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    Donna’s Chronicles, “Faced with unprecedented circumstances and thrust into a whole new world because of a spreading pandemic, what could this writer have to contribute to our current situation?”

    By Donna Sachet–

    Faced with unprecedented circumstances and thrust into a whole new world because of a spreading pandemic, what could this writer have to contribute to our current situation? This is a question that has plagued us for weeks.

    Our message is one of acceptance, whatever your reaction to this current crisis may be. Initially, some saw the coronavirus as a distant health concern and were slow to react; for those with clear access to accurate information and in powerful leadership roles, their inaction is now having serious consequences. But for the great majority of us, as much as we are inundated with information, sorting the accurate from the inflated, the scientific from the political, and the general from the personal is a monumental ongoing challenge. If ever there were a time to seek out unbiased factual information, that time is now, but let’s give each other a little space for individual circumstances. While some heard the “shelter in place” directive from the Mayor’s Office and then the Governor’s Office and immediately embraced it, others have struggled with its effects.

    Without using real names, let’s call this person “Jim.”  He lives in the Castro, no longer works because of an AIDS diagnosis, and occupies a rent-controlled apartment, depending on disability income. Shelter-in-place for him means no more bar-hopping, no more casual socializing, and more planned at-home meals. Bigger concerns are regular access to needed medications, depression brought on by self-isolation, and concerns for friends out of touch. Can he survive on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites? Are his regular volunteer activities safe to continue pursuing, given his compromised immune system? 

    “Cheryl,” on the other hand, lives in the Civic Center area, works as a bartender, and lives paycheck to paycheck. Suddenly without income because of her employer’s closing and with no financial safety net, her concerns are immediate and real, beyond fear of contracting an infection. Rent is due in two weeks and despite supposed local, State, and Congressional action, she doesn’t know whether she can make that payment and has no idea how long she’ll be out of work. What if she gets sick and out-of-pocket medical expenses threaten to bankrupt her?

    San Francisco Bay Times contributor Donna Sachet, accompanied by Castro Merchants president Masood Samereie and Tom Temprano, representing Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, cut the ribbon on Wednesday, March 11, declaring the Castro Farmer’s Market to be “Open!” for the 2020 season. Photo courtesy of Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association

    “Dan” lives in the Tenderloin and has always found solace in church attendance and religious beliefs. What many would consider a very basic lifestyle has become the norm for him and with the support of others and regular meetings, his dependence on substances is under control. Suddenly, even church worship is off the table. Can he find sufficient support online? Is he strong enough alone to maintain a drug-free existence? Will his spiritual faith survive in isolation?

    “Fred” lives in Pacific Heights after working for 30 years and retiring recently with a handsome pension and sizeable savings.  Does he shelter in place in his home here or retreat to his cottage on the Russian River? Bombarded with requests for financial assistance from a myriad of organizations, not to mention individuals, how does he decide to whom to give and how much?  What about those renters who provide him regular income? Can he reasonably offer a month rent-free or should he rely on government programs to provide renter relief?

    And what about “Carol,” who moved here just last year for an exciting job in the arts, leaving all her family behind in the Midwest? Without a strong support group here, isolation is more menacing. How long will they hold her job if she leaves to return to her family? What are the real health dangers represented by travel? Does she risk endangering her family and herself?

    The list goes on and on, but each example, however trite or stereotypical, is valid. Our point is tolerance. Most of us have never been through anything like this and we are each struggling to navigate very unfamiliar waters. Give your friends time and space, as well as nonjudgmental support, to find their own way through this crisis. The problems are different for introverts and extroverts, for corporate employees and retirees, business owners and hourly workers, longtime San Franciscans and new arrivals.

    The closed and boarded up front of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel during the COVID-19 health crisis. Photo courtesy of Donna Sachet

    People are different. Some are more emotional, some more social, some more fearful, and some more logical. Lend an ear and a virtual shoulder to those who reach out to you, but withhold critical judgment beyond the most basic of safety concerns. We frequently say, “This too shall pass,” and it shall, but the journey through this dilemma becomes personal. We encourage each of you to find your own way to survive.

    And one more thing: things will not necessarily return in April or May or ever to the way they were before. Handshakes and hugs may become obsolete. National health care may become a necessity. Internet misinformation may become criminal.  Volunteerism may become more prevalent. Income disparity may be more resolutely challenged. Our day-to-day concerns may transcend the personal and become more universal. The experience of artistic expression, the joy of casual socializing, and the assumption of the value of face-to-face meetings may be forever altered. Prepare for a new world of changes that are long lasting and unavoidable. This virus will have significant results of which we can only imagine.

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at

    Published on March 26, 2020