustrating as a physician. 

I feel super fortunate. I have a good support system and, financially, I’m more secure. I have some anxiety over the battles that are coming and the lack of resources, but other than that, I’m really appreciative of what I have. 

I’ve been trying to text neighbors who are older and don’t have as much family around to see what we can do to help them. The kids and I went out and wrote nice chalk messages for people at higher risk who are homebound, saying, “We love you, we miss you, we can’t wait to hug you.” This is a good time to reach out to people around you.

Because my mom is at higher risk and does still enter our house at times, I am now showering at work and completely changing before I come home. Hopefully, I decontaminate a little bit that way. I’m not as concerned about my family, specifically speaking. My husband and I are in our 40s, we’re healthy, we have two healthy kids, so my anxiety for my immediate family is pretty low. 

I think of it more as a public health issue. My biggest anxiety is I don’t want to be where Italy was, making these horrible ethical choices about which lives to save and how long do you keep a patient on a ventilator. In Minnesota, so far, everyone seems to have been ahead of the curve.

Tuesday, March 24

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We’re noticing there’s more concerns out there about finances and people are losing their jobs. How do we stay in touch with everybody and help when we can? That’s an important piece of what we’re doing. 

What is really important is we have to acknowledge the feelings are real and the fear is real. Trying to do anything else feels inauthentic. Then the reality of turning to Judaism and our tradition and the strength we have been given over the years during times of disruption and great chaos is there for us to dip into, as deep as we can, the well of Jewish experiences.

The other part is just to hold it, hold the fear. It’s OK for us to feel afraid because it’s an unknown. It’s OK that we will be able to get through this as best as we can. So prayer, calming the soul, meditation, reflection, things that religion has to offer is really important.

To say whatever happens to us, ultimately our soul is still whole, our soul is still strong, that our soul reaches out to each other. We tend to want to isolate when we’re afraid, when the best thing for us to do is reach out. 

I am part of a group of senior clergy of the Downtown congregations and we’ve been motivated by a conversation with [Attorney General) Keith Ellison to begin engaging social media to make sure we fight the hate that is ignited by this, the blaming, and putting into the airwaves counter messages: that we are one community, that we move toward finding each other, learning from each other’s differences and making sure we stay connected. We’re eager to do that and to be a part of solving some of these social ills of scapegoating, trying to find simple answers for complex issues and helping people deal with their fears in a more constructive way. 

Monday, March 23

Arminta and Ron Miller, residents, The Waters on 50th senior living community

Arminta: Ron’s been exercising every morning, but it looks like they’re going to take that away from us now.

Ron: When they announced there would be no more exercise, a few of the people were really frustrated. They said, “What am I going to do?”

Arminta: Up to this point, Ron’s been able to go out and get groceries. They’re telling us now that we should not do that. Our daughter brought some things over and dropped them off at the door. Two women here said they would do groceries if you give them a list. And the shuttle driver will go twice a week to Lunds & Byerlys and Target if you make a list and put it on the computer.

The library here has kind of been decimated; there aren’t many books left. There were about six or seven people who would get together and put together a puzzle in the common area. They’ve taken the puzzle away so nobody can do puzzles here. So it’s getting tighter and tighter.

We’re doing fine. It’s lucky that we have each other. A few of the people are looking pretty bad and feeling pretty lonesome. I’ve been sending cards around to people to make them feel a little better. It’s really hard on people who are all alone.

We’re not arguing yet, so that’s a good thing. He was mad because I beat him at cribbage.

Ron: She cheated. And she won’t play me in Monopoly.

Marion Greene, Hennepin County board chair

It’s definitely harder to separate work and life and right now. My husband is understanding. I want to do everything and be everything I can be in these difficult days, especially these first days. I do want to pace myself and not burn out.

Anytime I check in with anything at the federal level I just think, “Oh, my gosh.” We at the state and the local level have got to be what’s missing from Washington. When I get in touch with that, I really feel like I need to have stamina and pace myself.

On Saturday I spoke to [Hennepin County Administrator] David Hough, and he said, and I agreed, we should have a board meeting Thursday to share information. We’ve talked about the content that’s good for that. When we set out our plans last week we purposely gave ourselves a window by putting a stake in the ground on the April 6 date to say by that point we’ll have a plan or consider the next segment of time. I feel good about the fact that we did that. We created a window but didn’t make it infinite.

The big thing for me this week is the fact that we are the social safety net and we have a correctional function. We have a jail and a workhouse. For me those are the spaces where I really want to make sure we’re being as aggressive as we can be to push out and create good public health protocols in the jail. And also, what are we doing about housing?

We are one of the only counties that provide financial support to food shelves. Increasingly what we’re hearing is that it’s a big issue and food insecurity is real, and what can be done about it. There’s always this tension, and this is true in normal times: We want to raise our hands but we also need support from the state.

In my regular life I’m not the best at having a set schedule. In the life of a county commissioner, every day is different. With this I do see how for my own health, for my own ability to be a smart, thoughtful leader, it’s important to get my eight hours a day of sleep and eat regular meals. I’d say I’m sort of a work in progress, but in a way, because I am stuck at home, it’s easier to adhere to some things.

Every day I’m on the verge of forgetting to eat lunch, and then Bart [Greene’s husband] will wave to me on a call and say, “Do you want me to make you a peanut butter and honey sandwich?” I’m struck every day by how grateful I am for that.

Sunday, March 22

Barb Joyce, infection preventionist, Jones-Harrison senior living 

We figured out how to get testing. The Department of Health said the swabs I use for influenza will work. They told me they have enough tests available and if I were to submit, I’d go to the top of the priority list.

I’ve been able to take the weekend off, and no one has called me from work, so I’ve been sheltering in place and getting a lot done in my house.

I’m a little concerned with some of the social media calls for people to make their own masks and President Trump’s comments discouraging health care workers from throwing away masks. I’m concerned that the surgical masks we have that are single-use masks, which have some filtration, are going to be replaced by a piece of material. People have been saying, “Put a bandanna on.” But that’s not, in our opinion in the health care industry, a safe product.

The CDC says as long as you have a surgical mask on the patient and a mask on the health care giver, that should be good enough. We’ve been conserving our supply of surgical masks, and I have a good quantity that should get us through the first round.

I’m a little concerned the stockpile is not as much as I hoped it to be and we’re not going to have the gowns and the masks. If it hits and hits hard, I’m a little nervous I’m not going to get my supply back in.

Every time we go into the room, we’re going to have to gown, glove, mask and put a shield on our eyes. And every time we leave that room, we have to throw those away, because they’re not reusable when you’re working with a contagious germ.

We’re going to have to bundle our care — go in four or five times during a day — and do everything we can while we’re in the room. I have about a week’s worth of supply for, at the most, five patients. But if I don’t get more in, I have no idea what I’m going to do. It’s going to be challenging trying to limit our supplies if the virus comes in our door.

The Department of Health knows of two nursing homes in the state of Minnesota that have had positive testing and were able to contain it. If we identify it early and contain it early, it’s just going to be maybe one or two patients and maybe a health care worker or two. I’m hopeful that the system is working the way it’s supposed to work when we’re in this pandemic situation. The general public needs to continue to do their part by social distancing and hand washing.

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We have been doing so many Zoom worship gatherings. People have said how much fun it is to see everybody, and they didn’t realize they felt isolated.

I’m really upping my game on Zoom. I have learned how to put one of my own pictures in the background. My husband [state Rep. Frank Hornstein (District 61A)] and I went to Zion National Park this fall and I put that photo in the background, and the kids in our Judaic and Hebrew program thought it was funny I figured that out.

Passover is two weeks from Wednesday night. Families are doing Zoom Seder. We also are going to do a Seder in real time with clergy there. It’s very fun to prepare for it, even though we’ll be missing seeing congregants in person.

Our youth group did an “untalent show” last night on Instagram, which was fun to watch.

We’re also reaching out on phone calls. People really want to talk. Usually you reach out to people and it’s, “Thanks, rabbi, bye,” you know. Now people have all the time in the world. In some ways, you realize how crazy our lives have become. We haven’t had to sacrifice as a country or think about other people or go with less. I think those are really important lessons that are crucial at this time and in this experience.

We’ve still had funerals. In Judaism you can’t embalm, so you’ve got to honor the person who died by burying them as quickly as possible. We came up with a really good procedure and process that has been very helpful. All of it is graveside, outside, with 10 people or fewer, and we’re streaming the service. I did a funeral this week with 10 people and 70 people streaming, and then we’ll do a memorial service at a later date. We did a Zoom shiva Thursday night, and we’re doing it again tonight.

We’ve been so wanting to move beyond our four walls. Religious institutions that stay bound by their buildings are just not going to survive.

Friday, March 20

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School 

Last week, in front of students, I was trying to be present and stick to our plan. Coronavirus wasn’t part of my curriculum. Goodness knows they were getting enough of that elsewhere. When and if it came up, it was a good chance to approach it as a scientist.

On Monday, I gave the students quizzes back and collected a lab that they were finishing. I didn’t go to school on Tuesday [the last day school buildings were open to teachers]. I decided I’d be most comfortable and productive working from home. I set up Google Classroom. I decided to set up optional daily challenges for kids. Kids want routine and contact is really important. Three weeks is just way too long to go dark.

For today, I posted an optional challenge. Five kids have already turned it in, and it hasn’t even been an hour. I have them experimenting with using a highlighter with this text I wrote so that I know that they’re reading the text.

I’ve got a meeting with my AmeriCorps worker, who helps support our ELL kids. I have a Zoom meeting with another science teacher at Lake Harriet school, looking ahead to our astronomy unit and how we might want to reorder what we’re doing with it. I’m helping kids finish up their third quarter grades. I have some calls with kids and a pretty steady stream of email. I want to start experimenting with making my own videos and pushing those out to my Google Classroom site. That’ll be important if we are home after spring break to keep having more avenues for how to teach virtually.

In some ways, I’m able to provide a little more one-on-one attention right now. I’m not supervising passing time. I don’t have bus duty.

My routine? I don’t have to get up quite as early. I get to sleep in until 7 a.m., get up and go for a run so I can be in my “classroom” at 8 a.m. That means my laptop is open and I am going through all the emails that have come in. Then I’m in my classroom until 4 p.m. Then at 4, I’m trying to get away from work a little bit. Go for a walk or read or watch something on TV.

I am going to make a concerted effort to take the weekends off. Normally I’m bringing tons of work on weekends and planning for the week ahead. I think it’s important right now to take the weekend off and get away from it so I can come back and be excited on Monday.

I’m going to miss seeing the kids. I’m worried about them. The economics of the weeks ahead are going to be really tough. I wish I could be there in person for the kids and support them. I miss the adult interaction as well.

I’m still a full-time teacher even in this strangle little upstairs classroom I made. We’re going to do our best to make school work in the situation we’re in right now.

The cool thing is that we’re going to find some ways of doing things better that are going to help us enhance our work, and I also think we’re going to appreciate some things that we have been taking for granted. It’ll be interesting to see how all of that plays out.

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We had a dance group that was supposed to come in from New York on March 14 and then an artist in residence coming after that. I realized maybe two weeks ago that wasn’t going to work.

Then there was a whole conversation: Do we just stop everything? Do we stop Shabbat? I said, “Let’s not go there quite yet.” What do with our early childhood centers?

By the time I started driving in on Friday, March 13, I realized the exposure rate of people were getting closer and closer to us and I was like, “Everything’s done. We are closing the doors.”

Last week, we still streamed services with the clergy on the bimah together. There were six of us, and we were not six feet apart necessarily. This week we just did a virtual Shabbat service. We couldn’t go in to stream, because if any one of us is exposed, all of us could get sick. Plus, people would have to come in to do that work, so we would be putting people at risk in many ways.

So we’re doing everything virtually. Normally we get about 10 people in for non-peak services. A service the cantor and I videotaped had more than 60 people tune in. People are just so hungry to engage. This is allowing them to engage from their homes.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is loneliness is a plight of our time. Families are separated for jobs and other things. We could talk about so many reasons for loneliness. It has been a No. 1 issue in this generation, but we haven’t talked about it until now.

People haven’t been able to see their parents because of lockdowns in nursing homes. All of these things have made it all the more glaring that we need to address this issue of loneliness. Technology is the answer to this loneliness on some level.

We’re trying to connect with our entire congregation, which is over 2,000 households, in the next two weeks. There are people who don’t have video technology, and we want to make sure they don’t feel disconnected.

There’s been a couple statements I’m hearing from people. One is just how scary it feels. It’s just this reality of the virus that you don’t know where it is and if it’s going to affect you or how it’s going to affect you.

I think prayer is really powerful to contain that fear and have a voice for it. I think ritual is really powerful to calm the soul. How do you calm the soul? Everybody has to figure out how to not live in fear and paralyzing anxiety.

We are sharing a message of calm, of hope, of Jewish tradition being a lifeline. Lighting Shabbat candles and having that kind of experience is really important for people. You might read a prayer you’ve read all your life and find a message that really resonates today. That’s the biggest message. Because anxiety doesn’t help us be safe.

Washing your hands has become a big thing, and there’s a traditional Jewish prayer for washing your hands. So I did a video of myself saying the blessing, which takes about 40 seconds and it’s perfect. The key is to ritualize things because ritual orders chaos.

We’re all dealing with this, no one is immune, so we need collaboration and connection. These moments can bring out the best in people and can bring out the worst. This virus can stoke fear, hatred and racism, but it can also spur collaboration and connection, and that’s what we have to focus on.

Jesse Vasquez, Uptown resident
I was working at Jax Cafe in Northeast Minneapolis around 25 to 30 hours a week. I was working Fridays and Saturdays. Every Sunday I would be there for brunch. I would have a Tuesday morning shift. My partner was working the opposite. I’ve just grown to like it so much. I could see myself being here for a really long time. It’s just a good atmosphere to work in, too.

I got the call last Monday that the restaurant completely shut down because of the virus. I was shocked. You’d hear about it in other places. You’d hear how things are starting to close down. Because Jax has been around so long, we thought it probably wouldn’t happen as soon as it did. It’s not fun not to have something scheduled to do for the day.

With the virus, it’s kind of like breaking up the family. It’s being at home a lot. You can only wash the dishes so many times and deep clean the house so many times. Luckily, we have dogs so we can go to the dog park, but there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. It’d be easier if the restaurant was open.

The major thing is figuring out what’s going to come next. Day to day, we’re figuring out if anywhere is still hiring. It’s just difficult to know what’s going to be open for now and closed tomorrow.

I feel like we’ll be fine economically. We’ll figure it out, and hopefully it doesn’t last much longer. It’s going to be what it’s going to be for a while. It’ll get figured out hopefully.

Marion Greene, Hennepin County board chair

I keep a journal where I write one sentence every day. It’s hard to transport myself back to pre-Tuesday.

Behind the scenes, we have been very united on the board. Between the state and federal government, those paths of coordination and communication are still forming. There is already a weekly meeting established a couple weeks ago with county administrations in the seven-county metro area. Because we are kind of the big organism in the state of Minnesota, besides the state itself, we have a lot of existing contact and communication with the state.

But there are still things that are different. In the normal world, we can signal to each other and it doesn’t require a phone call. Now we’re in a situation where we’re doing things so quickly that we want to call and give other jurisdictions a distinct heads up.

For example something we spent a lot of time fine-tuning is the package we have in place to support county employees. Because we’re a big public employer, we want to make sure we are doing something similar to what Ramsey County, the City of Minneapolis, the City of St. Paul and the state are doing. Because we’re in this unprecedented situation, it’s so much more comfortable if we’re all holding hands before we jump. We as a county are trying to stay extremely close to the state and communicate what they are communicating, and I know the state is trying to reflect the CDC.

[Puts phone call on hold. Returns.] You’ll laugh — I’m working at home and we have a tree stump in the boulevard in front of the yard, and the city wants to come to take it out. That’s totally fine but the problem is — and this is probably the reason the tree died in the first place — our internet fiber cable runs near the tree stump. We might have to ask them not to do it because this is not the time for the internet to come down. Moments of our time. Thank goodness some of the city functions, like water and trash, are still functioning.

Today was the first day I felt like we might be pointed toward the new normal. On March 18, it was just a lot of phone calls. I was attached to my phone and to Skype. Today there was one meeting that was sort of mundane. We just wanted to establish that this group was going to continue to operate and meet about youth in Minneapolis — that’s still important.

There were other meetings that were much higher stakes where we were discussing: Have we done the right things in terms of how we’re supporting employees? Have we done the right thing in terms of closing the public service centers? Do we need to be more aggressive?

In some ways it’s gone very smoothly. I had a staff meeting remotely this morning. My internal staff hop on Microsoft Teams, which is what the county uses. So that’s been normal.

I really am so grateful for the state team and the county team. They are making data-driven decisions. Many decisions that we make we don’t have all the information. But I know each of them is smart and they are going to do a good job with whatever information they have.

What is making me nervous is the national situation, with testing for example. It’s insane how far behind we are on testing compared with what other countries have pulled off. We might just get half the testing order. I was just texting with a friend yesterday who has family in Spain about lack of ventilators, and Catalonia and the federal government disagreeing.

To see that that might happen here it’s like, “No, no, no, we can’t have infighting.” I don’t want to pit the state versus the federal government. That’s a very important symbiotic relationship, too.

Thursday, March 19

Barb Joyce, infection preventionist, Jones-Harrison senior living 

I’ve been a registered nurse for 28 years now. My job duty is to monitor the infectious process, especially those who are most contagious and prevent transmission to prevent illness. There are measures we can do to make our communal environment safer from spreading pathogens.

The Minnesota Department of Health helps us to prepare for what our threats might be. We had the H1N1 that we prepared for and we monitored Ebola to see how it would affect our community.

But this is new for us. We’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve never experienced this level before. Regular influenza is a problem every year for our community, and we’ve been dealing with that since the beginning of time. We know how to set up the program, we know how to vaccinate and we know how to treat once it gets in the door. We know what to do, we know how to break the transmission. But the coronavirus is evolving rapidly, it’s deadly and it doesn’t have a treatment for it like most diseases.

My heart goes out to Kirkland [the Seattle-area nursing home overrun by COVID-19] because they got hit first. We are benefitting from lessons we’ve learned from that event greatly, so I hope they know the nation is with them.

We’ve learned from Kirkland to stop it at the doors. We’re taking the temperatures of our staff as they walk in. We’re screening them for illness and their travel. We’ve closed to non-essential visitation and screened to vendors who have to come into our building. Those are some of the measures we’ve implemented.

The mood inside the facility is pretty calm. We haven’t had any residents sick yet. Dealing with outbreaks is a lot of work. We understand why we’re doing it, but it’s taxing, it’s fatiguing, it’s tired. And yet, at the same time, the calmness and the right thing to do supersedes that fatigue. Everyone’s working on hyperspeed because the more we prepare, the better off we are going to be in the long run.

I’m older, so I don’t have young children at home. This would be different if I had people who depend on me at home. I am at a position where I can work long hours without it affecting others. The leadership of the facility is committed to keeping this community safe, and I feel blessed. I would rather be here than not be here.

I feel like this is something I’ve been training for and now it’s here, so part of me says, “This is it, this is the big hurrah, so let’s engage.” We’ve heard and heard and heard all these things that could go wrong and don’t go wrong and now we’re in the position where we’re here. I run on adrenaline. I derive meaning from it.

In no circumstances would I say this makes me happy. But with that said, I feel glad I’m in this moment, in this office, today, working this plan.

Arminta and Ron Miller, residents, The Waters on 50th senior living community

Arminta: We’ve lived in South Minneapolis all our lives. I went to West High School on 28th Street and he went to Central, and we met at the University of Minnesota — very young. We bought a house at 46th & Pillsbury, which we added onto with a really nice big kitchen and family room. I taught pre-school.

Ron: We lived in our house for 50 years. I was a national sales manager for a plumbing and heating wholesale house. We didn’t move a lot.

Arminta: We have three children and nine grandchildren. My son lives in Spokane, Washington, and he married a gal and she said to me, “I’m not going to have any children; I’m a career woman.” And she had four boys!

Four years ago, my husband had gallbladder surgery and I had been ill for awhile, so we decided to move into a senior home. We go to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church and, after church one day, we saw this place being built and decided it would be perfect for us.

My husband is an ambassador, so when new people come he greets them and we take them to dinner in the dining room. I belong to a writing group and like to read. They have a book club where one of the gals goes out and gets books and brings them back to us in a kit of ten or 12.

Ron: In normal times we’re like a small family or a small community. Everybody cares for everybody else. If somebody needs groceries, people will go with them. They bring in happy hour every Thursday and entertainment during the week, too. The bad thing about it is you get so close to people and then they pass away.

Arminta: Now it’s weird. About a week ago they told us we were going into quarantine, or isolation in our rooms. So we don’t get together and eat anymore in the dining room. They bring us our meals three times a day. They give us a menu, we check off what we want and they deliver it to us. At first we weren’t getting our mail because the mailman wouldn’t come in, but we got someone on staff to pick it up now. Our kids can’t come in or visit us. Hairdressers can’t come in anymore. We had a masseuse who’d come in once a week and she can’t come in.

We’re trying to catch up on all the old Oscar movies on TV. We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning. My hands, I wash them so often, they’re so thin, and they really hurt. I think we’re taking good care of ourselves. They’re still holding exercises every day.

Ron: We have chair yoga, we work with weights. We can get together as a group as long as we’re 6 feet apart. It’s good. It gets you out of your apartment.

Arminta: He leaves the apartment a lot; he doesn’t like to stay put. We can walk the hallways for exercise, too. I think we’re taking good care of ourselves, and we haven’t killed each other yet.

Ron: It’s called bonding.

Ariminta: We’ve been married 60 years, and this is a test, I think.