Coping with coronavirus, week seven

04/29/2020

With the coronavirus spreading and the public ordered to stay home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now seven weeks into a shutdown of all nonessential activities, many people look to improve their lives but are limited by forces outside of their control. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a baker, a doctor and a civil servant.

Local-serving roots

Bridget Devlin, the owner of Bovine Bakery, said she will keep baking until she can no longer lift 50-pound bags of flour, but she might stay closed on weekends even after the shelter order is lifted. Bridget opened shop on May 3, 1990, after seeing Point Reyes Station’s need for a bakery. Now, she is only open weekday mornings, and she feels more grounded in her local-serving roots. “Weekdays are so different from weekends,” she said. “I don’t see a familiar face on weekends. It used to be hardcore nature people, hikers, and now it’s just all of humanity.” To scale back operations, Bridget let go of 17 employees and ended the 60-mile wholesale delivery route around West Marin. Bakers come in at 5 a.m. instead of arriving before 3 a.m., and the five remaining employees serve customers out of the front door, with racks of baked goods in the lobby behind them and a card reader on the curb out front. She said locals especially appreciate the bread, and she sells out of almost everything by 1:30 p.m. The financial hit has been tough, but her landlord forgave April rent and an online fundraiser has raised $3,500 for employees so far. She said she needs to see at least three months of bookkeeping before deciding whether to stop deliveries and close on weekends permanently. For now, she’s enjoying the freedom to move around and listen to music in her kitchen. “I’m in my zone,” she said.

Like the Wild West 

Practicing medicine in the time of Covid-19 has been a trying experience for Dr. Colin Hamblin. He has had to rely on donations of personal protective equipment, and he is upset by the lack of coordination between health providers and public health officials, which he said has led to a “Wild West” atmosphere: “With no national strategy, everyone’s kind of making it up on their own—state by state and county by county. So it’s been frustrating.” He said Marin’s health department does not provide answers to important questions, like how long patients should isolate after symptoms resolve and how to get proper gowns, and he’s disturbed that the Coastal Health Alliance did not coordinate with him on the Bolinas testing project. As the medical director of two nursing homes, he continues to travel over the hill to examine fragile seniors for life-threatening illnesses, like diabetic toes or non-Covid pneumonia. Although he has tried to conduct his local visits over the phone, he said there is a real need to see patients in person, especially those afraid to go to the emergency room. Once he convinced a man whose elbow was crushed by a cow to go to the hospital; after that, he saw him for daily wound care. Another time, a senior fell, degloved his arm, and would have become septic if he didn’t come to the center for care. In a third case, a man with chest pain drove to the center from Petaluma because he was afraid of going to the hospital. Dr. Hamblin ran an electrocardiogram and convinced the patient that he was having a heart attack. Hours later, the man was undergoing cardiac catheterization in an emergency room. “Three people whose lives we literally saved because we remained open,” he said. Dr. Hamblin said he ordered protective gear many weeks ago, before the virus was reported in the United States, but only gloves showed up. The supplier told him that other places were prioritized. “Everyone should have access to the same equipment, whether you’re big or small,” he said. 

Unexpected bonding

Rhonda Kutter, who serves as an aide to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, is soaking up the unanticipated time she gets to spend with her daughter, Ruby, who is set to start college in the fall. At their home in Point Reyes Station, both women are hard at work. Ruby is finishing up her senior year at the Branson School remotely from the dining room table, and mother and daughter take turns going into a bedroom while the other is on Zoom. “It’s this special time, a re-bonding experience I wasn’t expecting,” Rhonda said. The days are still hard sometimes, she said of Ruby: “She misses her friends. There’s no prom, no graduation, no rock band performances.” But they have a routine. They have been baking with a sourdough starter, planting in the garden and taking walks around the Point Reyes mesa or at the deserted West Marin School. Without a commute to the Civic Center every day, Rhonda has found herself with more time on her hands at the start and end of each day. She has always made her own schedule—she has a background in massage therapy and used to work in the restaurant business—so working from home comes naturally. The biggest challenge right now, she said, “is figuring out how to not just work all the time.” Her efforts with the county are now focused on helping the Department of Public Works with signage to enforce the closure of local parks to motorized access. With a home near Highway 1, she’s acutely aware of what is still happening on sunny weekends. She is also helping think through what re-opening in Marin will look like, though she said there are no easy answers. “I want to fix things for people, but my magic wand isn’t working right now,” she said.