Coping with coronavirus, week nine


With the coronavirus spreading and the public ordered to stay home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now two months into a shutdown of all nonessential activities, many people are finding a new sense of normalcy. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a groundskeeper, a bodyworker and a nurse. 

‘Doing my job’

Gilberto Rodriguez, who has maintained the grounds and facilities at the West Marin School for the better part of two decades, works at an empty campus each day. “I really miss the kids and all their families,” he said. “Maybe sometimes they will drive through, and wave hello, but they never come down. And I know that they want to come back. That’s what I hear.” Mr. Rodriguez, who commutes from Rohnert Park, has kept his regular hours, tending to the sports fields, mowing and weed whacking, and with his small crew maintaining the classrooms for the teachers who are still coming to campus. The vegetable garden, a longtime project, is also in full swing. He’s growing over 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables, many of which find a use in the school’s kitchen or in the boxes offered to district families. Keeping the campus alive is a family affair: His wife, Aracely, is still cooking breakfast and lunch for delivery to the students of West Marin and Inverness Schools. Mr. Rodriguez said she recently got some part-time help, but typically she cooks on her own; he helps her first thing in the morning to bring in supplies. The rest of the family is also connected to the district: One of his daughters attends Tomales High and another recently started as an assistant teacher at West Marin. Mr. Rodriguez is glad to have two of his daughters living at home and the third in Petaluma during the pandemic so they can still spend time together. Although he usually takes additional landscaping jobs in the area, he says he doesn’t think he will start that up again for another couple of months. “A few people have started calling, but I don’t want to do anything. I try to be safe,” he said. At the school, he is more comfortable. “I feel pretty good, because normally most of the time I work by myself. I feel very safe here. And doing my job here, that’s what I really love.”

Healing at home

Laura King, a bodyworker in Inverness, started sheltering two months before everyone else. While skiing in January, she fractured her tibia, tore her medial meniscus and sprained all the ligaments in her knee, which left her immobile and housebound. As a result, she said she looked inward. “In being literally halted, unable to walk another step, I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I was devoted to digging deeper into myself, gaining more tools, looking at where I learned my belief systems, where I learned how I was showing up in the world.” Five months later, she is walking and able to drive. Her new mobility has given her a sense of freedom, despite the shelter rules. Going through her own healing process helped her think about how to heal others and to understand what the people she sees are experiencing, she said. Ms. King has offered massage in the area for over three decades, but she doesn’t see a near future in which she will be able to use her healing touch again. With her new certificate in health coaching, however, she said providing consultation is a possible new direction. She has some immediate advice for everyone feeling stuck at home. “Meditation,” she said, though she acknowledged “that’s a tricky word. You’re basically just breathing, and quiet, getting your parasympathetic nervous system to turn on, which is helpful for the immune system. That’s huge. Just learning how to calm down is huge.” Ms. King added, “Our bodies are incredible machines. We think our phones are incredible machines: our bodies are genius.”

Taking precautions

One week working at the clinic, one week working from home. That’s the new normal for Katrina Velasco, an Inverness resident who started working as a nurse for the Coastal Health Alliance nine months ago. “These past few months have been very peculiar,” she said. “It’s been interesting to see how the team has adjusted each day. We are all trying to think of improvements to make sure everyone is getting what they need and so we can improve workflow.” Ms. Velasco is the designated liaison in charge of fielding updates from the county, though she also triages people who are concerned about Covid-19. She is grateful for the clinic’s leadership team, which acted immediately to move the majority of appointments to virtual visits. In the clinic, staff are abiding by strict protocol: they all wear personal protective gear, physically distance from one another, and minimize who is in the office at any given time. The clinic has conducted a small number of tests, and instead is referring most people to the county’s testing site if necessary. Although she is new to nursing, Ms. Velasco has been in the area for some time. After earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, she lived at the Point Reyes Lighthouse for a year through an AmeriCorps program. Last May, she completed her nursing degree from the College of Marin. What does she feel about her new career amid a global pandemic? Ms. Velasco remains committed: she is still able to achieve her primary intention, which is to help the residents of West Marin access health care. As far as her own safety, she said it was complicated. “I stay vigilant. I know I am susceptible to it, and so I take appropriate precautions and limit how much I go out in the community. But along with my living in Inverness and going out once a month to do a Costco run and maybe a few times to get some local groceries, and my hand washing, it doesn’t keep me up at night.”