I have multiple sclerosis, and my white blood cell shortage puts me at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.

Since March 6, even before stay-at-home measures went into place in New York, I’ve been inside my small Brooklyn apartment doing everything I can to stay safe.

During this time, my husband has been my window to the outside. The real windows in our apartment have a view only of other apartments and a small patch of grass.

As a journalist, separating myself from the news has always been a normal practice for me. My favorite journalism professor said that “no news happens in the newsroom.”

But as the news updates rush in from around the globe — and as the death toll in New York remains high — the news keeps on getting closer to my apartment door.

After more than 40 days without leaving home, the routine I’ve fallen into continues.

Alexa wakes me up in the morning. I tell her to stop. She tells me the weather like I programmed her to do. Even though I won’t be venturing outside, keeping this part of my routine adds comfort and familiarity to my morning.

Before I get out of bed, I scroll through social feeds on my phone. It’s how I restlessly ended the previous day: More bad news.

After yoga and breakfast, I watch as Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in my city and state. The fact that my local government is keeping track of the data and using it to inform decisions comforts me.

My baseline MS symptoms — fatigue, numbness, and headaches — flare up throughout the day.

Some of the scariest symptoms I’ve had in the past, like vision changes and vertigo, were due to stress. I’ve yet to experience any of these more extreme symptoms while self-quarantined, which is why keeping myself calm is so important.

One way I do this is by meticulously planning and cleaning to limit my exposure to the new coronavirus. Whenever my husband and I need to open the door to the outside world, we go over our plan, which includes my husband putting on a mask before opening the door.

When we need groceries, I fill up carts on all of the online services and hope that at least one will have a delivery window.

After delivery, the boxes or bags are kept in front of the door, which goes directly into my 90-square-foot kitchen. We designate a “clean area” and a “dirty area” in our small kitchen to place bags and unload food, before cleaning our groceries and putting them away.

Just as our kitchen has designated areas, I have made it a rule (for my emotional sanity) to keep bad news in one room of the house.

My bedroom is where I watch the daily briefings from the White House and constant streams of different news channels. My husband and I lovingly bicker about the news bleeding into the wrong room.

My husband has claimed the living room as his “quarantainment” area. In the evenings, we eat, play video games, and watch movies in this room.

The survivor’s guilt, even in the “fun room,” plagues me. As someone whose condition is stable and who’s able to stay home, I feel mostly safe. But I know all of my friends living with chronic conditions might not be as lucky.

This is the only time I’ve been spoiled for not being an “essential” employee. Even the quarantainment room can’t protect me from those feelings.

Sleep problems with MS are common, and I’ve learned how important quality sleep is to my well-being. I’m so obsessed with sleep that I track how much sleep I get in my planner.

Going to sleep used to be easy. I’ve only had issues sleeping in the past when I was taking stimulants for chronic fatigue. But now, sleep is hard to come by.

The noise of the city isn’t what keeps me up. It’s the loud, constant stream of misinformation and lack of action. I lie awake listening to the sounds of sirens ringing up and down an empty Flatbush Avenue.

It’s not a new sound, but now, it’s the only sound.


Molly Stark Dean has worked in newsrooms optimizing social media content strategy for over a decade: CoinDesk, Reuters, CBS News Radio, mediabistro, and Fox News Channel. Molly graduated from New York University with a Master of Arts Journalism Degree in the Reporting the Nation program. At NYU, she interned for ABC News and USA Today. Molly taught audience development at the University of Missouri School of Journalism China Program and mediabistro. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.