With grit, ingenuity and humor, San Diegans cope with the fatigue of a seemingly endless pandemic

Keith and Megan Jones with their children Dylan and Ella
Keith and Megan Jones with their children Dylan and Ella. The family has worked hard to be happy and healthy during the pandemic.
(Courtesy of Keith Jones )

The isolation and loneliness is daunting, but many find a deeper meaning to life

Thanksgiving has arrived with the nation nearly paralyzed by the novel coronavirus, a disease whose deadly toll is endlessly updated on the screens of cable news broadcasts.

Health experts are urging the public not to travel to family gatherings. San Diego County, like the rest of the state, is under a night-time curfew that’s meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Friends and family members hesitate to reach out and hug one another.

People are anxious and afraid and exhausted. But they are not defeated.

The Union-Tribune asked its readers how well they are coping with the pandemic. Scores of people wrote to say they’ve found ways to survive — and in some cases thrive — with the use of grit, ingenuity, sacrifice and humor.


They’re also feeling a twinge of optimism with the recent news that the first COVID-19 vaccines could begin filtering out by the end of the year.

Here’s a sample of what readers sent us.

On Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020 in Carlsbad, CA. John Cherrington and Mary Cherrington along with their children at their 比特币交易网home.
John and Mary Cherrington and their children are thriving in Carlsbad. The kids, from left to right, are Jack, 12, Penelope, 10, James, 7 and the family dog, Chase. Jack is virtual learning from 比特币交易网home and Penelope and James are in a hybrid learning setup.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Mary Cherrington, real estate appraisal company owner, Carlsbad

“Our 比特币交易网home life is now a constant act of juggling — whether it’s 比特币交易网homeschooling my youngest in math, trying to keep my 7th grader from switching his screen to YouTube during his classes, writing up new appraisal orders and keeping the house running. Alone time is non-existent these days. Once every couple of months, my sweet husband will give me alone time by taking the kids camping.

“We do have amazing moments — the Friday ritual of popcorn and ‘Mandalorian’ while all snuggled up on the sofa has taken the place of kids’ football games and crowded restaurants. Everyone gets their hair cuts from ‘Mommy’s Barbershop’ and my husband and I found a treasure trove of massage tutorials and pamper each other with massages when we can.”

Janet Burgess picks tangerines in her back yard.
Janet Burgess picks tangerines in her back yard.
(Courtesy of Janet Burgess)

Janet Burgess, retired law enforcement worker, San Carlos, San Diego


“Back in April I ditched the word ‘coping’ and substituted ‘adapting.’ I created an herb garden, assembled a large upright planter and grew lots of different tomato varieties. I work in my garden for four hours a day. In June, I started walking and swimming in Mission Bay, where I hadn’t been in 55 years. My Y pool had closed and never reopened. Now the water is about 57 degrees instead of 72 but we’ve adapted by wearing long wetsuits, booties and gloves. I also bought a stand-up paddle board in July and have learned a new sport at age 69!

“In September I realized I had the best summer ever. I try to stay away from doom and gloom individuals who do nothing but talk about the virus, pandemic and quarantine. Those words are no longer in my vocabulary.”

Stephanie Reighley
(Courtesy of Stephanie Reighley)

Stephanie Reighley, university administrator, San Diego


“Coping is equal parts distraction — Squirrel! — militant adherence to public health protocols — hyperventilation and/or deep cleansing breaths while reciting the 3rd Step Prayer — and living in the m.o.m.e.n.t., where I have my health, a paycheck, and a loving partner from whom I get strength and unconditional support.

“And it’s those blessings that I have to push to the fore when I get freaked seeing a line of masked Trader Joe’s patrons wending through the parking lot, waiting to shop for frozen meals and sugar snap peas. Coping has also meant much more self-talk — talking myself through ‘big girl’ moments like my first COVID test; unriling myself when I feel the urge to scream at incidents of flagrant disregard; and just occupying the blank space where colleagues and friends used to fill up my time with conversation.

“It’s all a bit crazy making. But being knee-deep in it there’s an undercurrent of togetherness that’s oddly comforting. I have heart-felt conversations with my dry cleaner about his slowed business while continuing to bring him my business. I overtip every takeout order and give thanks to the frontline workers (and saviors) who are holding things together.”

Dr. Peter Salk, one of Jonas Salk's sons, says new vaccines might lead the country out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Peter Salk, one of Jonas Salk’s sons, says new vaccines might lead the country out of the coronavirus pandemic.
(Howard Lipin)


Peter Salk, biomedical researcher, La Jolla

Salk has a better understanding than most of vaccines and disease. His father, Jonas Salk, developed the first effective vaccine against polio. Peter’s career also has been devoted to fighting lethal viruses, including H.I.V./AIDS.

So when the coronavirus surfaced, the 76 year-old Salk was deeply concerned and took refuge at 比特币交易网home with his wife, Ellen.

“I was scared,” Salk told the Union-Tribune in May. “I felt like the disease was lurking everywhere.”


He’s still on-guard. But Salk said Monday his mood has profoundly improved in the last two weeks as three companies — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have reported very promising interim results from clinical trials of their COVID-19 vaccines.

“It’s happened so fast. I didn’t anticipate the emotional impact this news would have on me. These results suggest that we are likely to end up with a collection of multiple effective vaccines that can be deployed, both in this country and elsewhere.

“If things continue to go well and no significant safety issues emerge, I’ll be ready to line up for a shot when the vaccine is available for people in the later tiers, after the initial doses have been allocated to front-line medical workers and the highest risk groups. But I have to say, even if I’m vaccinated, I don’t anticipate changing my cautious behavior, including mask use, for quite some time — basically, until the epidemic has pretty much burnt itself out.”

Alex Piscatelli makes sure her social media feeds don't contain irresponsible comments about the pandemic.
Alex Piscatelli makes sure her social media feeds don’t contain irresponsible comments about the pandemic.
(Courtesy of Alex Piscatelli)


Alex Piscatelli, social media manager, La Mesa

“I’ve grown up being on a computer, being on my cell phone, making social connections, seeing what people are saying. I’ve created an online community where people take the pandemic seriously and if they don’t I hide or unfollow them on Instagram or Twitter. It’s the sort of thing you have to do to keep yourself from going to a bad place emotionally. Look at the infection numbers in San Diego, in the nation. It’s wild. We’re in a pandemic. We’ve got to take it seriously.”

Bill Slomanson
(Courtesy of Bill Slomanson)

Bill Slomanson, professor emeritus, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego


Slomanson sent us a poem, title: Hoping While Coping

There’s a virus now known as Corona
That’s trapping us just like we’re Jonah
We’ve got to get out, of this there’s no doubt,
Given the stress from here to Ramona.

While things are now certainly down
And we find it so easy to frown
One hastens to quip, keep a stiff upper lip,
There’ll soon be Thanksgiving in town.

In the midst of this challenging plight
There’s of course an end that’s in sight
You know what I mean, because of vaccine,
At the end of this tunnel there’s light.


We’ve unfortunately been here before
Finding ourselves looking up at the floor
Notwithstanding this scourge, together we’ll merge,
Because of the strength at our core.

Jennifer Jeffries, retired educator, Fallbrook

“I wrestle with bouts of sadness at the political and social state of things. I cry easily at acts of kindness and courage. I fume at what I perceive as wrong-headed thinking.”

But Jeffries says she’s also drawing strength from the writings of Anne Frank, especially the line, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”


Jeffries said, “This call to action can be fulfilled in unending small and large ways. Action engages the heart and mind in a positive orientation toward the future. It pulls us out of our holes of woe ... The more I manage and grow myself during the pandemic, the greater use I will be when the pandemic is curbed. It’s up to me to act.”

Joan Scales, retiree, Carlsbad

“I was a child in London during World War II and endured the London air raids. I have not let this scourge phase me at all. I’m so fortunate to reach age 93 and to live in a very well established residence.”

Public health experts worry the usual holiday gatherings could have deadly consequences as COVID-19 surges


Keith Jones, owner, ACE Parking, San Diego

“As a human being, I feel extremely blessed and hopeful that through the darkness that is 2020 there will be light in the years ahead. I have a 比特币交易网home and family that I love and they love me back.

“As a father and husband, I feel I am failing them as I want to do more for them to thrive in 2020. My kids walk past the playground swings and a tear develops because we cannot allow them to be kids and play. I ask my wife not to buy anything we don’t absolutely need because finances are tight and there is so much uncertainty on our financial situation in the future because of my profession getting severely impacted by the pandemic. I need to provide.

“As a business owner, I am shocked at what I have had to do to keep the lights on in my business. Letting go of thousands of team members and reducing salaries for those that I am able to retain. I am staring at the ceiling at night wondering how to keep my firm relevant and off life support. Fretting about what my grandfather and grandmother, who founded our business 70 years ago, would think if they saw what COVID-19 did to the heart and soul of ACE.


“I am tired, I am fatigued, yet I am blessed. To get through each day I remind myself what Dory says to Nemo in the 2003 movie ‘Finding Nemo’: ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming ....’”

Chris Piganelli, learning specialist, Pacific Beach

“I have been doing well by keeping up with the rules and most importantly ‘laughing’ a lot! Laughter helps expel excess Co2 from the lungs to keep them strong and more able to exchange oxygen (respiratory acidosis). Also higher dose of vitamins C and E for immune help. Sooooo laugh people laugh, and if you really want to laugh; just look in the mirror! HAAAAAAHAAAAA!”

Carla Walsh (front left), Nirmal Jain (front right), Sanjay (back left) and Bruce Higgins (back right) serve the 比特币交易网homeless.
Carla Walsh (front left), Nirmal Ja (front right), Sanjay (back left) and Bruce Higgins (back right) bring food to the 比特币交易网homeless in San Diego.
(Courtesy of Bruce Higgins)


Bruce Higgins, retiree, San Diego

“Like many people my family has called off a Thanksgiving gathering.

“The painful change, however, is that the small group of friends I’ve been working with to feed the 比特币交易网homeless near Eastside 14th & K Street on a weekly basis may have to stop for an unknown length of time due to the spread of COVID. And they need our help.

“According to the people in the area among the few who are doing this. We provide PB&J sandwiches, water, and sometimes shoes or socks, depending on what we are given.


“Several of the people in my group are over 60 and we interact with about 100 people as we hand out the food and supplies. I know we have to protect ourselves so that we do not infect our families and will be available to help after the emergency is over.

“I spoke to my doctor about what we are doing and the risk involved. Her response is not printable, but may be summed up by, ‘Stop, stop now.’

“Our heads say ‘Stop.’ But our hearts say these are people with no resources. We have decided to continue and evaluate our actions on a week-by-week basis.”

Dr. Holly Mullen
(Courtesy of Holly Mullen)


Dr. Holly Mullen, veterinary surgeon, Sorrento Valley

“I do want to be physically together with friends and family for Thanksgiving, for Christmas. But for the foreseeable future, until we have a safe and effective vaccine and enough people have been vaccinated, I choose not to do so. I lost my mother in April and my last living aunt a few weeks earlier, both to COVID. This is a pandemic, the likes of which we alive now have not seen, although this country saw a similar one back in 1918.

“I cope with this pandemic by knowing that someday it will be over and that I am a part of making that happen, that each one of us must step up and do our part to keep each other as safe as possible so that it will end as quickly as possible. Irresponsible mingling and no mask wearing makes it more dangerous for all of us and makes it last longer. It’s only been eight months. We all have our lifetimes ahead of us.”

Jake Anderson from Rancho Bernardo practices playing his clarinet from his room on campus at UC San Diego.
UC San Diego freshman Jake Anderson practices playing his clarinet from his dorm at Thurgood Marshall College. He’s studying chemistry and hopes to go to medical school.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)


Jake Anderson, freshman, UC San Diego

“I’ve been spending a lot of time looking out my dorm window, playing the clarinet and feeling kind of lost. It’s because of the pandemic, which makes it hard to concentrate.

“There’s so much doom and gloom I find it hard to focus on my major, chemistry, which I love. So I turn to the clarinet, which I’ve played since I was in fifth grade. It’s my social outlet, the thing that leads me to other people.

“But there are no ensembles right now, or audiences and judges. There’s isolation.


“Things aren’t all bad. I went star-gazing the other night with some other people, up on the roof of a building. We just looked up. It was a way to socialize, within COVID restrictions. It was about fun and freedom, which is what your freshman year is supposed to be about. I’m hoping to find more of that.”