While quarantining in my 500-square-foot studio apartment in Sacramento, I had time – a lot of time – to reflect on the past year. There is little doubt; it has been a tough one for everyone.
Why was I put in the 2020 version of a time-out chair, you ask? During the last week of the legislative session, one of my Senate colleagues tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily, my COVID test came up negative, but per state health guidelines, I quarantined for the full 14 days.
The news that my colleague tested positive totally caught me off guard. My first response was to double and triple check that I had followed safety protocols. My wife, Vanessa, is immune compromised and her mom lives with us, so masks, handwashing and social distancing are not something we take lightly. When I called home with the news I’d been exposed, Vanessa made it clear I was unwelcome at Casa de Wilk until there was triple proof I was in the clear.
From the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S, the Santa Clarita Valley had a front-row view of what has unfolded across this state and across the country. In February SCV resident and KHTS owner Carl Goldman made national news when passengers on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship were quarantined due to a coronavirus outbreak. Carl eventually contracted the virus and went from the ship to a military hospital in Nebraska where he spent the next two months in quarantine until he was virus-free. It was a warning to us all: Coronavirus is serious, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.
From the beginning, my family and I took the mask and social distance protocols with the utmost seriousness. Living with two people who are considered at “high risk” if they contract this often deadly disease leaves no room for unforced errors in our household. Every interaction with the outside world is a risk met with tempered caution on our part.
What may have started out as a week or two of time away from the office for people quickly devolved into complete chaos as our economy collapsed and millions of people lost their jobs. Since March 19, when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state to shut down, my office has received almost 1,000 constituent requests for help with state agencies. Most revolved around problems with unemployment insurance claims but many came from our small business community. Because our congressional seat was vacant, many small businesses looked to us for help connecting them to information on PPE loans, the CARES Act and a host of other issues that would normally be federal.
My priority quickly became helping people weather this storm – but doing it safely, keeping all safety protocol in mind. I masked-up and got to work. Whether I was in the community helping to deliver food to the needy and the elderly, or up in Sacramento working with my colleagues demanding changes at EDD, passing crucial economic relief, pandemic response, and wildfire mitigation legislation, the health and safety of others, especially that of my wife and mother-in-law, was in the forefront of my mind.
The first personal blow from the pandemic came when I lost one of my dearest friends. The feeling of loss was immense. The depth of sorrow felt by so many wives, children, husbands and parents who have lost a loved one during the pandemic is never far from my mind.
As unnecessary of a reminder as it was, my friend’s passing is yet another reason I take the precautionary safety protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing, and handwashing/sanitizing so seriously. I encourage you all to do the same.
The second blow came when my asymptomatic colleague from San Diego tested positive for COVID-19 and the Senate leadership decided to quarantine members who had direct contact with the positive individual. That meant many of us would be required to finish out the legislative session remotely. The unique nature of remote participation presented a number of challenges – some of them humorous — but we rallied and got the job done, passing measures to assist Californians with the pandemic, housing and wildfires.
This has been a challenging year for our great nation. For those of us in the West, dealing with an unprecedented wildfire season, this is especially true. I know our small business owners, hard-working citizens, students, seniors, health care professionals, first responders, friends and family across every sector of the state are reeling from the events of this year and wondering what the future holds – I know I am.
It is good to be safely home in Santa Clarita with my family, but there is no doubt 2020 has been a learning experience. From Carl Goldman’s saga, to the stories each and every one of us, including myself, could tell – it is clear the virus does not distinguish between creed or class, race or occupation; nor do wildfires. We must act as a community and be available to help all who are in need to whatever extent possible.
Please know my office is open and ready to help should you need assistance with a state agency, a local issue or connection to services. Follow me on social media
(@ScottWilkCA) for updates on resources and other helpful information, and together we will weather this storm.
Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, represents the 21st Senate District, which encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys.