Coming to terms with coronavirus

green and brown coral reef

We are in the midst of a global health crisis the likes of which our generation has never seen. Yet, unlike the events of 9/11, when most everyone remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when terrorists crashed two passenger jets into the twin towers, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the exact moment the current Coronavirus pandemic derailed life as we know it.

In late 2019—seventeen years after a respiratory virus known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) first appeared in China—reports of a new, yet similar viral illness originating in Wuhan, China began to trickle into the news. The first death associated with this new virus was reported in January.

Around the world this news may have initially been met with some measure of detached sympathy and curiosity. We had seen this before. SARS—despite quickly traveling to 29 countries, causing large outbreaks throughout the world, and ultimately causing the death of 774 of the 8,098 infected people—was contained relatively rapidly, caused no deaths in the U.S., and has had no known transmissions since 2004. And so, upon learning about this new virus, the general public may not have felt any real sense of urgency. Rather, many of us may have responded to the news with a collective shrug and simply carried on with our busy lives.

44 Americans On The Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Diagnosed With ...

Then, in early February, news outlets reported that The Diamond Princess, a cruise ship with more than 3,000 people aboard, had been quarantined in Japan. While the ship was docked in Yokohama, Japan, reported that the initial ten cases of the novel coronavirus ballooned to more than 700 over the course of its two-week quarantine, including 44 passengers who were flown back to the U.S. and were required to undergo and additional 14-day quarantine.

News of the cruise ship in Japan is what initially caught my attention. My daughter, an Ohio University freshman and a member of the university’s world-renowned marching band, the Marching 110, was slated for a 10-day tour of Japan in May with stops in Kyoto and Tokyo, and a performance in Disneyland. The rapid spread of the virus on the cruise ship gave me the first inkling that the 110’s trip abroad might be in jeopardy. By the end of the month, it was a certainty. 

Marching 110 Announces Japan Tour The... - The Ohio University ...

On February 27, Japan announced it had closed schools until the end of March and, the next day, Tokyo Disney Resorts reported that it had closed both of its parks due to the coronavirus. I sent my daughter a text with a link to the article on the park closures and asked if there had been any updates regarding the band’s highly anticipated tour. At the time, the tour was still a go, the band directors echoing the naïve hopes and expectations of many: that the situation would likely resolve itself within a few months.

Instead, the virus triggered massive outbreaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy, and by February 29th the U.S. had reported its first death on American soil. Five days later, on March 5th, Ohio University officially canceled the band’s tour, along with all other international programs, and, from there, the dominoes quickly began to fall.

On March 8th, 60 million Italian residents were placed on lockdown. Three days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic and President Trump banned travel from 26 European countries. By March 13th, the U.S. had declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, many colleges had already commenced their spring breaks. By the time Italy was on lockdown, my daughter and three of her friends were already in Florida. Four days into their trip, WHO declared the pandemic and Ohio University instructed students not to return to campus.

With the university closed and spring break extended, it made no sense for my daughter to drive back to her Ohio with her friends—all of whom are Ohio residents—so she decided to remain in Florida with her grandparents, who had hosted the group during their spring break. Adding to that decision was the fact that we had a recently purchased a car in Florida that needed to be driven back to Maryland.

While some people were ransacking store shelves—panic-buying hand sanitizer and stockpiling toilet paper—I was mulling how best to get my daughter, and the new car, home. Various driving and flying options were considered, but when my own trip to Sedona, Arizona was canceled out of an “abundance of caution”—a phrase which, given the circumstances, has quickly become part of our nation’s vernacular—my schedule was suddenly wide open.

For better or worse, and possibly because, like many, we were still operating in a state of denial—we were, after all, still four days away from nearly all U.S. states declaring a State of Emergency—I changed my Southwest reservation from Phoenix to Tampa. When Maryland announced it would be closing its public schools, I booked two additional tickets for my younger daughters and the three of us breezed through a deserted BWI terminal and were among a mere 40 passengers aboard the nearly-empty 175-seat aircraft. Throughout our travels, we bathed in hand gel and wore gloves on the flight as a reminder not to touch our faces or eat with our hands, and arrived in sunny Florida where, it seemed, the majority of residents were oblivious or indifferent to the rapidly evolving health crisis.

Editor’s note: This column is the first of three in a series about the coronavirus.

The many benefits of Yoga

Centering in Peru

The benefits of yoga are many and varied. Though not typically considered a “cardio” workout, cardiovascular fitness is indeed one of the many attributes of a regular yoga practice, along with increased flexibility, strength, balance, lung capacity and metabolism; improved posture, mood, immune system function, and mind-body awareness; lower stress levels and blood pressure; reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety; and an overall sense of fitness and well-being. 

Yoga is an ancient mind-body practice that is currently enjoyed by nearly 11 million Americans.  While some yoga practices are designed purely for relaxation and meditation, others, such as Ashtanga yoga, which deemed vigorous enough to count as a cardio workout, are more powerful, athletic practices that emphasize strength and stamina and provide better cardiovascular workouts than the more common, gentler practices, such as Hatha yoga.

Group yoga class; balancing and bonding over books 🙂

Ashtanga yoga synchronizes theb reath with postures to detoxify the body and improve circulation. notes that the practice strengthens the cardiovascular system, promotes weight loss and weight regulation, and improves athletic performance in all endeavors, adding that “when you actively engage in its process, Ashtanga Yoga will greatly improve the quality of life.” But there’s more to cardiovascular fitness then torching calories and losing weight. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In the United States, approximately 600,000 people die of heart disease each year and nearly 935,000 suffer heart attacks. Most victims of cardiovascular disease are overweight, post-menopausal, or sedentary. recommends yoga as a “gentle, beginner-friendly cardiovascular exercise—about as intense as taking a walk—that offers a host of other benefits and easily fits into a busy schedule.”

Practicing yoga lowers your resting heart rate and blood pressure, and reduces hypertension while strengthening the cardiovascular system. Stretching your body through a series of poses exercises the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, and breathing exercises improve circulation and lung capacity. A 2003 article in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology confirmed that regular yoga practice slows the normal age-induced rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and a report by the Lerner Research Institute notes that while anxiety and depression can cause or worsen cardiovascular disease, the calming effects of yoga can prevent heart problems from occurring or intensifying.

Additionally, cited a research review published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that found that for both healthy and unhealthy people, yoga provides the same, or better, protective cardiovascular benefits as other types of exercise.

Despite the many cardiovascular benefits of yoga, the practice alone is not necessarily sufficient for you to remain fit and reach your specific fitness goals. According to, “If you are just doing 15 minutes of gentle yoga stretches three to four times a week, you will also need to do some other form of exercise to stay fit,”

As suggests, “the only way to be certain of all that yoga can do for you is to try it for yourself and see.”