“I’m concerned.” “I’m washing my hands.” “I’m social distancing.” “I’m afraid.” When we first put out a call for a “Metro Weekly Community Forum” about the coronavirus — which, at the time, was only starting to spread its highly infectious wings across America, forcing communities and businesses into stasis as local officials ordered them to “secure-in-place” — the response was overwhelming.
Dozens answered our questions, which, at the time, were tailored to the emergence of the epidemic. Ten days later, the questions remain as pertinent as ever, as do the answers they evoked. Still, things have been changing fast — almost daily. Just before press, Mayor Muriel Bowser closed all non-essential businesses in Washington, D.C. through the end of April, and at last count 13 Metro stations in the DMV area have been shuttered. The city’s streets, normally alive with activity, are empty. Life is anything but normal. For now.
Humans are nothing if not adaptable to their situations, and Ellen Kahn, an optimist-at-heart who years ago graced the cover of this magazine, has some good advice for coping with “social distancing” and our hopefully temporary self-imposed isolation from society. “This is a good opportunity for us to learn to be still,” she says. “To read books that have been on our shelves for years, to clean out our drawers and closets, to take up a new hobby or reconnect with an old one.”
Will any of it do any good? We live in a society that is arguably the most impatient and self-centered in history. Look no further than President Trump, who, as the leader of our great country, should be ashamed of himself for first downplaying the virus, then politicizing it, and later, after strenuously attempting to seem presidential — a “wartime president,” he fashioned himself — resorted to his old tricks of Twitter-bashing anyone who questioned or contradicted him and adopting the racist term “Chinese virus” to deflect blame. (Do you think this would have happened had Hillary Clinton been sitting in the White House? Oh, but her emails….)
Ultimately, any American death — including the recent demise of one of our most hallowed playwrights, Terrence McNally, who succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 81 on Tuesday, March 24 — occurring during this pandemic rests squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders and conscience. The “buck stops” with him and his Administration’s massively fumbled chance to thwart the epidemic back when they first learned of it. Maybe things would have been far, far worse had Trump not disallowed travel from China early on. But, from what we also now know, things might have been far, far better. America might not have ground to a screeching halt.
The battle against COVID-19 is a challenge, to be sure. Science is fighting a virus that no drugs reliably treat and for which no vaccine exists. The scientific community, helmed by the remarkable Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leaders in the initial response against AIDS, is hard at work to find a solution for us all. But it’s a waiting game. And no one precisely knows how long that game will last. (It’s most certainly not going to be Easter, Mr. Trump.) So our best defense is to take a deep breath and endure the social and economic pain, and then hope that America and the world can recover. Healing will take time, and some things may never be the same, but it’s possible we emerge wiser and stronger, reminded of the things that are truly important in life. Perhaps coronavirus is a wake-up call.
We won’t have any answers to whether or not self-distancing has helped “flatten the curve” until we’re well on the other side of the pandemic. As Ted Sawyer notes in his response, “Please remember: ‘nothing happened’ means our ‘overreacting’ worked the way it was supposed to.” The sacrifices we, as individuals, are making today may save hundreds of thousands of lives. Economic ruin, however, remains a tangible concern, and it’s something the U.S. Government is at least finally addressing in the passage of a record-setting $2 trillion stimulus bill.
As a free weekly print publication that has chosen to go fully digital for the time being, in part for the safety and convenience of our readers, we will likely conduct more Forums during this period. We hope you’ll participate, as Metro Weekly readers have always provided valuable and substantive insights. (Sign up at www.metroweekly.com/join to be alerted to the next one.) Right now, one thing is crystal clear: People are scared — for the present and for their futures — and all are coping as best they can. That said, the LGBTQ community is resilient and resourceful, having fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic for nearly four decades. Our community innately knows how to point the way for the rest of society, so that all can cope with the hardest of times.
We urge you to take the time to read through the entire Forum. You’ll likely recognize your own circumstances in some of the answers, and you might discover some new ways of dealing with the self-isolation that is already taking its toll on so many. You will find that you are not alone in your anxieties, your concerns, and your hopes for an eventual positive outcome. The LGBTQ community is, by its nature, an invigoratingly social one. Existing like this is unnatural and unprecedented, but, for now, stay at home. It’s a step that may save a life. And as we learned from the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, we must take care of everyone, because every single life is worth saving. —Randy Shulman, Editor-in-Chief
Christian Aguilar, 32, Gay, D.C., Unemployed — I’ve been doing my part by trying to stay clean and have been practicing this “social distancing” that everyone is saying to do. I only worry about getting the virus because my boyfriend is older than me and I wouldn’t want him to catch it because I was being careless.
Naomi Basner, 61, Lesbian, NYC, Retired — A bit, since I’m over 60 and am prediabetic, possibly pre-hypertensive. I have to take public transportation to get anything done. Most folks are so paranoid now, their protective gear and distancing are protecting me from infection. But there are too many poor souls who are beyond caring: mentally ill homeless folk are the real petri dishes, and who’s worrying about them?
Rea Carey, 53, Lesbian, D.C., Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force — I count myself among the over 331 million people in the U.S. who are concerned about getting the coronavirus. I am fortunate to be on the younger side of things, and healthy, so I’m even more concerned about seniors, those with other underlying health conditions and the many people in the LGBTQ community who have little, if any, access to healthcare.
Len Griffith, 85, Gay, West Virginia, Retired — No, as I live alone on a mountain in West Virginia. A benefit I did not realize I had at this stage of my life.
Ellen Kahn, 56, Lesbian, Maryland, Social Work — I think everyone should be concerned, but if I do contract the virus I believe I will be okay. I am in good health and I have good health insurance. I’m aware that the course of this virus is not entirely predictable and that some younger, healthy people get sick and die with no clear explanation.
Colleen Kennedy, Ally, D.C., Publicist — I am susceptible to upper respiratory infections, and they often lead to longer term secondary infections, so, yes.
Dana Marsh, 55, Gay, Indiana, Artistic Director, Washington Bach Consort — I think most folks understand that we’re all going to be exposed to it at one time or another, sooner or later.
Garrett Peck, 52, Gay, Virginia, Author — I’m far more concerned with the impact to our elderly, who are taking the brunt of mortality. This virus is scary, as you can be carrying and transmitting it symptom-free.
John Plaster, 42, Gay, Maryland, Therapist — I am concerned. I wasn’t at first, but now how I see it spreading in the communities in which I live and work. Being in healthcare I am concerned I may get it or worse transmit it to a vulnerable person.
Scott Rodney, 32, Gay, D.C., Payroll Manager — I am not concerned about getting COVID-19. I have been working from home for the last week, and currently working from home for the next four weeks.
Robert Spiegel, 67, Queer, D.C., Retired — Given that I am a senior citizen, I am more vulnerable to coronavirus. Notwithstanding, I am not concerned about contracting coronavirus. However, I am concerned about social isolation, food insecurity, and the unavailability of staples, such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer.
Timur Tugberk, 35, Gay, D.C., Self-Employed/Marketing — I feel this may be something we all contract based on the science we have so far. The jury’s out on just how bad it can be for all of us. I’m not sure what to understand.
Charlotte Volpe, 30, Queer, Virginia, Social Media Specialist — I don’t have particular health concerns for my own self, but I am concerned for my parents, as they are both over 70, and my dad has asthma among other health conditions. I have frequent contact with them out of necessity, though I have told them that for the near future I am limiting my in person social contacts to them and the other occupants of my residence.
Douglas Yeuell, 59, Gay, Virginia, Executive Director — Yes, only because the current state of testing remains illusive and unclear. It is hard to know whether a simple cough or sore throat is the advent of something more serious. Without hard blown symptoms, going to a doctor or the emergency room seems excessive given others that are sick.
Rea Carey — I’ve seen a few people on my Facebook feed who have posted that they have tested positive for the virus, or they have tried to get tested but can’t, or got tested but it’s taking days to get the results back. Everyone I know is now practicing social isolation, working from home, not spending time with others, or self-imposed quarantine. But the larger issue is that we are still in a place where hardly anyone can get tested because of federal government missteps, which have greatly inhibited understanding the true scope of infections and spread across the country. I’m sure once testing is widely available, we’ll all know people who have contracted COVID-19.
Bernie Delia, 64, Gay, D.C., Retired — Yes, one friend who became ill in Florida ([he] did not attend the White Party). He was put in an isolation room. He was tested, but discharged 97 hours later without the test results being reported back to him. He was allowed to leave because he had been symptom-free for 24 hours. He was told to return home to D.C. via car and self-quarantine.
Russwin Francisco, 54, Gay, D.C., Retailer — Thank god, no.
Alicia Garza, 39, Bisexual, California, Principal, Black Futures Lab — I have a friend in Kirkland, Washington who has contracted the coronavirus. She’s been sick for about two weeks now and apparently is only about halfway through what doctors expect to be the time period for illness and recovery. She’s already lost 11 pounds, and yet she can’t get a test because they aren’t available. She’s under a doctor’s care, luckily has health insurance — but what if she didn’t?
Rodney L. Rexroth, 65, Gay, Wisconsin, Retired — My husband had been tested. He had become ill a couple of weeks ago and hospitalized for a couple of days. He had previously been diagnosed with bronchitis and after a couple of days began to run a fever. He then drove himself to the emergency room during the night. It was during that time that he was tested for the coronavirus. Thankfully, it was not that, and he is recovering.
Ted Sawyer, 40, Gay, Louisiana, Scientist — A few friends in other states, including one in Virginia and one in Maryland, have posted about quarantining themselves because they had verified exposure to an infected person or because they have symptoms and don’t want to risk being a vector themselves.
Timur Tugberk — No, but my partner had a scare and they refused to test him for it since he didn’t exhibit the symptoms at the time at the hospital.
Naomi Basner — Following the guidelines, trying to stay upbeat. I was a health professional, so you don’t have to tell me to wash my hands. Wearing gloves in public, just in case. The rest was taken out of my hands, as all my usual social activities have been cancelled: SAGE Center, zoo, library, museums. Was going to visit DC for the Cherry Blossom festival, so that’s out.
Rea Carey — Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing. I’m at home with my wife and daughter — all trying to do our work from different rooms. Like everyone else, we’re going through a lot of soap and hand sanitizer. We’re not going out and about, except to walk our dog — with both human and dog social distancing — who is very happy to have us all home. We are also starting Zoom dinners with our friends and family, which helps keep us connected to those we love but can’t spend time with.
Gregory Cendana, 33, Gay, D.C., President, Can’t Stop! Won’t Stop! Consulting — I am practicing social distancing and have increased the use of Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other online platforms to engage with people in formal and informal settings. I am also a dancer and instead of going to the gym or studio, I’ve been dancing at home and finding ways to spread joy through TikTok and Instagram (@GregDances).
Russwin Francisco — Since the CDC’s announcement, I have been social distancing as much as possible. I’ve declined, canceled or postponed many events, especially those involving a group or crowds. I have limited my activities to unavoidable tasks and errands like getting groceries.
Alicia Garza — The county I live in announced a shelter in place order from the health department. My partner and I have disinfecting protocols for when we leave the house. We’ve filled up our cars with gas in case we need to go. We have discussed scenario planning and made provisions for what happens if things get really rough. And we’ve agreed on protocols for our home that will keep us safe, like no visitors in the house and what to do when we receive packages and deliveries.
Mark Gruber-Lebowitz, 63, Gay, Maryland, Children’s Book Author — My husband and I are staying at home pretty much all the time at this point, with the exception of necessary runs to the grocery store. The closing of restaurants, movie theaters and libraries has made our decision to stay put official. We are definitely more conscious of the need to keep our hands away from our faces, and our hand-washing is more frequent and comprehensive in nature.
Joseph Izzo, 72, Non-Binary, D.C., Retired Clinical Social Worker — Going out very infrequently and only for food shopping or trying to find hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol and face masks. No luck, despite going to a dozen different stores. Finally bought a digital thermometer and taking my temperature twice daily, morning and evening. Lots of hand washing and wearing nitrile gloves when outside touching public door handles, gasoline pumps, etc.
Cici J., 24, Non-Binary, Maryland, Retail Manager — I wipe down everything multiple times daily, change my clothes and shower after work. I’m not going out unless it’s to the store or work. Also, immense amounts of hand washing.
Dee J., 37, Bisexual, D.C., Public Health Nursing Aide — Always wash my hands. But the extra step is that I wipe down grocery carts and every public item I touch.
John Johnson, 50, Gay, D.C., Director of Domestic Policy — Washing my hands to beat the band. Cleaned my work space and home. I have groceries stocked and frozen meals in the freezer. I’m following the directives from the mayor and am hunkered down. I’ve also been on the phone with my sister and parents in Georgia and begged them to take this seriously.
Ellen Kahn — For the most part we are staying home, avoiding close contact with neighbors and friends, and washing hands whenever we come in from outdoors. I am going for runs in the park and taking bike rides. I miss my spin classes and gym visits, but it’s pretty easy to stay active and fit, and fresh air is healing.
Dan Kaufman, 54, Gay, Virginia, Promotional Products Sales — I live alone and work from home, so just going out to buy groceries and take walks for a little exercise. I’m also doing my part to tamp down conspiracy theories and other sources of false information on social media.
Colleen Kennedy — I am working from home. I am lucky to work for a theatre company that is accommodating and continuing to pay employees. Even before the official decision to close our administrative offices, the company was asking staff who felt ill, or who had underlying health conditions or cared for vulnerable family members, to remain home.
Cornelius Magee, 44, Gay, D.C., Retail Management — I keep my distance. I wash my hands more frequently than usual. I have hand sanitizer I spray every time I touch something. I use Clorox wipes or put bleach and water on a napkin and wipe door knobs, kitchen and bathroom sink handles, toilet flusher handles. I also clean my screen on my cell phone. I clean a lot! I also chant — I’m a practicing Buddhist — and pray for my family and friends. I chant and pray that they are protected and don’t contract COVID-19. I also chant and pray that the doctors find a cure to end this pandemic.
Scott Roewer, 46, Gay, Maryland, Professional Organizer — I am not being very “social” with others. I have limited time with my boyfriend but that’s it. All my client work has been canceled.
Cara Schaefer, 36, Ally, Maryland, Marketing Coordinator for The IN Series — Our whole work team is working from home and meeting over Zoom when necessary. My husband and I are visiting the supermarket only on off hours, and we are wiping common surfaces down with Lysol and Clorox wipes several times a day. We are homeschooling and doing playdates over skype and facetime, and we’re preparing all of our meals at home.
Scout, 54, Transgender, D.C., Deputy Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network — I neti pot one to two times a day. It’s a great, free way to reduce risk of anything viral.
Sultan Shakir, 39, Gay, D.C., Executive Director of SMYAL — I’m practicing social distancing. We have also shifted all of SMYAL’s programming to remote programming to help continue supporting LGBTQ youth during this challenging and uncertain time, while also practicing proper health and safety practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Pixie Windsor, 60, Bisexual, D.C., Retail sales — We’ve closed the shop til further notice, letting staff use sick pay to alleviate financial stress. I’m personally home with my cats, stocked up, and using this time to check in with all my friends.
Zar, 34, LGBTQ-adjacent, Maryland, Project Manager of Team Rayceen Productions — I’m staying the f*** home.
Naomi Basner — Honestly, I’m depressed (also chronic) and all my lifelines are down to a thread. Family abandoned me decades ago, no relationship, hostile housemates. Sure, I’m not the only one in this situation. Sadly, our community may be overrepresented in this, as always.
Nicholas Benton, 50+, Gay, Owner-Editor, Falls Church News-Press — No bars, no restaurants, no public gay venues, it sucks.
Rea Carey — With so much feeling out of control, staying in a daily routine is important for me — getting up at the same time, exercising, showering (most days), eating at regular times. Zoom and Slack are my new best friends. We were already using Zoom and Slack at the Task Force for a variety of meetings, but we are now using them for almost everything. Last week, the National LGBTQ Task Force moved completely to telework. It’s not easy to feel like I can’t connect with the community. I miss seeing my colleagues — but we have a Zoom lunch every day for any of our staff who want to join to just hang out, eat our lunches and share strategies, including which shows we are all watching, and introducing our pets and kids to each other.
Michael Daniels, 55, Gay, Ohio, Director, Office of Justice Policy & Programs for Franklin County — The grocery store shelves have been ravaged, and every day it seems that another service on which we’ve come to take for granted — library, health club, community center — has been shuttered by executive order.
Russwin Francisco — I have been reaching out more via email, FaceTime and live video. I’m staying in more, cooking more meals, cleaning more, and have organized my closet and home office.
Alicia Garza — Honestly, this is a very scary time. Many of us are making transitions that we didn’t plan for, and we haven’t really had time to have feelings about. In my daily life I have to remember to do the things that I would normally do just so that I can feel normal — taking walks, showering, putting on lipstick. We can’t just get food on demand — we have to plan groceries and monitor closely where our food levels are at. We have been making time to connect with people over video.
Mark Gruber-Lebowitz — We are both recently retired teachers, now collaborating on the writing (me) and illustrating (my husband) of progressive children’s books. Hopefully, this extended time at home will inspire us to get to work on our fourth book. We have fallen into a relaxed routine of much reading (we’re both currently reading My Dark Vanessa on our iPads), movie-watching, and game-playing (Scrabble and UNO have reigned so far). After 30 years, we’re blessed to still treasure time spent together.
Amy Hughes, 49, Ally, Virginia, Small Business Owner — My business, MarshmallowMBA, was officially shut down as a non-essential business by order of the Governor of Pennsylvania at midnight on March 16, 2020. As a gourmet candy business, this is our busiest time to fill wholesale customer orders ahead of Easter. One week ago we were on the floor of the Javits Center for the International Restaurant Show of New York where we saw less than 40 percent of registered attendees as initial fears related to the virus began to spread. By the time the show closed, we learned that we were the final trade show that would be hosted at the Javits Center until June at the earliest. I am contacting customers to determine whether we will be delaying deliveries or processing refunds. There is a distinct possibility that we will not be able to financially survive the impact of this pandemic as a small business.
Cici J. — I can’t sleep. It’s almost impossible to ignore how bad it’s getting. With store closures, empty shelves.
John Johnson — Ugh, working from home is not as luxurious as it might sound. I feel very alone and isolated. I am also participating in near daily Zoom calls with folks from my church for evening prayer. I’m cooking a lot.
Ellen Kahn — I am working from home with just a laptop, whereas at the office I have a double-wide monitor, a stand-up desk, a comfortable desk chair, and easy access to my wonderful colleagues. It’s been challenging to get into a routine — a rhythm at home. My schedule is off. I am usually up at 6:30 a.m., and now I’m sleeping until 7:30 or later, and can still be at my “desk” by 9 — no commute, no rush to eat breakfast. I need more structure, and I am especially struggling to build in my workout time. I’ve decided to add exercise to my schedule rather than having loose plans, and this way I’ll be certain to get outside and break up the work day as much as possible while the sun is out.
Dan Kaufman — I usually eat out several times a week, and enjoy socializing face to face as much as the next fellow human. Not being able to do those things, as well as go to concerts and other gatherings, is putting a damper on the way I’ve been used to living my life. I saw a T-shirt for sale that said “I can’t. Coronavirus.” which was cute a week ago, and now it’s sort of the new normal. For now, at least.
Rayceen Pendarvis, Community Elder, Gender-Blender, D.C., Emcee, columnist, and nail technician — I used to eat at restaurants regularly, and now I don’t do that. It’s like life during a major blizzard, but there’s no snow.
Troy Petenbrink, 49, Gay, D.C., Marketing Consultant & Freelance Journalist — As a frequent traveler, I’m going a little stir crazy at having to stay sequestered in my home. At the same time, I am taking advantage of the downtime to do some chores that I may or may not have been putting off for a little too long.
Rodney L. Rexroth — The big thing for me was church service being cancelled, but the Pastor held a sermon in the afternoon that I could listen to at home. We all find comfort in that which we can.
Scott Roewer — A typical week involves myself or my team members working directly with clients in their homes or their business. That slowed to a halt about two weeks ago and we have nothing booked in the future. It has been very disruptive to how I run my business.
Charles Roth, 34, Gay, Virginia, Teacher — It has changed absolutely everything for me. From no longer working with my students at school, to halting all my non profit work, to even killing all my athletic passions. I’ve slammed into a wall that’s literally shut everything down for me.
Cara Schaefer — As an opera singer, it’s disappointing to have my upcoming performances cancelled as well as my daily rehearsals. Many of my voice students are transferring to video lessons or cancelling for the time being. We are trying to make the most of the off-time by sleeping a little later, enjoying quality time with the kids, reading that stack of books that’s been waiting, as well as getting outside for exercise.
Scout — It’s a challenge to replace the gym. I can replace the cardio easily, but not the weight work. That outdoor calisthenics playground I have a block away seems filled with mysterious stuff I don’t exactly understand how to use well. Just ordered a pullup bar and TRX-like straps for the house.
Dito Sevilla, 41, Gay, D.C., Bar Manager & Realtor — I have no work, no customers, and no guests. I’m focusing on spring cleaning and taking long walks with my dog. I’ve updated all files, and I’m picking paint colors for my home. Missing my daily cardio and gym routine. It’s something I need to address before depression sets in.
Timur Tugberk — My entire life has screeched to a complete halt. My entire future is a giant question mark. I have no idea how any of my numerous bills will be paid next month due to the nature I work with all service industry businesses as clients.
Charlotte Volpe — My community band, DC’s Different Drummers, have cancelled rehearsals through March, probably longer, and postponed its spring Symphonic Band concert, which many of us were very excited about, as we are celebrating our 40th anniversary with members’ favorite pieces. It also looks like it will impact the pride season this summer, which quite frankly is my happy place.
Nicholas Benton — It will be devastating as advertisers go out of business.
Dana Beyer, 68, Trans, Maryland, Retired Surgeon — We’re careening into a severe recession, so all our personal finances and livelihoods are impacted.
Rea Carey — I’m most concerned about all the people in the service industry, hourly workers, those who work for companies that don’t provide paid sick leave, undocumented immigrants, and others who will truly suffer economic catastrophe because of the impact of the virus. My concern is the impact on those who are most marginalized in our country, including many LGBTQ people.
Poppy Champlin, 60, Gay, Rhode Island, Comedian — Yes, definitely. I have had to cancel two shows so far and three in April — that is my income and I am going to have to spend all my savings to get by until May. At least I have some to spend, but I’m not getting younger. It will take me a while to build that back up.
Russwin Francisco — My CREF stock has taken a huge hit. I’ve lost more in the last month than during the 2008 economic recession. My store is a bigger concern for me. Some members of my staff rely on their paycheck as their only income. If we were to close for an extended period, they may be in jeopardy for rent, food, and basic necessities. The store itself is fine, sales have been good. Yet, if we have to close for a month or so, we would be in trouble to pay rent and taxes.
Alicia Garza — Yes, and no. Both of us have jobs that for now are relatively stable. But for others, that’s not the case. In our family we have wage workers who are living relatively precariously right now. I talked with my younger brother yesterday who works at a movie theater that just closed due to the shelter in place orders. Now he is trying to figure out what to do. So we’ve been talking about trying to support others while also taking care of the needs that we had already budgeting for ourselves.
Tom Goss, 38, Gay, Los Angeles, Songwriter — I’m definitely losing money both in terms of investments and gigs. I’m hoping things rebound and am trying not to panic at this point.
Joseph Izzo — With the stock market’s precipitous crash my retirement portfolio looks as bad as it did in 2008. Hoping it will bounce back in a few months, otherwise I may be returning to the workforce by the summer or fall to compensate for the loss of that income.
Cici J. — I don’t know what I’ll do for money. Also, getting cleaning supplies is almost impossible even online. How can I protect myself when current supplies run out?
Ellen Kahn — Yes, I am concerned. My spouse works in the arts and many performances are cancelled indefinitely. I work for a non-profit and it’s during these uncertain times that donors tend to exercise caution, and our budgets get tighter. I am not worried about feeding my family or keeping a roof over our heads — we are definitely a privileged family in many ways, and in fact I am eager to help others who are in much greater need.
Colleen Kennedy — Over the last week the recommendations for “mass gatherings” reduced from 1,000 to 500 to 250 to 50 to now fewer than 10 people. I work in an industry that is about bringing people together, about creating community, and communally celebrating the arts. When may we be a community together again? When can we perform and create art together again? I don’t know yet.
Garrett Peck — Yes. I’m self-employed and a tour guide. The spring is our busy season, and that’s when we guides make our money. All of my events for April have canceled, meaning that I will be making $0 income next month. That is scary. There is no safety net for those of us who work in the gig economy, except for our savings.
Troy Petenbrink — I’m already taking steps to trim expenses and save money. At the same time, I’m concerned about many of my friends who work in the hospitality industry that is being impacted especially hard. And let’s be honest here — there would be no hospitality industry without the gays. With that in mind and knowing that eventually this crisis will pass, I have purchased gift cards to a few of my favorite restaurants to help them have some influx of cash.
Rodney L. Rexroth — When you’re retired and older, you become more vulnerable to the changes that take place in your finances. For me, the only thing I can do is ride it out and hope for the best.
Scott Roewer — We’ve not had any business for two weeks and have nothing booked in the next few weeks. If the impact continues I’ll have to look for alternative sources of income, and so will my team. I’m concerned about being able to pay both my business bills and my personal obligations. I’m already making cuts but fear it will not be enough.
Adam Sulewski, 37, Gay, D.C., Federal Employee — I am very fortunate to work for the federal government, so my job is safe. I feel very fortunate. I know many others are not so fortunate.
Timur Tugberk — I am most concerned about this. I have zero vision of my future currently and am terrified of what’s to come. Basically, I’m praying that this passes quickly.
Pixie Windsor — I have a little cushion personally and feel for those who don’t, especially in the restaurant industry. I think we all need to supportive of those can help. Support your local grocery and small businesses that are open.
Christian Aguilar — Honestly? Terrible. They waited [until the] last minute and no one was prepared. No one. Which is why it seems like we’re struggling.
Nicholas Benton — They should have done far more, far sooner. The revelations that might arise about the delays in testing kits, in particular, may reveal self-serving criminal negligence.
Rea Carey — Horrible. Not a political statement but a fact: the Trump Administration has completely failed in the response, starting with a basic suspicion of science and facts, inhibiting the creation and production of testing and not providing clear direction. Many Governors, and Anthony Fauci have been the true leaders. I am angry, but not surprised. After all, the Trump Administration’s public health agenda already gets an F grade when it comes to serving LGBTQ communities, lower income communities, and Black and Brown communities.
Gregory Cendana — I’m glad to see Trump finally take this more seriously, though I feel like there should have been more done as a form of response. I would like to see a moratorium on deportations, evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs.
Robert Crocetti, 63, Gay, D.C., Retired — I do not feel very secure. They should be subsidizing private businesses to encourage quicker production and distribution of tests, masks, sanitizes, medical equipment and temporary hospital housing and beds. When medical public announcements are made, they should come from the medical experts, not politicians or journalists. I also feel the federal government should be closely watching, communicating with, and learning from other countries who began experiencing the virus before the U.S.
Bernie Delia — Extraordinarily poor. The response has been inconsistent, inadequate, and scattershot at best. The federal government wasted a tremendous amount of time, and only recently recognized the seriousness of the threat. The lack of testing is criminal negligence. We saw what was happening first in China and then in Italy, and yet the government lagged in implementing testing. It is easy to see why the knowledge that is gained through test results is so critical to effectively fighting the virus. There is also a lack of critical supplies, the need for which should have been anticipated. Finally, the government should have issued mandatory guidelines to shut down bars and restaurants and enforce social distancing that until recently too many people treated cavalierly and with disdain.
Terrence Ford, 39, Gay, Maryland, Coordinator of Community Services for Montgomery County — I am disappointed in the President citing at first that this virus was a hoax and a ploy from Democrats to throw a wrench at him. I believe we wasted valuable time to beef up protocols when the virus first struck in China. It was a safe bet that what was happening in China would one day become a factor here but the current administration in true form, ignored, painted rosy pictures, and pointed blame at past administrations instead of doing the serious work to keep American’s safe.
Russwin Francisco — A global pandemic such as the coronavirus requires a coordinated and thoughtful response and consistent, accurate public messaging. The Trump Administration made some grave mistakes that I believe contributed to the public health and economic crisis we now face. Trump’s decision, for example, to disband the White House pandemic team in 2018, and curtailing the CDC’s program that assists other countries in preventing these outbreaks, have proven to be catastrophic moves. The decision to refuse the WHO’s diagnostic kits, botching our own testing kits, rigid requirements on who gets tested and the month-long manufacturing delay in rolling out the kits, produced an information vacuum. The U.S. health system, at all levels, was flying blind. Trump’s lack of leadership, politically motivated inaction, playing down the threat, offering false, misleading or ignorant statements, has placed us in real danger. Someone asked me to give Trump a break. Didn’t we put him in the White House? That is the biggest break one can get in this country. We knew he was unfit, and we placed him there anyway.
Alicia Garza — We have a complete lack of federal leadership during a time when we need it the most. The President is giving little guidance to cities and states, has no plan to support us, and so every place is having to figure it out for themselves. This is unacceptable. In the meantime, businesses are getting bailouts while the workers who power those businesses are left unprotected — like Whole Foods asking workers to share their sick days instead of providing them for all workers. The federal government, particularly the President and his administration, need to let capable hands and minds handle this crisis. The President is ill-equipped to do so, and his inaction has already cost people their lives and livelihoods when all of this was COMPLETELY preventable.
Len Griffith — They could put duct tape over Trump’s mouth. Gays in West Virginia are big into duct tape.
Joseph Izzo — Thank God for Dr. Anthony Fauci, a voice of science and reason today as he was during the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and ’90s. However, as expected, the Trump Administration continues to show its lack of competency; denial of facts; demonizing the media and failing to take any responsibility for its slow and inadequate response. I do hope this crisis will be the “nail in the coffin” of his less-than-illustrious political career. Trump has always been the disaster waiting to happen. Now it’s happened.
Cici J. — We need assistance and we need it now. How many people have to die before they do something to help us?
John Johnson — No president of any party should ever be allowed to politicize a national emergency or allow their surrogates to weaponize the lives of Americans for political gain. This president did and history will harshly remember these days.
Dan Kaufman — Truly abysmal. Too little, too late. Horribly inadequate. Take your pick. Trump is the absolute worst person to be president in this situation. The fact that he gutted the US Pandemic Response Team a couple of years ago is just one of his criminal missteps. And he continues to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic-now-pandemic; undermines the wisdom and guidance of scientists and doctors; gives out false, misleading, and, frankly, dangerous information and advice that he pulls out of his ass; and talks more about his concern for how this will all affect his re-election, blaming everyone but himself, and making his responses partisan and political rather than helpful. They should be taking away Trump’s Twitter account, banning him from uttering another word about this crisis until it’s over, and turning leadership of the administration’s response over to responsible and knowledgeable experts in the fields of medicine, science, and epidemiology.
Garrett Peck — In national crises, we need our leaders to pull together in a bipartisan way and lead the country. Trump has proved to be a terrible crisis manager. Instead, we heard from him, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.” He must not have heard about the plaque on Harry Truman’s desk that read, “The buck stops here.”
Scott Roewer — When I hear about bailouts for major corporations like airlines and hotels I get frustrated. Their profits are massive, and they should be much better prepared for this type of event than a small business with a few employees.
Adam Sulewski — I fear the die is cast, and a lack of early preparation means we will suffer the fates of Iran and Italy.
Timur Tugberk — This response is ridiculous. We live in what’s called the most civilized country, the biggest, most wealthy, etc. I feel let down and completely forgotten by them.
Charlotte Volpe — Most of what I have to say about the fed response would have to be censored for profanity!
Pixie Windsor — Don’t get me started on the president. He has been irresponsible and unrepentant during this whole thing. If we are lucky, the idiocy of the White House and those around him will be overcome by responsible political and medical officials. Everyone should have accessibility to testing. And to calm everyone’s fears, I think we also need to know that we do have testing available. I live in Washington, D.C. I have no idea what our supply looks like. That information and not knowing it is very alarming.
Zar — It has been completely incompetent. Anyone who has seen the films Outbreak or Contagion could have done a better job. It is appalling how much of a lag there has been. They should cancel everything, including taxes. WiFi and streaming services should be free. Devices for streaming, apps, video chat should be distributed. This is not being handled as an actual crisis.
Destiny B. Childs, 42, Gay, D.C., Federal Government — We must remain vigilant, supporting those who need our support. Our mission is critical to the community so let’s continue to be smart, to wash our hands, avoid touching our faces, and practice social distancing. Let’s control what we can and manage the rest proactively. We can do it. We already are doing it. We will rise to the occasion. Let’s take care of each other! We cannot survive if we aren’t first ensuring we and our community are safe. We need everyone in the fight.
Nicholas Benton — This crisis is going to wind up killing hundreds of thousands of people, the vast majority of which would have been preventable if our government was not abjectly incompetent under President Trump’s outrageous failure of leadership.
Rea Carey — I am hoping this doesn’t turn into a situation where people are stigmatized — we learned that from the AIDS crisis. Show compassion, patience, and care for each other.
Gregory Cendana — We are living in unprecedented times and it will require that level of action. While there are steps the local and federal government can do to immediately improve public health infrastructure and protect the most vulnerable amongst us, there is also action that government officials can take and our communities shall demand to prevent a recession, defend democracy and ensure our country lasts through this crisis and the next.
Robert Crocetti — At the end of the day, I believe the medical community will find a way to treat this virus soon. But that may not be the case for a future virus or catastrophe! The federal government, local governments, and Americans need to start preparing for what may come in the future — sooner than later!
Terrence Ford — I am highly concerned with the implications of what’s to come from the virus. Depending on how long this lasts the economy will be hurt and we are starting to see the effects hindering the current U.S. election process. I am fearful that Trump will use this pandemic as a way to extend his time in office without winning an election. If we are ordered to stay at home, we cannot vote, and odds are the Democratic National Convention will be postponed meaning our party won’t even have a successful nominee. We are moving into uncharted territory in what has already been a tumultuous and nauseating election cycle and administration. This pandemic has exposed an unspoken underbelly of our country that most don’t talk about — from the children who rely on school to have a meal to eat, to the worker who is one missed check away from financial disaster, to the business that relies on goods from foreign nations that are facing ruin based on closures. So many people who are simply seeking the “American Dream” are on the verge of irrevocable repair in the face of an unknown pandemic that threatens to wipe away the normalcy of what life used to be.
Cici J. — For the first time in my life, I’m afraid. It’s a fear I cannot compare to anything else I’ve faced. I’m tired of hearing how “bored” people are. Life could get a whole lot worse if a majority continues to ignore the warnings.
John Johnson — Stay calm and wash your hands! And tip the hell out of the folks you normally tip when all of this is over.
Ellen Kahn — I think this is a good opportunity for us to learn to be still, to read books that have been on our shelves for years, to clean out our drawers and closets, to take up a new hobby or reconnect with an old one. I have a guitar that’s been sitting for over a year, untouched. I plan to call old friends, do a few minor home repairs, cook lots of meals, play games with the family — just be in the moment as much as possible.
Dan Kaufman — I think we need to do a few things as a community: 1. Stop spreading false information on social media by actually researching that latest meme that sounds good, but is actually full of bad advice. 2. Keep our emotions in check, particularly as this thing drags on, which it very well may do. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated, and understandable, too. But don’t let those emotions get the best of you. We will see the end of this. We will get through it. 3. Check in with those who are less fortunate or totally isolated or both. We need to take care of each other.
Denny Lyon, 75, Gay, Maryland, Brand Ambassador — I hope I survive this. I also hope I survive long enough to see Trump voted out of office.
Dana Marsh — I just hope that a new and informed common sense prevails when it comes to situations like this: social distancing and self-isolation are the only way to control an outbreak. Especially if you’re low risk, your decisions make a difference in how many vulnerable human beings live or die. It’s as simple as that.
Tom McCarter, 68, Ally, California, Meeting Planner — I think the net result of this will be another recession and the Fed has no steps it can take. Once again, the wealthy will make out like bandits and everyone else will be out of luck. Homelessness is going to spike since people can’t work and can’t pay their bills. Foreclosures will spike for the same reason. People not working means lower taxes, which means less money for pensions the governments owe. Developers will go bankrupt since no one will be able to purchase all the housing that has recently been built here. Musicians will have to stick with their day job, if they have one. A lot of businesses are going to go into bankruptcy and all the businesses in the chain of supply are going to be hurting. If the Democrats don’t win in November, we are doubly screwed — Justice Ginsburg will be forced to retire and Trump and his minions will stack the deck at the Supreme Court. After that, we’ll be one step away from Germany in 1933.
Rayceen Pendarvis — I hope people learn lessons from this: We must cherish every moment, be prepared for emergencies, not panic, and elect competent people to lead. So please keep that in mind when it is time to vote.
Rodney L. Rexroth — My life’s mantra: BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Always look around yourself and know what if in front of you as well as behind and even above you. LIFE HAPPENS. YOU CAN’T STOP IT. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to. But for now, we have a setback as a result of this virus. Let’s not forget the less fortunate and keep in mind your local food pantries on which so many rely. The rescue missions and the LGBTQ shelters on which many who are homeless rely. Your elderly friends and neighbors by calling and checking on them each day. We are the world, and even if right now we can’t shake hands, we can still extend them.
Scott Roewer — When we hear about the “service industry” people, we think about waiters and bartenders, but the industry is much broader. It’s hairstylists, professional organizers, massage therapists, private chefs, yoga instructors, personal trainers, etc. Everyone needs your support and outreach right now.
Marguerite Sagatelian, 64, Lesbian, D.C., Attorney — It is a strange, surreal time. It’s extraordinarily difficult to get one’s head wrapped around the concept of a highly contagious virus to which we have no immunity and for which there is no effective treatment yet. In a very short time, our lives have changed unimaginably. This feels even more impactful than the days and months following 9/11.
Ted Sawyer — If you wake up three-to-six months from now and find yourself thinking “We overreacted to COVID-19; all those disruptions and cancellations, but nothing happened,” please remember: “nothing happened” means our “overreacting” worked the way it was supposed to. You’d think that would go without saying, but given the amnesia Americans seem to experience every four to eight years during election time, we might need to repeat “‘nothing happened’ was the point” over and over again.
Adam Sulewski — I feel hopeless. I fear the economy will go into a significant depression. I fear many of my friends will lose their jobs and move away, I fear that many people will suffer, and that our community’s long-term health will suffer.
Charlotte Volpe — There’s so much more that we could’ve done early on. But now it’s here and it’s spreading and we need to do everything we can to flatten the curve.
To participate in the next Metro Weekly Forum, please join our email list at www.metroweekly.com/join.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!