Recently I decided I would start riding my bike to work. At least a few times a week. This is one of my many New Year’s resolutions. In all likelihood, I won’t get very far.

I hadn’t ridden my Bianchi in over a decade. Brakes seemed sketchy. So, before my first voyage, I took it in last week for a tune-up. Today I picked it up.

I went for a test drive, back and forth, across our cul-de-sac.

I saw our next-door neighbor, playing with his baby girl. Albert is probably in his late thirties. His baby, Eleanor, just turned one.

I don’t talk to Albert often. Partially because I’m an introvert. I feel awkward. And also because he’s an ER doctor; he’s not around much.

I did want to ask him about COVID-19. Last May, I wrote this post, which included “ER doctors are seeing a spike in severe cases of child abuse.”

So I rolled up. His golden retriever, Maddy, rushed me. She just wanted attention.

“Hello, Albert, how are things at work?”

Albert is soft-spoken. He doesn’t talk much. And when he does, he gives really short answers, always with a smile.

This is a summary of what Albert just said about COVID-19.


I prodded: “I read that there shortage of beds in Southern California hospitals.”

“We are treating people in the waiting room. We are having to send people with other conditions home. There’s no room.”

I inquire more. “Are most of those come in elderly, or with preexisting conditions?”

“Some of them, yes.”

Then he added something. For those of you that think COVID-19 is some kind of hoax or exaggeration, please pay attention. This really just happened; I just came inside to memorialize what an ER doctor just told me.

“Some just die. There’s no way we can predict it. Younger people. What appeared to be very healthy people.”

I ask, “That is the reason for the use of the adjective novel, right? It’s new and we don’t know enough about it yet?”

“Yes, it’s new. Very difficult to predict.”

This wasn’t news to me. Just a few weeks ago, a Congressman-elect from Louisianna, Luke Letlow, died of COVID-19. Healthy as an ox. Forty-one years old. He left behind his wife and two children.

Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s, but have likely circulated in humans for centuries. They are part of a large group of viruses that have crown-like thorns on their surface. The Latin word for crown is coronam. COVID-19, the current strain, was first discovered in 2019, hence the suffix, 19.

I thanked Albert for his time. I got back on my bike.

I rode for about 10 more minutes, thinking about what Albert just said about COVID-19.